The hormonal changes during pregnancy may lead to excess hair growth around your belly, breasts, face, and other places (1). While hair could be removed in various ways, several women prefer a permanent method. Laser hair removal is something that has gained popularity but drawn flak over safety concerns. How good or bad is it when you are carrying a baby?
MomJunction brings you some important information on laser hair removal while pregnant, and the dos and don’ts associated with it.
Is It Safe To Undergo Laser Hair Removal When Pregnant?
Generally, laser hair removal is not done on pregnant women. The effects of laser procedures were studied in pregnant rats, and the results showed some adverse effects. These studies were published in Lasers In Gynecology by Gunther Bastert and Diethelm Wallwiener.
The US FDA approved laser hair removal and skin treatments in the 1990s (2). Since then, there are no research studies showing or concluding if the treatments have adverse effects on pregnant or non-pregnant women.
In the absence of research and due to the non-availability of information on the negative consequences of this procedure on a pregnant woman and her growing baby, most doctors and clinicians suggest postponing laser hair removal procedures until after the delivery. It is better to be safe when you are pregnant and avoid these methods.
Some reputable clinics use laser procedures on pregnant women but avoid the breast, abdominal, and bikini areas.
How Do Laser Hair Removal Treatments Work?
Laser treatments involve the use of non-ionizing radiation that sends concentrated light rays into your unwanted hair follicles. These powerful light rays might destroy your hair follicles, thereby removing the excess hair (3). Light waves penetrate a few millimeters into the skin without causing any cell mutation. Though this is known to remove excess hair from your body, there is no clear evidence on how it affects the pregnant woman and fetus.
What Are The Possible Concerns Of Laser Hair Removal Treatments?
- Laser hair removal treatment uses non-ionizing radiation. This technique produces intense heat to remove the unwanted hair from its roots. It does not cause any cell mutation. The laser light beams could penetrate your skin for only a few millimeters. However, the non-iodizing radiation may be absorbed by the surrounding tissue in the area. Doctors are not sure about how this may affect your unborn baby.
- For some pregnant women, laser hair treatment might cause mild pain, so medical professionals use numbing creams. This cream is not recommended during pregnancy as your body could absorb anything applied to the skin.
- Your skin is likely to get sensitive when you are pregnant. The laser hair removal treatment may cause pain, redness, or irritation, leading to further skin problems.
- The length and number of treatment sessions depend on your hair growth cycle. But the change in hormonal levels during pregnancy may sometimes shorten the hair growth cycle or stimulate dormant hair follicles. Therefore, some women might experience quick hair re-growth while they are pregnant.
- Hormonal changes may cause changes to melanin production, causing the treatments to be more painful and less effective.
- Laser zapping may cause cramps, especially when done on lower abdomen and thighs.
- The treatment is uncomfortable when performed on sensitive breasts and bikini area in the later stages of pregnancy.
- You should consider the length of the treatment, which could take six to 12 months. This also means that you may need to continue the treatment until the later part of your pregnancy. Your skin and various parts of the body might get more sensitive in the later stages. This could make the process extremely uncomfortable. Also, lying down or sitting for these procedures might be difficult during the advanced stages of your pregnancy.
Should You Postpone Laser Hair Removal Procedure If You Become Pregnant?
If you are already in the middle of laser hair treatment when you conceive, it is good to postpone the procedure until after delivery. You could always opt for alternative hair removal methods. Even if you keep the procedure on hold, it may not hinder the progress achieved in the initial sessions.
Your doctor could help decide whether to continue or postpone the treatment during pregnancy. You should also talk to them about the safety of alternative hair removal methods such as electrolysis, waxing, and shaving.
Are Other Hair Removal Methods Safe During Pregnancy?
It is a painful method of hair removal, and there are no studies that prove its safety during pregnancy. Galvanic electrolysis uses a minute electrical current to destroy the hair follicles (4). The amniotic fluid protecting your fetus may be affected as it is a good conductor of electricity. Therefore, most doctors suggest avoiding this treatment until your baby is born.
You could go for waxing but with caution during pregnancy. As your skin is likely to be sensitive, waxing may lead to bruises. However, some women find this more efficient and easier than other treatments. This may not have any potential adverse effect on the unborn baby.
Creams and depilatories
They contain ingredients like calcium thioglycolic acid and barium sulfide powder that might destroy the hair (4). There is no clear evidence to vouch for their safety or harmfulness. However, the strong odor of the chemicals may cause a problem during pregnancy if you are quite sensitive to smells. The creams might also irritate the skin.
Shaving is the convenient and cheapest option of hair removal during pregnancy. There is no need for lasers, current, or harsh chemicals. Still, you must be careful while shaving. You could seek your partner’s help as it would be difficult for you to reach lower areas to shave. Make sure that you use shaving equipment (razors, clippers) with caution if you have varicose veins.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is IPL (intense pulsed light system) safe during pregnancy?
IPL is one of the latest technologies to help remove unwanted hair completely. It is likely to be less effective than laser since the energy is produced by a small light bulb which might produce a variety of less powerful and more diffusing light waves. It is limited to use only on fairer skin.
There is no evidence about the safety of IPL on pregnant women. Therefore, it is better to wait until your delivery to get an IPL treatment. The hormonal changes during pregnancy might alter skin pigmentation, and they are unpredictable.
2. Can a woman get laser hair removal when breastfeeding?
Laser hair removal is not recommended while you are breastfeeding as well. Though there is no scientific evidence showing a link between the treatment and the harm they may have on your baby, it is better not to undergo any radiation treatments during this phase. Also, some medical specialists may not allow you to go for laser hair removal procedures while breastfeeding because the nursing mother might still have a body full of hormones, which could cause side effects.
Also, the laser treatment while breastfeeding might alter the melanin production in the body, and it may lead to hyper or hypo pigmentation. The numbing creams like topical anesthetics applied to soothe the pain after laser procedure could enter the milk through your bloodstream. So, it might be preferable to postpone laser skin treatments until after you have stopped breastfeeding due to a lack of research on the safety of laser use amongst nursing mothers.
Pregnancy lasts only for about nine months. You could put a hold all procedures like electrolysis, using creams, and waxing, and resort to the safest methods. Laser, electrolysis, and creams et al., might be used after pregnancy.
What are your thoughts on laser hair removal during pregnancy? If you have had any laser treatment, do share your experience with other mommies.
2. Guidance on the Content and Organization of a Premarket Notification for a Medical Laser; U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2018)
3. Removing Hair Safely; U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2018)
4. Donald W. Shenenberger And Lynn M; Removal of Unwanted Facial Hair; American Academy of Family Physicians (2002)