Laser hair removal is a common cosmetic procedure done to get rid of hair on a long-term basis. It works by temporarily disabling hair follicles from producing new strands of hair.

While this hair removal method isn’t completely permanent, the results of laser treatments can last for several weeks. This treatment may also be ideal for areas of the body that are difficult to shave or wax.

Still, the benefits of laser hair removal can’t be achieved without some level of discomfort. The treatment can be painful based on what area you’re having treated, as well as your own tolerance to pain. Discuss any concerns with your provider.

Laser hair removal is designed to target hair follicles with tiny high-heat laser beams. While you may not feel the heat, you may feel like your skin is being snapped with a rubber band.

You may also experience mild discomfort after the procedure, such as redness and irritation similar to a mild sunburn.

The procedure may also feel painful to some degree. How painful depends on the part of the body that’s undergoing laser hair removal. The more sensitive the skin is to begin with, the more painful it’ll likely be.

To minimize pain, your provider may rub a numbing cream into your skin prior to the procedure. Depending on the body part and your pain tolerance, you may not need any numbing cream at all.

Laser hair removal hurts moderately on the legs compared to other areas of the body. This is because the skin tends to be thicker than more sensitive areas, such as your face or bikini line.

Still, there are portions of the legs that may hurt more during the procedure depending on sensitivity, such as your inner thighs compared to your shins.

The underarms are among the most painful areas of the body to undergo laser hair removal because the skin is so thin. This isn’t necessarily the case for the rest of your arms, though, where the pain is much milder.

The answer depends on which part of the face is undergoing laser treatment. Laser hair removal tends to be more painful around the thin skin of the upper lip, while the pain around the cheeks and forehead tends to be mild.

Like the underarms, laser hair removal tends to be more painful along the bikini line. It’s said to feel similar to waxing, but the difference is that laser removal takes longer. However, you might find the discomfort worth the long-term results.

Like your skin and arms, the stomach tends to have thicker skin, so laser hair removal doesn’t hurt here as much. This is not the case with your back, though. Back laser treatments can hurt as much as the bikini line or underarms due to the sheer number of hairs in this area.

If you’re not up for the potential pain or higher cost of laser treatments, consider other hair removal methods and how they stack up with regard to pain and potential side effects.


Unless you accidentally nick yourself, shaving is perhaps the least painful hair removal method. Take extra care by using shaving cream or gel on wet skin so that you reduce the chances of razor burn.

When done right, shaving doesn’t pose as many side effects, but the results don’t last long because you’re only removing hair from the surface of the skin.


Waxing can feel similar to laser hair removal in terms of pain, but it doesn’t last long. This hair removal method can last for a few weeks — much longer than shaving, but not as long as laser treatments. Mild rashes and irritation are possible post-treatment.


These methods are similar in principle to waxing, but instead you apply them as a cream or gel. They dissolve hairs and are then rinsed away clean.

Depilatories are chemical-based, so these tend to have the most side effects. Blisters, rashes, and burns are possible, and you may feel mild pain from the acidic nature of these products.


While time-consuming, plucking your hairs can last a bit longer than any of the above hair removal methods. It’s important to pluck with the direction of hair growth, rather than against it — this will help minimize skin irritation.


Like laser hair removal, electrolysis is a medical-grade treatment that produces more permanent results. It works by destroying hair follicles via radio frequencies. While not painful, some side effects may include swelling and rashes.

Laser hair removal isn’t intended for areas of the skin near an open orifice. This includes the hair inside your nose and ears, as well as around the genital area.

Most of the side effects related to laser hair removal are mild, and they occur after the procedure. These include:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • blisters
  • hyperpigmentation or scarring
  • increased risk for sunburn

While anesthetic (numbing) creams can help to minimize the pain, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends only using them when absolutely necessary and at the lowest dose possible.

Using too much numbing cream has been linked to life threatening side effects. Talk to your provider about the benefits and risks of numbing cream, especially if you’re undergoing multiple treatments.

Overall, numbing cream has been deemed safe when used in small amounts on small areas of the body and when applied by a professional.

You may also consider using different types of lasers for your hair removal treatments. One older study found that alexandrite lasers tend to be less painful, with or without numbing agents.

It’s also important to get laser hair removal from a licensed professional. Although at-home laser kits may be less painful to use, they aren’t guaranteed safe or effective at removing hair.

Laser hair removal is considered a safe procedure when done by a licensed professional. However, it’s not completely without risk, and you might experience some pain depending on which part of the body you’re getting treated.

Discuss your overall pain tolerance with your provider, and ask them about methods they can use to decrease your risk. Options include numbing agents, icing prior to treatment, and chill tips on lasers.