There’s a lot you may not love about your pubic hair grooming routine: the razor bumps, the itchy regrowth phase, the awkward small talk with your bikini waxer. If you’ve been considering ditching razors and wax in favor of electrolysis or laser hair removal, we don’t blame you — the allure of going bare without the constant upkeep is real. Before you commit and drop trou, here’s what you need to know:
Electrolysis or laser hair removal?
A dermatologist or esthetician will be able to advise you as to the best option for you, but here’s the basic breakdown: during electrolysis, your practitioner inserts a fine probe into each hair follicle, which is then destroyed by either chemical or heat energy. Laser hair removal, meanwhile, works by aiming a concentrated beam of light at hair, damaging the follicle in the process — and it’s actually considered permanent hair reduction, not removal (only electrolysis has been approved by the FDA for permanent hair removal). That doesn’t mean one or the other is better — laser will target a larger area of the body at once, but it’s not a great option for anyone with dark skin or light hair. Electrolysis is likely a better option if you have either, but it’s also more time-consuming. Some people start with laser hair removal and go back for the strays with electrolysis later.
The pain factor
Yes, it hurts a bit and sometimes more than a bit — many laser hair removal patients describe the sensation as a rubber band snapping against the skin — but studies show that less than 1 percent of patients require a numbing cream. Careful with those, though: the FDA has warned against their overuse, especially when not under the supervision of a medical professional, since they can pass into the bloodstream and cause irregular heartbeat, slowed breathing, and others serious complication.
The bad news first: as with any cosmetic or medical procedure, there are still risks. Electrolysis can cause scarring, keloid scars, and skin discoloration on the treated area, while laser hair removal can cause skin color changes, burns, scarring, and acne-like breakouts. The good news: areas of the body that are protected from the sun have fewer complications after laser hair removal — so as long as you’re not nude sunbathing, your risk is lower. Still, experts say your overall risk of any long-lasting side effects or complications is quite rare. And yes, that long standing rumor about laser hair removal can cause infertility is just a rumor — the laser penetrates less than a millimeter into the skin and doesn’t get anywhere near your ovaries.
Research before you book
Here’s where it gets complicated: while laser hair removal and electrolysis are generally safe, it can depend on who’s treating you. While laser hair removal is considered to be a medical treatment in some states, it’s not in others (like New York, Virginia, and Georgia), so your treatment may be administered by a laser technician, not a doctor. Some states require that non-medical personnel have medical supervision, but those states also don’t always have strict requirements for training and licensing. And only 33 states require a license to practice electrolysis. Translation: whether you’re getting your hair removal from a doctor or a day spa, do your research — find out what kind of licensing your practitioner has, how experienced they are, and what kind of reviews they have for the treatment.
Minimize your risk
In addition to finding a qualified practitioner for your treatment — and checking that you’re a good candidate (ask for a consultation), make sure your post-treatment routine minimizes your risk of complications.
After an electrolysis treatment, be sure to keep the area clean and dry for 48 hours. Resist the urge to scratch itchy skin or pick at small scabs — and don’t worry, both are normal as your skin begins to heal! Avoid sun exposure as well as anything that can irritate skin, like perfumed body lotion or soap, for the first two days. And go ahead and go commando: wearing tight undies should be avoided for 48 hours after the appointment.
You already know to keep your privates out of the sun after laser hair removal, but you should also make sure you don’t use any other hair removers — that means no waxing or plucking strays. Treat the skin as if you have a sunburn right after the appointment: avoid using very hot water in the shower, and be gentle. Keep your favorite body scrub away from your nether regions for three days post-treatment.
Bottom line: Electrolysis and laser hair removal are generally safe for the bikini area, but you can make it even safer by doing your research and minimizing your risk of complications after treatment.