Laser Hair removal and Photosensitivity

Laser hair removal provides safe and effective removal of hair by damaging the hair root which in turn destroys the hair follicle resulting in that hair no longer growing. Laser hair removal offers a permanent reduction to unwanted hair. Whilst laser hair removal is safe it can be contraindicated with certain medications which can cause photosensitivity. This will be discussed in greater detail below:


Before each treatment, especially the one acting on the deeper layers of the skin, you should familiarize yourself with its characteristics. Not only the indications for the use of specific therapy and the benefits it can bring are important. It is always absolutely necessary to check the contraindications so that the treatments are completely safe and effective. Laser hair removal, although it is considered the safest cosmetic procedure, as with all non-surgical and non-invasive aesthetics treatments they call come with some contraindications. Some of them make it impossible to perform laser hair removal only temporarily. We will introduce you to what photosensitizing substances are, what is their effect on the laser and your skin. We invite you to read!

What are photosensitizing drugs?

Photosensitizing substances can be found in medicines, dietary supplements, herbs, spices and even foods. Taking pharmacological agents has become so popular and common that it is extremely rare to come across someone who does not take some type of medication or additives to improve health or positively affect beauty. There is nothing wrong with this form of self-care, but you should always bear in mind the fact that the substances absorbed by the digestive system have a very wide spectrum of action on the whole body. To a lesser extent, this applies to cosmetics used externally, although they can also enter the bloodstream. Their effect is then not limited only to the place on the skin where they were applied.

Phototoxic reaction

Photosensitizing drugs contain in their composition substances of natural or synthetic origin, which, after penetration from the blood into the tissues, increase the sensitivity of cells to UV radiation. It comes not only from the sun, but also from lamps used in tanning salons and cosmetic lasers. Photosensitising substances are chemical compounds that react with the energy of light radiation and then transmit it to substances that are involved in various photochemical reactions. When skin cells contain photosensitisers, their sensitivity to light increases, primarily to the concentrated laser beam. The contact of light energy with photosensitising drugs causes the so-called phototoxic reaction. Skin hypersensitivity to UV radiation may develop  identical to sunburn, swelling, erythema, tenderness and discoloration.

Photosensitizing drugs and the laser

Lasers for hair removal extremely rarely cause any side effects, but it should be remembered that they operate a strong beam of light energy, which does not remain completely indifferent to the skin. Everything we eat and take in some way affects the whole body, and therefore the skin. Even ordinary herbal tea can turn out to be a temporary contraindication to perform laser hair removal on any part of the body. In order for the  laser hair removal procedure to bring the expected results, without causing minor damage to the layers of the skin, drugs or supplements containing photosensitizing substances should be discontinued for several or several days. So what to avoid before laser hair removal?

Photosensitizing drugs

Before starting epilation, many clients are wrongly afraid of pain and take pain medication just in case. Unfortunately, some of them have properties that cause hypersensitivity to radiation. These include:

  • ibuprofen
  • naproxen
  • diclofenac

Antibiotics can also cause a reaction on our skin similar to a sunburn. These include, first of all:

  • Doxycycline
  • Pefloxacin

The phototoxic reaction can be caused by diuretics, used primarily for inflammation of the urinary tract and water retention in the body. You will not perform laser hair removal if you have taken the following substances within 2 weeks before it:

  • hydrochlorothiazide
  • furosemide

Medications used for acne are also contra-indicated. It is therefore advised that you decide which route to take first. Treat the acne before laser hair removal.

Any medications belonging to the tetracycline group – doxycycline and minocycline should have a completed course and have the downtime according to the doctor before commencing laser hair removal.

retinoids (vitamin A) such be avoided or the course should be completed before even undertaking laser hair removal. The usual length of time is 4 weeks for topical retinoids.

Isotretinoin / Roaccutane laser hair removal should be avoided for 6 months after course completion. As these medications are prone to thinning out the skin and causing laser and sun sensitivity. All methods such as plucking, waxing and epilating are not recommended whilst on Isotretinoin and Roaccutane.

In many people, the phototoxic reaction is caused by hormonal drugs, including the most widely used oral contraception and in the form of injections.

Photosensitizing herbs

Herbs are very often used as an alternative to classic medicines. Although they are of natural origin, they can also cause adverse reactions, including sensitizing our tissues to UV radiation. Herbs that you should stop taking 2 to 4 weeks before laser hair removal are:

  • St. john’s wort
  • camomile
  • arnica
  • dill
  • parsnip
  • celery
  • parsley
  • marigold
  • lovage
  • angelica
  • tansy
  • yarrow

Photosensitizing dietary supplements

Dietary supplements, especially those with a comprehensive effect, usually contain extracts from various herbs and vegetables. It is very important that you familiarize yourself with their composition and compare it, for example, with the list prepared by our experts. Usually, it is enough to stop taking the photosensitizing supplement a week before undergoing laser hair removal.

Photosensitizing cosmetics

All ointments and creams used for acne scars, containing acids exfoliating the layers of the epidermis, should not be used for a minimum of several days before epilation. The same applies to enzymatic peels, including those containing acids of natural origin.

Choose safely – check the contraindications before the procedure!

Before you decide to start a professional cosmetic procedure, always be sure to familiarize yourself with the contraindications to its performance. It often happens that seemingly trivial health problems can cause that the treatment will not be effective or will cause undesirable effects. High-class beauty salons and aesthetic medicine clinics have on their websites very accurate descriptions of the therapies offered along with a list of all contraindications to their performance. Sometimes it can be chronic diseases, sometimes temporary diseases, as well as medications, herbs and even dietary supplements.

Before the consultation meeting, it is good to remember all the medications that you have been taking recently. This applies equally to ordinary vitamins and prescription drugs, because both may contain the addition of a substance that can cause a phototoxic reaction. It is really worth knowing the factors that you should take into account when choosing the most appropriate treatment. Thanks to this, you will save time, as well as not expose yourself to (sometimes) unpleasant complications. You will also be able to think together with our expert about an alternative to the treatment you originally considered.

If you are still unsure if this treatment is the right choice for you, feel free to speak directly to one of our customer care team and they will be happy to help, whatever your enquiry  → 0203 769 4476.

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