Everything you need to know about fake tan and laser hair removal
After Laser Treatment | 4 July 2019

Everything You Need To Know About Fake Tan & Laser Hair Removal

We’re regularly asked about fake tan in relation to laser hair removal, and with good reason. The risks of fake tan and laser hair removal are serious and should not be ignored.

So we have put together a detailed explanation of everything you need to know about fake tan and how it affects laser hair removal.

The most common complications that can occur when fake tan is present on the skin is prolonged erythema (redness).

Laser is safe for all skin types, from pale white skin to dark skin. Different wavelengths of lasers are used to treat varying skin tones. It is important that you try to keep your skin colour as stable as possible throughout your course of treatment.

Fake tan refers to all gradual tanning formulations, instant and wash-off tans, body foundations, bronzing, and shimmer bronzers. Basically, anything that would make the skin appear darker in colour.  This rule also applies to formulations in body moisturisers that include gradual tanning agents i.e. daily moisturisers that gradually build up a tan. You can wear an instant wash-off tan but we would recommend using this 2-3 days before your session. Makes sure all residue has been removed from the skin.

Why does the laser cause a reaction when fake tan is present?

The laser will respond to fake tan in the exact same way as it responds to a real tan. Lasers used for hair removal cannot distinguish between them.

Sunlight, sunbeds, spray tan and self-tanners will all alter the natural colour tone of your skin. For this reason, it is important to try to avoid these when undergoing a course of laser treatment.

Self-tanners temporarily change the colour of your skin. It is important that the skin is free from tan and all residues they leave behind before your laser session.

When you start your laser treatments your skin tone is evaluated and a baseline laser setting is selected to match with this tone. After each session, the settings gradually increase to coincide with your skin’s reaction to this setting and to your results.

If however, you happen to go on holiday to the sun, use sunbeds or apply a self-tanner in between your sessions this will alter your skin tone. This will cause the skin to react differently to the laser setting used on your previous session.

Why does laser react to self-tanners in this way?

Self-tanning products cause the skin to look like it has developed a tan. This makes the surface of the skin appear darker in colour.  This mimics the appearance that the skin’s natural melanin has been stimulated and has come to the surface of the skin.

Lasers used for hair removal are specifically designed to absorb into melanin (brown pigment). If melanin is present in both the skin and hair it creates a competing target for the energy delivered by the laser.

The primary goal of laser treatment is for the majority of the laser energy created to be absorbed by the hair. If this energy is being distracted away from its target then the treatment will not be as effective as it should be. By creating a dark layer of false pigment on the skin more energy will be attracted to this during treatment and it may cause the skin to react.

Alexandrite is the wavelength of the laser used for paler- mid coloured skin types. This laser is extremely focused on absorbing into dark pigment. The more melanin (brown pigment) that is present in your skin the more the laser will target and absorb into it. This is why clients who have very pale skin and dark hair see the best results in fewer sessions. The laser doesn’t absorb into the surrounding pale skin, the majority of the energy is absorbed by the dark hair. Because this laser is so focused on pigment caution is needed when using this laser.


Everything you need to know about fake tan and laser hair removal

Fake tan may be used during your course of laser hair removal treatment but with extreme caution. It is essential that you use it in the right way in order to prevent any adverse and unwanted reactions.

Laser is extremely safe for people with naturally darker skin, here’s why

For people who have naturally darker skin, a different wavelength of laser is used called Nd:YAG. This wavelength works differently and is extremely safe on dark skin. People with dark skin and dark hair typically need more sessions. Results are slightly slower because this laser targets the blood supply at the base of the hair rather than the hair itself. Because of the abundance of melanin in dark skin, Alexandrite laser should never be used on dark skin.

Can you wear fake tan when having laser hair removal?

No, you must not wear fake tan when having laser hair removal. You can use this in between your sessions and throughout your course, your skin must be completely free from tan on the day treatment.

To ensure this you must stop applying this to your treatment area 7-10 days before your session is due. All residue must also be removed from the skin before your laser session.

If you have particularly dry skin and are aware that tan takes longer to fade leave a longer period of time to allow for all residue to be removed.  It is extremely dangerous to have a laser treatment while fake tan is present on the skin.

Please use fake tan with extreme caution during the course of your treatments. If on the day of your treatment tan is still present on the skin your session will be postponed until this has been completely removed.

This rule only applies to your treatment area and you may continue to use fake tan on other areas of the body that are not having laser treatment. For example,  it is fine to use tan at all times on your upper body if you are only having laser on your legs. It’s so important that you know everything about fake tan when undergoing a course of laser hair removal.



It is dangerous to wear fake tan when having laser hair removal

Tips on how best to remove fake tan before your session


  • An exfoliating mitt or a tan eraser mitt can remove tan residue fast
  • Use a moisturiser after exfoliating to prevent skin from becoming too dry
  • An exfoliating scrub can be added if needed
  • Soak in a hot bath before exfoliating if possible
  • Pay attention to dry areas where tan settles ie. elbows, knees, shins, etc

Using fake tan when having laser hair removal can cause major issues with laser. If this is present on your skin may lead to a severe reaction lasting a number of days. Please make sure you follow our guidelines to prevent your treatment from having to be cancelled on the day due to tan.

Can you wear fake tan after laser hair removal?

Yes, you can apply fake tan after your session of laser hair removal. We would recommend waiting 4-5 days after your session before applying this to your treatment area.

Why can’t you use fake tan directly after laser hair removal?

The skin and the hair follicles will remain sensitive for a time after your laser hair removal session. Erythema (redness) and follicular edema (swelling) are normal side effects of laser and normally disappear within a few hours. These may last a few days depending on your skin’s sensitivity.

It is important that the skin remains free from all irritants at this time to minimise the possibility of an adverse skin reaction. If tan is applied to the skin while it is recovering from laser treatment the chemicals within the tanning formulation may cause the skin to become irritated resulting in a rash or infection.

If you will be using fake tan on your treatment area throughout your course of treatments we would recommend test patching a small section of skin. Do this 4-5 days after your second session of laser to check for any reactions. Wait 24 hours after this has been applied and if no reaction occurs. This way you know that it is safe to apply your tanning solution to your entire treatment area.


Fake tan is not recommended directly after laser hair removal

How long after your laser session do you have to wait before applying fake tan?

We would recommend you wait at least 4-5 days before applying fake tan to your treatment area. Please ensure skin has completely calmed down before using fake tan.

Please note that clients with extremely sensitive skin should wait an extra day or two if necessary. Wait until the skin has completely returned to normal before applying any topical product on their skin.

Please note that the restrictions for use of fake tan during your course of treatments only relate to your treatment areas. You can continue to apply fake tan to all other areas of your body as you normally would.


Can you get a spray tan after laser hair removal?

Yes, but the same rule applies to spray tan, wait at least 4-5 days to avoid any adverse skin reactions. Do not get a spray tan directly after your session of laser hair removal.

This is really everything you need to know about fake tan and laser hair removal.

If you have any further questions regarding the use of fake tan before or after your laser session, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Our dedicated teams of laser hair removal hair experts in Drogheda and Dublin are on hand to answer any queries you may have.