- Understanding keratosis pilaris
- How does laser hair removal work for keratosis pilaris?
- The effectiveness of laser hair removal for keratosis pilaris – does it really work?
- What about other light-based treatments for keratosis pilaris?
- The benefits of using laser hair removal for keratosis pilaris, over other treatment methods
- Considerations and precautions before using laser hair removal for keratosis pilaris
- Laser hair removal for keratosis pilaris may present a novel and long-term solution to bumpy, red skin
Keratosis pilaris (KP) is a common skin condition that affects groups of people regardless of sex or race. Sometimes called “chicken skin,” it is characterized by small, rough bumps on the skin’s surface, which can also be red or brown in colour. KP is primarily found on the upper arms, thighs, buttocks, and sometimes on the face.
While harmless, KP can be aesthetically bothersome and cause self-consciousness in those affected. Among the various treatment options available, laser hair removal has emerged as a promising, yet still experimental, method for managing this skin condition.
In this article, we will explore the effectiveness, benefits, and considerations associated with using laser hair removal for keratosis pilaris.
Understanding keratosis pilaris
Keratosis pilaris is thought to be – at least in part – a genetic condition. About 30 – 50% of individuals who have this condition have a family history of it. It occurs when keratin, a protein found in the skin, builds up and blocks the hair follicles. This leads to the formation of small, rough bumps known as “keratin plugs.”
Keratosis pilaris is often associated with dry skin, or those with eczema. It tends to worsen during colder months due to reduced humidity.
While there is no cure for keratosis pilaris, some treatment approaches can help improve its appearance and texture. To date, these have mainly included creams and exfoliants, whether prescription-based or over-the-counter.
How does laser hair removal work for keratosis pilaris?
Laser hair removal involves the use of concentrated beams of light to target and destroy hair follicles. While the primary objective of this treatment is hair reduction or removal, it also offers potential benefits for those with keratosis pilaris.
By selectively targeting the hair follicles, laser energy can disrupt the plugs caused by hair growth that gets stuck in the bumps. This promotes smoother skin texture and reduces the rash-like appearance caused by keratosis pilaris.
This treatment method is thought to address the root cause of keratosis pilaris. Laser skin resurfacing, on the other hand, acts as an exfoliant to help address symptoms of keratosis pilaris.
The effectiveness of laser hair removal for keratosis pilaris – does it really work?
Although laser hair removal was not originally developed to treat keratosis pilaris, some research and anecdotal evidence suggests it can be effective in managing this condition. For example, Victoria Hoff of Byrdie goes into detail in this article about how her KP was reduced (though not eliminated) through this treatment.
A 2015 study explains the use of an 810 nm diode laser as a treatment for keratosis pilaris. Its conclusion is that while this particular laser may solve texture problems, it does not solve the redness issue, which requires additional laser treatments with a vascular laser.
Furthermore, a 2022 study showed that a long-pulsed, 1064 nm Nd:YAG laser worked almost as well as a 20% trichloroacetic acid (TCA) chemical peel to reduce symptoms of keratosis pilaris. Researchers saw a “moderate improvement” in 10% of patients, a “marked improvement” in 50% and “excellent improvement” in 40%.
Confused about the names of these lasers? Read our article:
So far, no studies have concluded with ultimate certainty that keratosis pilaris can be treated at 100% effectiveness with laser hair removal. In other words, it’s not a cure. So, don’t take any claims as a guarantee that it will work for you, even if it worked for someone else. And, don’t assume you’ll be completely bump-free after laser hair removal on your treatment areas.
On the flip side, if you already want to get rid of unwanted hair in your KP problem areas, you’ve got nothing to lose by trying it.
What about other light-based treatments for keratosis pilaris?
There are researchers looking into Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) as a way of treating keratosis pilaris. However, IPL is not considered a laser. It can’t provide as precise of a treatment.
Medscape lists Photodynamic therapy (PDT) as another option for treating keratosis pilaris. However, this treatment method can be long and arduous to undergo. Learn more about Photodynamic therapy here (as it relates to acne treatments).
The benefits of using laser hair removal for keratosis pilaris, over other treatment methods
So why get laser hair removal for keratosis pilaris, compared to using traditional creams and exfoliants for this condition? Below are a few reasons.
Other treatment methods for keratosis pilaris are short-term. After all, it is a stubborn, recurring condition.
Unlike treatments that offer temporary relief of keratosis pilaris, laser hair removal can provide longer-lasting effects. How? By destroying hair follicles. Less hair growth can significantly reduce the recurrence of KP-related bumps, leading to smoother skin in the treated areas.
Precise and customizable treatments
Laser hair removal is a highly customizable procedure, allowing doctors or technicians to adjust treatment parameters based on individual needs. This precision ensures that the laser energy is directed only at the targeted areas or depths in the skin, minimizing the risk of damage to surrounding tissues.
Also, if you have skin of colour, a technician can use lower settings to reduce the chances of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which you will be prone to. This is similar to using a less intense chemical peel or exfoliant for keratosis pilaris. However, with lasers, it is much more precise.
Quick and convenient sessions
Laser hair removal sessions are relatively quick, depending on the size of the treatment area. Larger areas like the legs may take longer, but smaller areas such as the upper arms or face can be treated in a matter of minutes.
Additionally, there is no downtime associated with the procedure. You can resume daily activities immediately after sessions.
While using at-home creams may save you a trip to the laser centre, they also depend on your consistent use. Plus, if you over-treat your problem areas, you may end up with burns or scabs, which will need time to heal. They may also require other treatments (such as to get rid of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation).
Considerations and precautions before using laser hair removal for keratosis pilaris
While laser hair removal might be an effective option for managing keratosis pilaris, there are some factors to consider before getting this treatment.
Consult with a doctor before you settle on keratosis pilaris as your diagnosis!
It is crucial to consult with a qualified doctor before undergoing laser hair removal for keratosis pilaris.
A doctor can assess your skin condition and medical history to determine if you indeed have keratosis pilaris, versus another condition.
For example, keratosis pilaris can look similar to scurvy. In that case, it would need a much different treatment – one that could save your other body parts, or even your life! Keratosis pilaris can also look like milia, acne, folliculitis and a host of other skin conditions, listed here. These all require different treatment paths.
Multiple sessions are required
Achieving optimal KP reduction may require multiple laser sessions. The number of treatments needed can vary depending on the severity of KP and an individual’s response to the procedure.
Remember: laser hair removal for keratosis pilaris is not a cure, and can only potentially reduce symptoms, not eliminate them.
Possible side effects
While laser hair removal is generally safe when performed by a qualified technician, it can cause mild side effects such as temporary redness, swelling, or slight discomfort in the treated areas. These effects are usually short-lived and resolve on their own.
If you have tanned skin, you will need to wait for your tan to go away before undergoing laser hair removal. This also applies to spray tans. This is for your safety, to prevent burns. Tattooed skin is not eligible for laser hair removal, for the same reasons.
Laser hair removal for keratosis pilaris may present a novel and long-term solution to bumpy, red skin
Laser hair removal presents a promising treatment option for individuals with keratosis pilaris seeking smoother, bump-free skin. By targeting hair follicles and disrupting the buildup of keratin, this procedure can reduce the visibility and severity of KP-related bumps.
However, it is important to consult with a doctor to determine if laser hair removal is the right choice for you and to understand the potential risks and benefits associated with the procedure.
With proper evaluation and care, laser hair removal can be a valuable tool in managing keratosis pilaris and enhancing skin texture and appearance.
See more on our blog:
- Am I a good candidate for laser hair removal? Does my skin tone or hair colour matter these days?
- Before and after care: what you can do to get the best results from laser hair removal
- Before you get Brazilian laser hair removal, read this