Here’s What to Know About Using Laser Hair Removal to Improve Your HS Symptoms (2024)

Fortunately, Dr. Obioha-Lolagne says the technology has gotten much better. One newer laser that can be a good option for dark skin is the Nd:YAG, per the Skin of Color Society. (This is a type of laser, not a brand name, and the “long pulsed Nd:YAG,” which has a 1064 nanometer wavelength, is considered the best to use.) There’s also quite a bit of research showing that these lasers work well for people with HS.1

Dr. Agbai says they are her go-to for treating people with dark skin, and she makes sure to use the laser’s “conservative settings.” It’s critical, she stresses, that you get the procedure done by someone who knows what they are doing. “One laser may be safe and effective on fair skin, while the same laser might induce hyperpigmentation (dark spots) and scarring on dark skin,” Dr. Agbai says.

This type of laser hair removal is widely available at med spas, which are clinics that offer non-surgical cosmetic treatments under the supervision of a licensed doctor. But Dr. Obioha-Lolagne recommends caution—particularly if you are a Black or brown person.

The “ideal,” she says, would be to see a board-certified dermatologist with expertise in not just laser hair removal for people of color, but also those with HS. Finding a provider who checks all those boxes could be tough. At a minimum, Dr. Obioha-Lolagne suggests seeing a derm comfortable with laser procedures for people of “all skin tones.” (Because a lot of docs may say they are, you may want to take it a step further and ask if it’s possible to see any before and after pics of other patients with HS or talk to people you know for recommendations.)

Even with the correct laser in the right hands, this type of hair removal can still cause irritation, skin color changes, or swelling that lasts a few days. And it can still aggravate HS symptoms in some people, according to the advocacy group HSConnect.

Humphrey, who is a person of color, actually did receive laser hair removal at a med spa—but not until she had a consultation where they discussed her HS symptoms and she confirmed they had experience treating people with the condition. Assured, she decided to take the plunge. Over a series of sessions (10 in all, over the course of roughly a year), Humphrey had both armpits treated, plus her entire pubic area—all done with an Nd:YAG laser.

“It definitely hurts,” she says. The laser pulses are often likened to a rubber band snapping against the skin, but for Humphrey, it was worse—“maybe four rubber bands,” as she describes in this YouTube video detailing her experience.

Still, Humphrey tells SELF, the time on the table was the roughest part. Any skin irritation or pain was gone by the next day. And her HS flares quickly became less frequent and less severe during her treatment course.

What else to know about laser hair removal

As we mentioned, this kind of treatment doesn’t always work, so talk it over with your doctor. Here are some other things to consider when you are deciding whether to try it.

1. You may not be a candidate.

As Dr. Agbai mentioned, this therapy might be a good option for some people with mild to moderate HS (Hurley stage one or two). If you have severe (stage three) HS, she says, the procedure would likely be too painful due to the extent of your skin symptoms. Another word of caution: Laser hair removal should never be done in areas with open wounds. “You never want to treat open skin due to the risk of burns,” Dr. Obioha-Lolagne stresses.

2. It takes time.

Laser hair removal is not one-and-done. To make sure you get all the hair, you generally need several sessions, per the American Academy of Dermatology—often six or more, with about six weeks between each one. Even after all that, it may take time to see improvements in HS flares.

3. You might have to repeat the entire process.

Even if everything goes well, you are unlikely to end up with permanently hair-free skin: The results can last for years for some people, but a more typical time frame is several months. (For her part, Humphrey says she’s already had hair regrowth.) More importantly, it’s not clear how long the benefits for HS flares might last. The studies described above were short-term, following patients over a matter of months, not years, and they didn’t look at repeat treatment courses. And researchers don’t know yet whether getting laser hair removal in the mild stage of HS can help prevent it from getting worse.1

4. It can be pricey.

Laser hair removal is expensive—and you should expect to foot the bill. Even when performed to help with HS, it’s considered a cosmetic procedure, and therefore not covered by insurance. A recent study found that no private insurers listed HS as a covered indication for laser hair removal.3 That’s a big problem for a lot of people, considering the average cost of the procedure—which ranges from $2,300 to $3,900 for 6 to 10 sessions. As frustrating as that is, you should know that some researchers are pointing out that insurance really should cover these sessions.4

For Humphrey, the expense, time, and discomfort has been worth it so far. She says that if her HS flares were to get worse in the future, she’d do it all again. She has nothing against the hair, she says: “I just want to feel okay in my body.”

Related:

  • 7 Questions to Ask Your Doctor After Being Diagnosed With Hidradenitis Suppurativa
  • Why You Should Never Squeeze or Pop an HS Cyst
  • 5 Ways Pregnancy Can Affect Hidradenitis Suppurativa (or Vice Versa)

Sources:

  1. Frontiers in Medicine, The Efficacy and Effectiveness of Non-ablative Light-Based Devices in Hidradenitis Suppurativa: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
  2. JAMA Dermatology, Sex- and Age-Adjusted Population Analysis of Prevalence Estimates for Hidradenitis Suppurativa in the United States
  3. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology Research Letter, Insurance Coverage Among the Largest Insurers per State for Laser Hair Removal in the Treatment of Hidradenitis Suppurativa
  4. Dermatologic Online Journal, Laser Hair Reduction for Hidradenitis Suppurativa Warrants Insurance Coverage
Here’s What to Know About Using Laser Hair Removal to Improve Your HS Symptoms (2024)

FAQs

Here’s What to Know About Using Laser Hair Removal to Improve Your HS Symptoms? ›

Lasers can't penetrate into areas of skin where there's a lot of scar tissue. Plus, the treatment tends to be very painful when HS is advanced. Lasers work best on people with light skin and dark hair. The laser needs the contrast to distinguish skin from hair, so it's not ideal for those with blonde or gray hair.

What is the best way to remove hair with HS? ›

Consider laser hair removal as a way to remove hair where you have HS. Studies have shown that getting laser hair removal can reduce flare-ups of HS. Laser treatment can be effective because it reduces the number of hair follicles you have, decreases bacteria on your skin, and makes sebaceous glands less active.

Can laser surgery remove hidradenitis suppurativa boils? ›

A carbon dioxide laser can be used to make hidradenitis suppurativa sores go away. After this treatment, the sores are unlikely to return. Laser hair removal can help hidradenitis suppurativa in its early stages.

Does IPL help with hidradenitis? ›

Treatment of hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) requires a combination of medical, surgical, and lifestyle interventions. Intense pulsed light (IPL) and lasers have been reported to be useful.

How can I improve my HS symptoms? ›

If you have hidradenitis suppurativa you should:
  1. lose weight if you are overweight.
  2. stop smoking if you smoke.
  3. use an antiseptic skin wash or antiseptic soap – this may be prescribed alongside other treatment.
  4. hold a warm flannel on the lumps to encourage the pus to drain.
  5. wear loose-fitting clothes.

What is the safest hair removal for hidradenitis suppurativa? ›

The HS Verdict: Dr. Shah is a fan of trimming as it's less invasive. “Trimming the hair with electric trimmers or fine scissors is usually a safe option,” she says, adding that you should still use an antibacterial cleanser with some slip to it before and afterward to keep the area free of infection-causing bacteria.

What clears up hidradenitis suppurativa? ›

Treatment for this skin disease may include: Antibiotics. Many people find some relief by using antibiotics, either spread on the skin (topical) or taken by mouth. Lose weight, if needed.

What worsens hidradenitis suppurativa? ›

Your HS may get worse in the summer, when heat and sweat can trigger a flare-up. Swimming is a good way to get exercise without overheating. Don't shave near a breakout. If your razor irritates your skin, laser hair removal may be a better choice.

What can you not do with hidradenitis suppurativa? ›

Dairy, sugary foods, and brewer's yeast may be triggers for some people with hidradenitis suppurativa. You may want to keep a food diary to track any potential triggers you may be eating. Additionally, eliminating nightshades may help.

What does Stage 3 of HS look like? ›

Symptoms and development of stage 3 HS

Symptoms may include: abscesses, which are fluid-filled bumps that may break open and release odorous pus and blood. spots that look like blackheads and usually occur in pairs. sinus tracts, which are tunnels under the skin.

Does laser hair removal make HS worse? ›

It's possible for the laser to irritate the treatment area. This could actually increase inflammation and make the disease worse. After treatment with the Nd:YAG laser, some people have experienced a temporary increase in pain and drainage, but it doesn't last for long.

What is the best pain relief for hidradenitis suppurativa? ›

taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, which include acetaminophen (Tylenol) and anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil) using topical analgesics, such as lidocaine (Xylocaine) applying warm compresses. wearing loose-fitting clothing and keeping the skin cool, which may help prevent flare-ups.

Does red light therapy help HS? ›

Laser or light therapy may not be effective in treating your HS. Laser or light therapy treatments may need to be repeated to sustain any results.

Which vitamin deficiency causes HS? ›

Most of the study subjects and particularly all of the patients with HS have low vitamin D levels. Smoking and high BMI, were associated with HS.

What celebrity has hidradenitis suppurativa? ›

Jackson Gillies is a musician who has been living with type 1 diabetes since he was 3 years old. He has long been an advocate for type 1 diabetes (T1D), as well as for Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS)—a skin condition he was diagnosed with as a teen.

How do you stop the smell of hidradenitis suppurativa? ›

Oftentimes, people try their best to reduce flare-ups, but there are ways to manage odor directly when you do get bumps.
  1. Identify your hidradenitis suppurativa triggers. ...
  2. Use soap that doesn't aggravate your skin. ...
  3. Look for natural deodorants. ...
  4. Keep your underarms as dry as possible. ...
  5. Try using vinegar to mask odors.
Mar 15, 2021

Is hair removal good for HS? ›

HS is a chronic inflammatory skin disease triggered by irregularities in the hair follicles. Laser hair removal might help the condition since it destroys the hair follicles. Though studies have been limited. there's evidence that laser hair removal can help relieve symptoms of HS in mild to moderate cases.

Does hair removal help hidradenitis? ›

“I routinely recommend medical laser hair reduction for people with hidradenitis suppurativa, and it can be very beneficial when recommended for patients appropriately,” Oma Agbai, MD, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, Davis, tells SELF.

Is it better to wax or shave with HS? ›

Waxing may be a viable hair-removal method for some people diagnosed with HS, but it's not a solution for everyone. It is a particularly aggressive option that may prove more irritating than shaving for some. Also, hot wax may cause skin irritation and lead to a flare-up.

Can you use Nair if you have hidradenitis suppurativa? ›

I would advise instead using a beard trimmer or something to that effect. I have used hair removal creams (Nair) while having HS. It works well, but I have washed it off well and exfoliated afterwards. No flare ups for me while using this product.

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