Even if excess hair is related to a medical condition, health insurance companies do not usually cover the cost of hair removal. Hair removal procedures are generally considered cosmetic procedures that are done to enhance looks rather than out of any form of medical necessity.

Hair removal falls into the same category as other cosmetic procedures that health insurance companies don’t usually cover. These include breast implants, nose jobs, facelifts, and other cosmetic surgeries done for reasons other than health reasons. Laser hair removal and electrolysis are two hair removal options you can receive from healthcare professionals.

How does laser hair removal work?

Laser hair removal involves the use of intense beam, or laser, to get rid of hair. The laser beam is targeted on individual hair follicles to damage them so they do not grow hair as quickly and freely as they did.

While the overall goal may be permanent hair removal, laser hair removal doesn’t guarantee permanent results. It may take more than one laser session to inhibit hair growth for an extended period and follow-up visits to maintain a hair-free area are usually necessary down the line.

Laser hair removal doesn’t always work on every type of hair, either. It is most effective on dark hair for people with lightly pigmented skin. It usually doesn’t work at all on blond hair, red hair, grey hair, or white hair.

Laser hair removal can work in a number of areas, although it is not safe for the eyelid or areas around the eye. Other options include the upper lip, chin, bikini line, armpits, and legs.

What are the side effects of laser hair removal?

Blistering and scarring of the skin may occur from laser hair removal, and it can also cause crusting and other changes in skin texture. Redness and swelling are other side effects, although they usually subside within a few hours following the procedure.

Because the laser beam targets the hair pigment, it can cause a change in skin pigmentation in the treated area. The pigmentation change can result in skin that is darker or lighter than its normal state, although the change is usually temporary.

The FDA says one more caveat is to keep the treated area out of direct sunlight directly following the procedure. The treatment can make the skin more sensitive and susceptible to sunburn. Staying out of the sun and avoiding self-tanning products prior to treatment is another must, since having a tan increases your risk of side effects, such as skin lightening, from the procedure.

How does electrolysis work and what are its side effects?

Electrolysis is a hair removal procedure that aims to destroy the hair follicle through the use of a shortwave radio frequency. Like laser hair removal, it does not immediately result in permanent hair removal but usually takes more than one session before the hair follicle is adequately destroyed.

The procedure involves the insertion of a thin needle into the hair follicle, instead of laser’s intense beam of light that penetrates the skin. Side effects from electrolysis can include scarring from improper needle techniques or infections from the use of a needle that was not properly sterilized.

Are there less expensive hair removal methods I can use on my own?

Shaving, of course, is one of the most common home hair removal methods, although it is not recommended for women’s upper lips and other highly sensitive areas. Shaving does not necessarily make hair grow back thicker than it was, but it can result in unsightly stubble that feels thicker and more irritating than the original hair.

Shaving can also result in unsightly razor bumps and cuts. For best results, shave in the direction of hair growth and only shave hair when it’s wet.

Tweezing unwanted hair is another option. It involves the use of tweezers to pull out the entire strand of hair, root and all. Because it removes the hair root instead of simply cutting the hair length, hair typically takes longer to grow back after tweezing than it does after shaving.

Some downsides to tweezing can include pain and tedium if you have a lot of unwanted hair to remove. Epilators use a series of tweezers to pull out more than one hair strand at a time as they send an electric signal through the hair shaft. They, too, can be painful, especially when removing hair from the upper lip, armpits, or other highly sensitive areas.

Other hair removal methods include the use of depilatories and waxing. Depilatories are creams, lotions, roll-ons, and other topical treatments that you apply to the skin with the aim of dissolving the hair at the skin’s surface in the area where the depilatory was applied.

Allergic reactions and irritation are possible side effects from depilatories, as are rashes, peeling, burns, and blisters. They should never be used in the eyebrow or eye areas.

Waxing uses melted wax to pull out the hair by the root. Waxing consists of pouring melted wax on the area where you want the hair removed, waiting for the wax to harden, and then yanking it from the area.

Hair removal can be a painful and expensive process, depending on the method you choose. The bottom line is to make sure you always follow package directions on any at-home option you choose and your doctor’s orders if you opt to have the procedure done by a healthcare professional.