While people who’ve had laser hair removal may want to show off their smooth legs or bikini line in the summer months, sunlight can cause unsightly discoloration on treated skin, according to medical professionals. 

While it doesn’t happen to everyone, with any type of laser there is a risk of pigment changes or a darkening or lightening of the skin, according to Matthew Schulman, a NYC board certified plastic surgeon. He notes the likelihood of pigment changes is higher in the summer months when people are less careful with skin exposure. 

“Summer is not when you should get laser, because when the skin is exposed to the sun, it’s much more likely to have pigmentation problems,” Schulman said. 

And not all people are candidates for laser hair removal. Those who will likely see the best results are those with lighter skin and dark, thick hairs, according to Anne Chapas, a board certified dermatologist and founder and medical director of Union Square Laser Dermatology. 

“Laser hair removal works by the laser contrast between the dark hair treated and the background skin, so the bigger the contrast between dark hair and skin, the better the laser light is absorbed by the hair follicle,” Chapas said. 

Chapas estimates that discoloration occurs less than 5% of the time and is probably rarer than that. 

She said patients who are worried about sunlight exposure should avoid tanning, wear sunscreen and avoid contact with sunlight immediately after laser hair removal. 

For those with discoloration from laser treatments, Schulman said people may be able to get another laser treatment to blend the area, or use a topical cream, but the skin may also correct itself or even out.

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He cautions that people need to be picky when choosing a laser hair removal provider. 

 “So many spas and other facilities do laser and may not be properly trained, so people are getting laser when they are not the appropriate candidate,” Schulman said.

Likewise, Chapas said patients should ask questions, so they are aware of how trained the professional is and what type of laser they are working with. 

“There are so many places that have laser hair removal treatment, even home devices, and they are not all effective,” she said. “You want to know if the device is FDA approved… is the person well trained who is performing it.. and discuss what to expect and possible side effects.” 

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