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Does Laser Hair Removal Hurt? My Honest Answer

Simone underwent laser hair removal and shares her honest review of the process.

The truth about laser hair removal.

The truth about laser hair removal.

Laser Hair Treatments

I hate being human. It's so . . . soft. Ew. I also love lasers. Lasers are awesome. They zap things.

You will therefore not be surprised to learn that I was immediately enthralled by the idea of laser hair removal. Something that reduces human hairiness WITH LASERS? How can one lose?!

Perhaps you, too, are intrigued by the idea of laser hair removal. But perhaps you (much like Yours, Truly) are averse to pain and want to know just how much this shindig might hurt.

Wonder no more, Gentle Reader! With the furrowed brow of a legitimate intrepid journalist, I sacrificed my own personal comfort and dignity to research this issue.* And now I have answers. Lots of them. They're honest. They're blunt. They're exactly what you need to know.

*Let us please pretend that I had hair zapped from my shoulder blades and nowhere else.

Is Laser Hair Removal Painful?

Short Answer:


Answer Provided by the Place I Visited (Accurate, IMHO):

It hurts just about as much as a rubber band snap.

Specific Answer:

It hurts slightly less than having each hair tweezed.

More Specific Answer:

It hurts just as much as it would hurt when a laser singes a hair follicle (which is exactly what is happening).

Honest Answer:

Physically, it doesn't hurt much. What does hurt is your dignity as you drop trow (maybe) in front of a complete stranger who then zaps potentially intimate (remember, I had my shoulder blades done, as far as you're concerned) parts of your body. So yeah, laser hair removal hurts . . . your dignity.

Does Numbing Cream Make a Difference?

Most places that offer laser hair removal also offer numbing cream (typically for a small additional charge—say $15). To be like a true fake investigative journalist, I used this stuff once, then went again without the numbing cream to see just how effective it is.

So, does the numbing cream actually work?

Short Answer:


Enthusiastic Answer:

Oh HECKS yeah! You will hardly feel a thing! And you will CONTINUE to hardly feel a thing for quite a while! It's very interesting.

Honest Answer:

While using the numbing cream nearly eliminates the physical pain, it quadruples the embarrassment, and it won't spare you the awkward encounter between your exposed self and a complete stranger.

Detailed Honest Answer:

Right. So, if you take the numbing cream route, this is what happens:

  1. You take off your clothes.
  2. You put on gloves and open the container of numbing cream they give you, and spend a couple of minutes contemplating the indignity of what you are about to do.
  3. You thickly spread the cream onto the area to be treated. Have fun with that.
  4. You begin to wonder if there are cameras in the room recording your private humiliation.
  5. You remove the gloves, then wrap the cream-covered area in plastic wrap. Like a sandwich.
  6. You get a bit over-zealous about plastic-wrapping yourself. This is actually really fun.
  7. You sit (or stand) wrapped in plastic wrap for upwards of an hour (so that the numbness can properly set in).
  8. You wonder why you don't wear plastic wrap every day.
  9. You waddle/trudge/gallop over to the treatment room.
  10. Your nurse cuts you out of the plastic wrap and wipes away the cream
  11. THEN your nurse does the whole hair zapping procedure

As you can see, there's a complete loss of self-composure involved in this cowardly circumvention of pain, not to mention a loss of time.

My Verdict: Skip the Numbing Cream

In short, I recommend skipping the numbing cream part. Yeah, the first time you get the treatment with no pain blocker, you find yourself thinking, "I don't think I'll mind this being over kind of soon," but you're not screaming. This is not a tattoo, for the love of blog. Save your time, money, and dignity, and leave the numbing cream for sissies.

Ooh! Lasers and SCIENCE!

Ooh! Lasers and SCIENCE!

A Bit More About Laser Hair Removal

I suppose there's a bit more to laser hair removal than just pain and awkward awesomeness, so let's just review the major points:


  • Laser hair removal is technically more of a "permanent reduction" of hair than a permanent removal—the hair grows back, in most cases, but much finer and less densely. If you're young, new hairs (that never received treatment) may grow in over time, so it's difficult to say if you'll see totally permanent removal, but hairs that have been destroyed by the lasers will remain destroyed. That, much, will not change.
  • Laser hair removal is most effective on dark hair and fair skin. Generally, the more contrast, the better.
  • You won't really see significant (e.g. 50–90% clearance of hair) results until an area has been treated 4–6 times, since you can't cover all hair growth cycles in one sitting. In the materials my place-of-hair-zapping provided, it is even mentioned that some areas of aggressive hair growth, such as the face, may need as many as 10–15 treatments before success is achieved.

Potential Side-Effects

  • Redness and swelling immediately after treatment
  • Slight sunburned sensation after treatment
  • Slightly sensitive skin for a couple of days following treatment
  • Shedding treated hair 5–14 days out of treatment

Additional Considerations

  • Make a point of doing this during the winter: You're supposed to avoid exposing treated skin to the sun 4–6 weeks before and after treatment, so it's best if you aren't trotting around in a bikini right after getting a treatment. You'll also want to avoid waxing, bleaching, or tweezing hairs to be treated for around 6 weeks before treatment—so really, winter is ONLY time to properly do this.
  • You'll need to get subsequent treatments within a 6–8 week window to properly make target different hair growth cycles. Note: For areas above the neckline, the time window shortens to four weeks.

The gist: if you're paying for regular waxing, and if you have dark hair, it might make sense to give laser hair removal a try. It won't hurt any more than normal, and who doesn't like stuff with lasers?!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Primpo from Bayville,NJ on February 04, 2017:

Well you just made up my mind about laser treatment!!! I live in Brooklyn and I took a walk downtown and stopped into one of those spa's that offer laser hair removal treatment. They also do hair, massage and it was a place that was decorated Moroccan style, so I wanted to check it out to get some ideas about decoration. Any way, I asked this lady if it hurts. She did a demo on my knuckle. Well I don't want that feeling anywhere else. I think it is sensory deprivation once you are used to it, but I decided good old fashion razor blade is for me.. lol

I was checking out your page because I found an answer to a question that someone posed about getting more traffic to their hubpage. I was wondering if you could be more specific? Could you check out some of my hubs for me?

BDhire on August 27, 2013:

Laser hair removal doesn't hurt :) I have write some more FAQ on laser hair removal you can check it out

Mini Mimi from England on March 30, 2012:

Wish they had numbing cream where I went. My bikini area hurt like mental, especially when the laser got turned up on my last couple of treatents. OUCH! But results are good! I'd recomend it!

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on March 14, 2012:

Very true, Drnumb! Some need numbing cream more than others.

Drnumb on March 09, 2012:

Its not that every one is having same sensation so the different things works differently on everyone. laser is good but not work for everyone so we should first try simple things and here i m shearing my exps on dr.numb cream which i used and got a best result

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on February 28, 2012:

I am indeed going back for follow-up visits, though I just had my last one, so I don't think I'll need to go back. It's not as much of a hassle as I thought it would be. :D

Shasta Matova from USA on February 24, 2012:

Love the video too. I have often considered laser hair removal, but the thought of going back again and again for repeat treatments made me wary. I think I could deal with the pain, and ickiness of doing it once, but I'm not sure I would be able to get the motivation to go back again. Are you going to go back for followup visits?

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on February 23, 2012:

Yeah, I'm all for avoiding monthly expenses!

Mary from Washington on February 20, 2012:

Funny! I tried it but had to go back to waxing. I am used to it but would love to avoid the monthly expense.

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on February 13, 2012:

It's permanent! The only tough thing is catching hairs in all the different growth cycles. It's really nice!

And the afterward part isn't so bad. Welp... maybe a little irritation, but nothing worse then the razor burn I'd been giving to my... shoulder blades for YEARS. No itching from my experience. So... no complaints on my end!

Melanie Palen from Midwest, USA on February 10, 2012:

How permanent is it? I would consider having it done if, after a couple of treatments, I never really had to worry about more treatments or shaving or cream stuff again!

Also, how the that afterward part? Is there itchy or bumpy stuff going on? You know what shaving your shoulder blades can do to your skin.

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on February 10, 2012:

Thanks anglnwu! Manicures are, perhaps, a bit more pleasant :D

It's AMAZING what a difference it'll make, right Camille??? Hairless kneecaps and shoulder blades FTW!!

You're lucky, Hyphenbird!! I envy you...

Hehee, thanks for the compliment Movie Master. I suppose laser hair removal is not for everyone!

And I'm hoping so, livelonger! I know *I* was curious to find a spin-free answer before I gave it a try, so I'm happy to share my findings XD

Jason Menayan from San Francisco on February 10, 2012:

Excellent video and explanation, which, I'm sure, will answer a question a LOT of people want to know the answer to. The perception of pain is probably somewhat subjective, but your explanations lack the spin "absolutely pain free!" spin that the purveyors of laser hair removal services promise.

Movie Master from United Kingdom on February 10, 2012:

Hi Simone, I loved the article and video as always - but will pass on the treatment!

Many thanks and voted up:-)

Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on February 09, 2012:

I think I will pass on laser hair removal. Thankfully I am not a hairy person. Whew

Camille Harris from SF Bay Area on February 09, 2012:

I had five treatments done on, errr, my kneecaps, and let me tell you, they are hairless! Well, save for a few errant hairs they are. I haven't shaved in almost a year. I've never tried the numbing cream, but I just might when I go in for a follow-up series. Can't wait to see your newly smooth shoulder blades around the office!

anglnwu on February 08, 2012:

Enjoyed the video. I think I'll pass--the mental pain of the process can be very distressing. I opt for a manicure, any day.

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on February 08, 2012:

Thanks Sunnie! Hahaa, I noticed that not many people gave first-person answers to this question online, so I figured I'd step forward. In the name of lulz.

Yeah, it's funny how few people know about laser hair removal, Au fait, especially considering how it has been around for around 35 years!

And yeah, the cost is definitely a downside, theclevercat. I recommend subscribing to as many coupon sites as possible (LivingSocial, Groupon, Bloomspot, etc.) and taking advantage of the discounts some places offer (after checking them out to make sure they're legit, of course :D). I got a discount package that made the treatments cost only a hint more than waxing, and the results will be permanent.

Rachel Vega from Massachusetts on February 08, 2012:

Ha! Love this article. I wax and I'd love to try laser... but the cost deters me. Maybe someday. Voted up, useful, funny.

C E Clark from North Texas on February 08, 2012:

Very interesting and informative especially for people contemplating this procedure, or who may not be aware it's available.

Voting you UP and useful/interesting!

Thanks for SHARING!

Sunnie Day on February 08, 2012:

Good Morning Simone,

lol Love the video! I am still not sure that I would go through laser...but was fun watching your video. Thank you for sharing all the great information should I change my mind.