Does Laser Hair Removal Treat Hidradenitis Suppurativa?

Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that causes pimple-like lesions to arise in areas such as the armpits, groin, and breast area.

The condition starts with single lesions, or boils, that fill with pus and erupt. The seepage from these boils often has a malodor and the area can become infected.

Over time, the amount of lesions can increase. As the lesions heal, they cause scarring which can become disfiguring.  

HS is caused by obstruction of the hair follicles and inflammation of the sweat glands which can cause infection. While there's no cure for HS, there are treatments available to slow the disease’s progression and help prevent and heal the lesions.

Laser hair removal has been shown to help with hidradenitis boils.

In this article, you'll learn more about HS, how laser hair removal can help the condition, and what to expect with laser hair removal treatments.

Close up of African American woman undergoing laser hair removal on armpits.

What Is Hidradentitis Suppurativa?

HS is a recurrent skin condition that affects the quality of life. HS causes:

  • Painful nodules
  • Abscesses
  • Pus-filled pockets that erupt
  • Tunnels under the skin that can become infected (sinus tracts)
  • Scarring

The disease typically occurs after puberty and usually before the age of 40. Women are more likely to develop HS than men.

Early diagnosis of HS is important to help slow the course of the disease.

There are three stages of HS. These are known as the Hurley stages.

Hurley stage I: A mild form of the disease with few lesions and no sinus tracts or scarring.

Hurley stage II: A more moderate form of the disease with multiple recurrent lesions, sinus tracts, and abscesses that erupt across the area.

Hurley stage III: The most severe stage of the disease, characterized by widespread boils and abscesses, multiple interconnected sinus tracts, and scarring.

Treatments for HS depend on the stage. Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking along with antibiotics, steroids, and biologics (a type of prescription medication) are all used to treat the disease.

People with HS will often have to try different therapeutic approaches to managing their HS before they find something that works.

Because of the difficulty in finding a precise treatment for HS, laser hair removal is a treatment that's becoming more common.

How Does Laser Hair Removal Work? 

Laser hair removal works by targeting the melanin, or pigment, in the skin which is darker at the hair follicles. The laser destroys the hair follicles which results in permanent hair loss.

Laser hair removal treatments are very common in dermatology practices because they are non-invasive, quick, fairly painless, and produce long-term results.

Recently, laser hair removal has been used to help with HS. Since HS is primarily caused by problems with the hair follicles, destroying the follicles can help minimize the symptoms of HS.

In one small study of laser hair removal on HS, the amount of inflammation decreased and healing of the boils increased. While scarring was still apparent, there was a significant improvement overall in HS four months after treatment.

In one review, laser devices all have reported benefits to HS, though long-pulse laser treatments tend to be the preference because they are safest in darker skin types, which are most commonly affected by HS.

Though the results of these studies are promising, more research needs to be done to prove the effectiveness of laser-based treatments on HS. 

Who’s a Good Candidate for HS Laser Hair Removal? 

If you're considering laser hair removal treatment to treat HS, it's always best to talk with your healthcare provider first.

In the past, people with lighter skin may have been more readily offered laser hair removal treatment because the melanin targeting lasers could have adverse effects on darker skin. However, advancements in technology have produced lasers that are safer and more effective on dark skin, creating options for all skin types.

Overall, treatment has been shown to be quite effective at eliminating inflammation surrounding HS for people whose disease is at Hurley stages I and II, though those in Hurley stage III have seen improvements as well.

How Many Treatments Do You Need?

The number of laser hair treatments you need to treat HS depends on the type of laser used and your individual response to the treatment. You may need to repeat the procedure on a monthly or weekly basis for several months to a year.

There's not one exact treatment regimen as studies are still being done to find the optimal number of laser hair treatments for HS.

Considerations

While there are benefits to using laser hair removal to treat HS, there are factors to consider. These include but aren’t limited to:

  • Cost: Laser hair removal can be quite expensive, especially when months of treatments are necessary. The average cost of one session in 2020 was $389, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Since laser hair removal is considered a cosmetic procedure, these costs aren't always covered by insurance. However, there are arguments being made for classifying the procedure as medically necessary and should be covered.
  • Effectiveness: While small studies have shown benefits, more studies need to be done to determine the true effectiveness of laser hair removal on HS.
  • Recurrence: HS is a systemic disease, meaning it can affect the entire body. There's a possibility that even if HS improves with laser hair treatment, symptoms of the condition can recur in other locations.

Summary

HS is a chronic inflammatory skin disease triggered by irregularities in the hair follicles. Laser hair removal might help the condition since it destroys the hair follicles. Though studies have been limited. there's evidence that laser hair removal can help relieve symptoms of HS in mild to moderate cases.

A Word From Verywell

Laser hair removal treatment can be a good option for HS, especially if other treatments have failed to work. However, if you're considering laser hair removal to help treat HS, it's important to consider the cost as it's not always covered by insurance and results may not be permanent.

When considering laser hair removal, talk with your healthcare provider to find out whether laser hair removal is a good treatment option for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is hidradenitis suppurativa an STI?

    HS is not an STI and isn't contagious. HS is an inflammatory condition triggered by the hair follicles and immune system.

  • Is hidradenitis suppurativa genetic?

    Genetics are believed to play a part in the development of HS.

  • Does hair removal cream work for hidradenitis suppurativa?

    Hair removal cream can help with HS by eliminating the need for shaving, which is known to cause irritation and exacerbate the lesions of HS. However, it's not as effective as laser hair removal and could also cause irritation due to the chemicals used in the cream.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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