If you’re coming to SEV for your laser hair removal, chances are you’re pretty savvy about the health and appearance of your skin. Many of our clients and staff use retinol or other retinoids in their beauty routines, since most dermatologists agree it’s the best anti-aging skincare ingredient (aside from sunscreen, of course.)  

Unfortunately, it can also be quite sensitizing, which is why we recommend practicing caution when it comes to retinol and laser hair removal. In this post, we’ll explain how to account for your retinol usage when getting laser hair removal treatments. 


What Is Retinol? 

Retinol is a popular skincare ingredient that’s a member of the vitamin A family. You’ll often find it in serums and moisturizers marketed for their anti-aging effect. 

As a skincare ingredient, retinol interacts with enzymes in the skin that convert it into retinoic acid (i.e., tretinoin). Once converted, it triggers cell renewal through special retinoic acid receptors in the skin. This renewal pushes out old skin cells while generating new collagen and elastin lower in the epidermis. 

As a result, retinol is useful for reducing fine lines and wrinkles, improving skin texture, and creating a clearer skin tone. It’s more direct-acting version, tretinoin, is one of the most well-researched ingredients in skincare and dermatology, especially as an acne remedy. 


What You Need To Know When Using Retinol

That initial process of renewal with retinol is called retinization. It can make the skin a little more sensitive and easily irritated, especially in the first few weeks of using retinoids. Some people also experience a temporary increase in breakouts, called “purging”. 

They’re also light-sensitive, so it’s important to use them in the evening rather than in the daytime. Some dermatologists recommend a slow and gradual introduction, eventually increasing usage up to once at night. It’s also very important to use sunscreen consistently in the daytime while using retinoids. 

Finally, it’s important to note that retinol and other retinoids are not considered pregnancy-safe. 


Can You Use Retinol While Getting Laser Hair Removal?

So now on to the big question – can you use retinol while getting laser hair removal? 

The answers are yes and no, depending on what you mean. You can’t use retinoids at all in the week before and the week after a laser hair removal treatment. However, you can still use retinoids in between, since you’ll have to wait at least a month between laser hair removal sessions. 

Plus, this assumes that you’re using retinol on the same body parts you plan to get lasered. If you’re using retinol on your face but you’re coming for a body treatment, you don’t need to worry at all. 


Other Retinoids and Laser Hair Removal

What if you’re not using retinol, but a totally different retinoid? There are a lot of other options available as cosmetics or topical medications, like retinaldehyde, adapalene, and tretinoin. With all of these, you’ll need to take a week-long break both before and after laser treatments.

There are also cosmetic retinol derivatives, like retinyl palmitate or granactive retinoids, which are weaker than true retinol. Depending on the product, you might be able to take a shorter break before and after laser hair removal. That said, we’d still urge you to err on the side of caution.  

Finally, there’s isotretinoin, more commonly known as Accutane. This oral form of vitamin A is a powerful prescription acne medication. It makes the skin very photosensitive and dry, and as such, you have to wait at least 6 months after stopping isotretinoin before you can undergo laser hair removal. 



Can you use retinol after laser hair removal?

No. Your skin will be fairly sensitive immediately after your laser hair removal treatment. We recommend waiting at least a week before using retinol after laser hair removal. 

Can you use retinol before laser hair removal?

No. You need to stop using retinol on the treatment area for at least one week before your laser hair removal appointment. 

When to stop retinol before laser hair removal?

We generally recommend you stop using retinol one week before your laser hair removal treatments. 

What should I use instead? 

If you’re using retinoids for their heavy-hitting anti-aging effects, the most important thing you can do is keep on using sunscreen. Sun protection is by far the best way of slowing down the visible aging of the skin! 

Aside from that, look for skincare ingredients that don’t have a resurfacing effect on the skin, like copper peptides, green tea extract, or niacinamide. These ingredients may offer some mild anti-aging effects, and they aren’t associated with an increase in skin sensitivity. 

What other skincare should I worry about? 

In general, you should stop using any topical skincare products that contain skin-renewing, exfoliating, or resurfacing ingredients for a week before and after laser hair removal. That includes alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic, lactic, and mandelic acid, and salicylic acid which is often marketed as beta-hydroxy acid (BHA).