PCOS Laser Hair Removal: Pros and Cons You Need to Know

The benefits and drawbacks of laser hair removal for PCOS.

PCOS can manifest in many ways, and one of the most common is extra hair growth.

Up to 75% of women with PCOS have excess hair, known as hirsutism, according to the Diagnostics journal.

When hirsutism is caused by PCOS, it is usually due to an imbalance of hormones. More specifically, excess male hormones can make you grow hair along your face, chest, abdomen, and back. 

It’s a condition that causes a lot of distress: research shows that hirsutism takes a major toll on women’s lives. 

Several treatments for hirsutism exist, and laser hair removal is one of the most popular. Below, we review the pros and cons of this procedure.

Laser hair removal for PCOS: pros and cons

Before we get into the pros and cons, I need to get a couple of caveats out of the way.

It's important to remember that in an ideal world hair removal should be a personal choice. But the reality is most of us feel pressured to get rid of most of our body hair because of societal expectations, specifically male expectations.

I know I’ve spent tons of money and time eliminating any traces of unwanted body hair. And I’m no exception. One study found women spent £23,000 on waxing during their lifetime.

And a research paper notes that the obsession with female body hair is a relatively modern, and mostly Western, invention. All of that, though, is a blog post all on its own.

Plus, when you have PCOS, hair removal is far more than a cosmetic choice. Excess hair growth may signal a serious underlying hormone balance - a problem you should fix regardless of your personal preferences.

With that said, let's review the pros and cons of laser hair removal for PCOS.




You probably won’t need to shave or wax after laser hair removal


One study, published in the 2020 Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, investigated the success rate of Alexandrite laser hair removal.


Alexandrite laser hair removal uses an alexandrite laser to damage hair follicles. It sends light to the pigment in the follicles, and the damage means the follicles can’t produce new hair.


This study found:


“Our results demonstrate that, even in the presence of PCOS, hair reduction together with thinning satisfy patients without total removal of hairs. Therefore, the elimination of the need for epilation might be considered as the ‘permanent result’ of LHR.”

I noticed that after only a few sessions, my upper lip hair was thinner and sparser. I might have had around three or four sessions.


There’s minimal side-effects


Laser hair removal is considered safe and may only cause minor side-effects, per the American Academy of Dermatology Association.


One research review, published in the Lasers in Medical Science journal, finds that laser and intense pulsed light has been used for 40 years with “positive outcomes”:


“IPL-based technology is generally considered a safe procedure as potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation is typically filtered by blocking wavelengths below 500 nm…”


However, research authors point out that side-effects do exist, including:


  • Blistering
  • Hypopigmentation
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Scarring 

Typically, most of these cases happen when the laser technician uses the “incorrect parameters” for the patient’s skin colour.


To avoid complications, other research, published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology, recommends giving the patient enough post procedure information.


These include written instructions on do’s and don’ts, plus what to expect after the procedure and the importance of sun protection. Your provider should also schedule follow-ups to pick up on any complications early. 


Laser technician experience and knowledge are key to reducing side effects, especially in patients with darker skin, notes researchers:


“Advances in laser technology have not only allowed the development of new devices and expanded the scope of these to target newer diseases more effectively, but has also resulted in a greater incidence of complications, especially in skin of color."


To get the best results, professionals need to know how lasers work, understand the device they're using, and set the right parameters. 


It’s relatively painless 


Everyone’s pain threshold is different, but many people find lasers to be tolerable and less painful compared to, say, waxing. (Raise your hand if you ever need to stop during a bikini wax to take a couple of deep breaths.)


Of course, certain areas of the body may be more sensitive than others. For example, the bikini line and underarms are generally more sensitive compared to the legs or back.


Laser hair removal and hormone balancing may improve your overall quality of life


Unwanted body hair is associated with a lower quality of life and symptoms of depression, according to Endocrine Abstracts.

A lot of this probably connects back to the pressure we feel to adhere to the feminine ideal, which has become increasingly hairless. Still, the feelings of embarrassment and shame are real. 


A study of 150 women with PCOS, published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, found that a combination of insulin sensitising medication and laser hair removal enhances women’s overall quality of life. Participants completed eight sessions of laser hair removal.


Hormone balancing treatments for hirsutism can include lifestyle changes such as eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and reducing stress. Medications such as oral contraceptives and anti-androgens may also be prescribed to lower androgens and regulate your hormones.




You’ll need even more sessions if you don’t fix your hormone imbalance


Laser hair removal isn’t an overnight success - it’s a process. You’ll need to commit to multiple sessions to gain the most benefit.


According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, most people need between two and six treatments. 

And you may need even more if you don’t bring your hormones into balance. As mentioned, PCOS is often associated with high insulin and testosterone levels. All of this contributes to excess hair growth.


Research shows that “untreated hormonal diseases” like PCOS can lead to a poor response to treatment. In many cases, these patients end up needing additional sessions.


That’s why researchers recommend bringing your hormones into balance before or during laser hair removal. 

The good news? In some cases, a single treatment can reduce hair up to 40%, according to the Dermatology Practical & Conceptual journal.

It can be pricey


Statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons show the average cost of laser hair removal is $389.


The cost of laser hair removal depends on the size of the treatment area, the number of sessions you need, and the expertise of the provider. 


Larger areas, such as the legs or back, may cost more compared to smaller areas like the upper lip or underarms..

Laser hair removal isn’t always safe


Laser hair removal is generally considered safe for most people, but may need to skip it if you’re pregnant or taking certain medications.

Currently, there’s not enough research to establish the safety of laser hair removal during pregnancy. I was midway through a course of laser hair removal for my bikini area when I fell pregnant. And while I wasn’t able to complete all the planned sessions, the hair was far less noticeable.

Rachel Nazarian, a board certified dermatologist, tells Very Well Health:

“Laser hair treatments can safely resume three months after delivery, when most hormone levels have normalized.”


Additionally, some medications, like acne treatments, can make your skin more sensitive to light or increase the risk of complications. 

Certain skin tones and hair colours may have less success


People with darker skins or lighter or thinner hair may not be the best candidates for hair removal.


Some evidence suggests laser hair removal works best on individuals with darker hair and lighter skin tones because the laser targets the pigment (melanin) in the hair follicles. Researchers also note that thin, lighter hair is a “poor choice for laser hair removal” because it’s less pigmented than thick coarse hair.

But other research notes laser technicians can have good results if they adjust the settings to match the skin type of the patient.


PCOS laser hair removal: Frequently asked questions

Below, you'll find answers to common questions about PCOS and laser hair removal.


Does laser hair removal work for PCOS?


Laser hair removal works for PCOS, especially if you address your underlying hormone imbalance. 


When you have PCOS, you’re more likely to have insulin resistance, where your body doesn’t respond to insulin properly, leading to high insulin levels. In addition, you may also have elevated testosterone levels. These hormonal imbalances cause unpleasant symptoms, including excess hair growth.


Research shows that PCOS patients have the most success with laser hair removal when they address their hormonal imbalance. 

How many laser sessions does it take to remove hair with PCOS?


The number of laser sessions required to remove hair with PCOS can vary depending on several factors, like your hair growth patterns and how you  respond to treatment. 


On average, most people require a series of laser hair removal sessions to achieve optimal results. Generally, it is recommended to undergo a minimum of six to eight sessions.


Multiple treatments are necessary because the laser only works on hairs in the active stage of growth, and not all hair follicles are actively producing hair at the same time. 

Which hair removal is better for PCOS?


The best hair removal method for PCOS depends on a ton of factors and honestly varies from person to person. Ultimately, you’ll need to take into account your budget, preferences, and treatment goals.


You’ll get to choose from temporary methods, like shaving or waxing, to more lasting options, like laser hair removal or electrolysis. Each comes with its own benefits and drawbacks. Shaving, for example, is quick, easy, and cheap but usually leads to ingrown hairs. 

Waxing can be painful and cause redness and irritation, while laser hair removal may be more expensive but can be a longer-term solution.

On the other hand, electrolysis is a permanent hair removal method. It can be time-consuming as it treats one hair follicle at a time.

No matter which method you choose, remember that PCOS hair removal methods work best when you do them alongside hormone balancing. 

Featured image credit: Photo by Orhun Rüzgar  ÖZ