PCOS And Laser Hair Removal
PCOS is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and it’s one of the most common hormonal disorders in women.
It affects between five to 10 percent of women who are in their childbearing years. Women who are menopausal may also have it.
PCOS can have far-reaching consequences for a woman’s health if left untreated, but it also causes unwelcome cosmetic changes to the skin including skin tags, acne, oily skin and excess hair.
In a woman with PCOS, the ovaries create excess amounts of male hormones that lead to thicker, darker hair in areas where women typically have very fine, light hair, such as the face, abdomen, inner thighs and lower back.
Laser hair removal and PCOS
Do PCOS and laser hair removal go together? Laser hair removal is a way to permanently reduce hair and is commonly prescribed for women with excess hair growth due to PCOS.
However, since unwanted hair growth is hormonally driven, if the underlying hormonal imbalance isn’t addressed, unwanted hair growth may continue despite hair removal treatments.
During laser hair removal, a laser is used to selectively target dark, coarse hairs while leaving the surrounding tissue undamaged. The laser destroys the hair follicle so that it will never produce a hair again.
However, the treated area can’t be guaranteed to always be hairless because inactive follicles that were dormant during treatment can become active again, sometimes as the result of hormonal changes in the body.
That’s the case with everyone, not just those with PCOS. However, if you have PCOS, your hormones might stimulate new, coarse hair growth more often, and you typically will require more lasering sessions to get the results you’re after.
Laser hair removal for patients with PCOS is recommended as a simultaneous treatment method along with medical care. A doctor, such as an endocrinologist, can work with you to balance your hormone levels.
A balance may be achieved through hormone therapy or other personalized recommendations for PCOS and laser hair removal will often be recommended to take care of the excess hair.
Your doctor can often refer you to a reputable laser hair removal specialist so that you’ll know you’re in good hands.
It’s advisable to wait about six months after starting medical treatment for PCOS before undergoing laser hair removal. That way you won’t spend money lasering hair that would have gone away on its own once you got your hormones in check.
Lasers can be used to remove hair anywhere on the body except for under the eyebrows. The area beneath the eyebrows is too close to the eyes to safely use the laser there.
Is it permanent?
Laser hair removal can indeed permanently reduce unwanted hair. Long-term studies have shown a 90 percent reduction in hair growth still remaining 19 months after treatment.
There are numerous women with PCOS who’ve had hair lasered, and they report that while they used to have to shave twice a day, they now only have to remove unwanted hair every few weeks. The bottom line is that when the follicle is destroyed, the hair cannot grow back.
You might be wondering why if follicles are destroyed, a woman with PCOS may have to keep going back for more sessions than her non-PCOS friend. That's because lasers target coarse, dark hairs.
So you may go for a course of treatment that targets and removes nearly all of the coarse hairs. Lasers typically aren't used for fine, light hairs. However, a year later, PCOS may stimulate hormones that convert what used to be fine hairs on your face into thick hairs.
That's why women with PCOS may need to go in for more sessions of hair removal than women who don’t have the syndrome.
How does it feel?
Laser hair removal is described as being moderately painful. How much discomfort you’ll feel depends on your own pain tolerance level and the areas being treated.
People who’ve had laser hair removal describe it as feeling like someone is snapping a rubber band against the skin.
There are numbing gels you can apply before your session, and taking ibuprofen beforehand can also help to minimize any pain. Your skin might be slightly sore and red after treatment, but it should go back to normal within a few hours.
Symptoms of PCOS
The symptoms of PCOS can vary and some women with the condition don’t have any symptoms at all. It’s also possible to have excess hair due to genetics, not PCOS, which is normal and not a cause for concern. In addition to excess hair growth, PCOS is often linked to the following symptoms:
- Difficulty losing weight
- Irregular periods
- Darkened patches of skin
- Thinning of hair on the head
- Development of skin tags
- Increased muscle mass
- Pain in the pelvic area
- Depression and anxiety
- Lowered interest in sex
If you think you may have PCOS, discuss your symptoms with a doctor. In addition to the impact it can have on a woman’s appearance, PCOS is considered to be a risk factor for several medical conditions that include type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
If you have PCOS, the good news is all of its risk factors can be lowered if you take steps to manage it. Working to balance hormone levels and attending to any bothersome outward symptoms, including excess hair, can help you to live a healthy, happier life.