Everything You Need To Know About Fake Tan & Laser Hair Removal
We’re regularly asked about it and with good reason – the risks of fake tan and laser hair removal are serious and should not be ignored.
The most common complications that can occur when fake tan is present on the skin is prolonged erythema (redness) and pigmentation which sometimes leads to temporary discolouration of the skin.
Laser is safe for all skin types, from pale white skin to dark black skin. Different lasers are used to treat varying skin tones so it is important that you try to keep your skin colour as stable as possible throughout your course of treatment.
Why does the laser cause a reaction to occur on the skin 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 so it is important to try to avoid these when undergoing a course of laser treatment.
Self-tanners temporarily change the colour of your skin so it is important that the skin is free from these products 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 and 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, like 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 follicle, 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.
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 because higher intensities of energy will not cause their skin to react, while clients with dark skin and dark hair typically need more sessions and see slower results because lower intensities of energy will be needed to prevent their skin from reacting.
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.
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 but your skin must be completely free from tan on the day of your 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 you must leave a longer period of time to allow for all residue to be completely 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, e.g. it is fine to use tan at all times on your upper body if you are only having laser on your legs, you must stop applying fake tan to your legs 7-10 days before your session is due.
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 ie daily moisturisers that gradually build up a tan. You can wear instant wash off tan but we would recommend using this 2-3 days before your session, not the day before and to makes sure all residue has been removed from the skin.
Tips on how best to remove fake tan before your session:
- Use exfoliating mitts or a tan eraser mitt
- Use a moisturiser after exfoliating to prevent skin from becoming too dry
- Use an exfoliating scrub
- 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 and 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 having to be cancelled on the day due to tan.
Can you wear fake tan after laser hair removal?
Yes, you can wear fake tan after your session of laser hair removal but 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 oedema (swelling) are normal side effects from laser and normally disappear within a few hours but 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 with tan 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 you know that it is safe to apply your tanning solution to your entire treatment area.
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 until their 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.
You will need to stop applying fake tan to your treatment area 7-10 days before your next treatment is due.
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.
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 team of hair removal experts are on hand to answer any queries you may have.