Laser hair removal is one of the most effective ways to get rid of unwanted hair on your face and body for good – but, if you want to get the best results, and avoid any potential adverse side effects, you do need to take a break from exercise before and after your appointment and maybe change a few things about where you exercise or what you wear to do it.
Here’s all the advice you need to know about working out after laser hair removal from an expert.
What Is Laser Hair Removal?
It’s a way of removing hair on the face and body and eventually, this is permanent.
‘The laser targets the hair follicle and causes controlled damage to the follicle over a series of treatments,’ explains Aesthetic Nurse practitioner and expert in laser hair removal Khatra Paterson of KP Aesthetics in Manchester. ‘The hair in the treated areas falls out generally within 2-3 weeks of treatment.’
It’s not a one-shot treatment. You’ll need up to 10 treatments to remove the hair in an area permanently (as different hairs will be at different parts of their growth cycle and you need to get them all) and treatments are usually carried out 4-6 weeks apart.
The procedure can feel a bit like an elastic band snapping on the skin, but it doesn’t hurt. Many laser systems now also have a cooling system built in which helps make the process much more comfortable. ‘Over the years, technology has evolved, which now means that the procedure can now be carried out with little to no discomfort,’ says Khatra.
In the right hands (and you should always ensure you’re in qualified hands) laser hair removal is safe and effective – but, a few things before and after the treatment need to be avoided – and exercise is one of them.
When Can You Exercise After Laser Hair Removal?
Khatra says it’s best to leave at least 24 hours, and ideally 48 hours, between your treatment and any kind of intensive workout.
Admittedly, at first that might be easy because there’s a possibility that you might not want to show off your skin!.
‘Immediately after the treatment, the area may show erythema (redness and some swelling) around the follicles. This looks similar to the large goosebumps we often see when we are cold. This is the body’s natural reaction to the procedure and is nothing to worry about,’ says Khatra. ‘But you do want to keep it clean and free of sweat.’
Also, you should try and keep the skin as cool and calm as possible in the 24-48 hours after laser hair removal – and exercise causes the body temperature to rise. ‘Excessive sweating after laser hair removal can aggravate the skin which can not only lead to discomfort, but it also increases the risk of infection or ingrown hairs,’ says Khatra.
Oh, and despite the fact that some parts of the body sweat more than others, the advice about exercise after laser treatment on the face is the same as if you had the removal on your underarms, bikini line or legs. ‘Although legs tend to sweat less than other body parts, it’s still not recommended that you go for a run imminently post-laser as you want to try and keep the area cool,’ Khatra advises.
You also shouldn’t shower until the day after your appointment – and do you really want to go to the gym knowing that?
Can I go For a Walk After Laser Hair Removal?
If it’s gentle enough to not raise your temperature, and the outside temperature isn’t hot enough to make you sweat in the treated area, then a walk is fine.
But, also check the rules on outside exercising and what to wear below.
When You Do Start – Check Your Workout Outfit
If you’ve had the treatment done on your legs, bikini line, arms or underarms, you might also need to adjust your outfit when you do go back.
‘You should avoid tight-fitting clothes of any kind for 2-3 days after the treatment,’ says Khatra. ‘Some laser hair removal platforms can leave the skin and hair follicles very sensitive and any tight clothing or heavy rough fabrics will exacerbate that sensitivity. Tight work out gym outfits should be traded for baggy t-shirts and baggy tracksuit bottoms.’
What About Swimming After Laser Hair Removal?
‘Always wait 24 – 48 hours before going swimming,’ says Khatra. ‘Swimming pools contain high levels of chemicals and bacteria which can lead to infection.
Allow the skin time to heal and settle prior to partaking in any water activities just to be safe.’
Heads Up Outside Exercisers…
You need to be particularly careful as Khatra tells us the most important thing to remember pre- and post-laser hair removal is SUNSCREEN!
‘This is vital. Do not expose skin to UV rays for around 4 weeks prior to laser hair removal,’ she emphasises. ‘If you are outside then making sure that you are wearing SPF50 as a minimum.’
The reason is simple. The lasers used for hair removal work because they target the pigment in the hair. If your skin is darker the laser can instead focus on the pigment in the skin which can lead to burning.
This is also one reason why laser hair removal hasn’t always worked so well in very light blondes, those with grey or white hair or people of colour – the laser can’t find the pigment it needs to latch on to.
However, things have moved on here too. A type of laser called the YAG laser penetrates deeper into the skin to target the hair and so reduces the risk of it affecting the surface pigment for dark skin. Other lasers can be used in a slower more controlled manner to target the hair without risking the skin. Other techniques are also now available for blonde hair.
Before you book in, talk to your technician and make sure they have plenty of experience with your skin tone and are using the best technology for you.
You also need to stay out of the sun following laser treatment as the skin is sun-sensitive. ‘Sun tans and laser hair removal do NOT work well together,’ says Khatra. ‘Winter is the perfect time for laser hair removal treatments to start as many of us are wrapped up at home and the weather isn’t great.’
You also can’t fake your tan. It causes the same confusion to the laser as a real tan.
Can You Exercise Before Laser Hair Removal?
‘Not immediately before,’ says Khatra. ‘You should avoid doing any activities that can make you sweat and raise your body’s natural temperature during the treatment.
However, it is fine to exercise on the day of your laser hair removal appointment but just allow yourself time to cool and regulate your natural body temperature prior to your appointment.’
Can Exercise Affect the Results of Laser Hair Removal?
This might sound a strange question, but when we asked the experts about exercise and fillers they told us that excessive exercise can cause fillers to break down faster so you never know.
‘Exercise can promote healthy hair growth,’ says Khatra. ‘As we exercise this increases blood flow to our muscles and skin. The increased blood flow brings with it more nutrients and more oxygen, and this provides nourishment to hair roots generally speaking.
However, as the laser is used to penetrate the skin targeting hair follicles, this makes it difficult for hair to regrow. Exercise will not really affect the treated areas a great deal, but it can help to improve hair regrowth on your head.’
Anything Else to Know?
Quite a lot! Here’s Kahtra’s main rules…
‘Avoid very hot baths, showers, steam baths or saunas for 2-3 days. Again, these can raise temperatures which can lead to inflammation of the skin.
Prior to treatment avoid plucking, waxing or bleaching for at least 2 weeks. It is really important that the root and pigment of the hair is preserved prior to laser hair removal, this will increase the success rate.
However, you should always make sure you shave the day before your laser session. We recommend the day before as this gives the skin a chance to settle down again but not too long so that there is hair growth restricting the laser direct access to the hair follicle.
Make sure your skin is clean and dry, do not wear any lotions or potions or deodorant, just clean fresh skin without any added extras is all you need for your session.
Another thing which is important to point out is that skin which has been tattooed is not suitable for laser hair removal. It could really burn the skin and also damage the tattoo.’
So there you have it, the rules for working out after laser hair removal – plus a few other tips on what to do after laser hair removal (and what not to do).