If you have unwanted hair on your face, legs, armpits, or another area, the prospect of having it permanently removed through laser treatment can be exciting. But the idea of having someone aim a laser beam at your body can also be a bit intimidating, especially if you're not quite sure what to expect. Here's a closer look at the laser hair removal procedure and what it involves – so you know what's coming when you arrive for your appointment.

Preparing the Skin

You will be instructed not to trim or pluck your hair in the weeks leading up to the appointment, but if you arrive and some of your hair is too long, your dermatologist may trim it a little before beginning the laser treatment. (Do not trim the hair yourself – if you cut it too short, your laser treatment won't be as effective.)  Once your hair is prepared, your dermatologist will apply a numbing gel or cream to keep you comfortable during the procedure. 

During the Treatment

Once your skin is numb, your dermatologist will use a handheld device that looks like a plastic gun to aim a low-powered laser at your skin. You'll hear a clicking noise, and you may smell a scent similar to burning hair as the laser works. This is because the laser vaporizes your hair as it works. Your dermatologist will move the laser "gun" around, focusing on one small segment of the area to be treated at a time, until the entire desired area has been treated. You may feel a warm sensation or a slight pinching as the laser works.

Finishing Up

Once the entire area has been treated, your dermatologist will wipe the numbing gel off of the skin and apply a moisturizer. You may be given an ice pack to hold against the area, since you're going to experience a mild to moderate burning sensation as the numbing gel wears off. There may still be some hair in the area, but over the next few weeks, it should fall out. If you have thin hair or a dark complexion, laser hair removal  may not be as effective, and you will probably have to return for repeat treatments before you're left completely hairless.

Laser hair removal has a long track record of safety. As long as you follow your dermatologist's instructions and seek treatment from a qualified professional, you should not have to worry too much about pain or side effects. Some patients do experience soreness, redness, and itching after the procedure, but using an intensive moisturizer should clear this up in a few days.