Urticaria, or hives, is a rash that usually occurs in response to allergens and irritants. Hives can also be a chronic condition. Both types of hives can occur after laser hair removal, but this complication is rare.

Irritation, inflammation, and pain are common after laser hair removal. A person may mistake this skin irritation for hives. Minor skin irritation after laser hair removal typically disappears in a short period. But more severe skin damage can also occur.

People who experience hives after laser hair removal may have an allergy to treatments that take place as part of the procedure, such as a lotion.

Read on to learn more about hives after laser hair removal.

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Any allergen or irritant can potentially cause hives. This includes laser hair removal.

A person might have an allergic reaction to numbing solutions or lotions used during or after the procedure or to the procedure itself.

However, laser hair removal is not a common cause of hives. According to a 2022 review, reports of severe hives from laser hair removal are very rare.

While hives are not common, rashes and skin irritation are. Irritation, swelling, and pain are among the most common side effects of laser hair removal. These side effects usually resolve on their own. The authors found that in those with hives, most had a history of allergic rhinitis.

Learn more about the side effects of laser hair removal.

What do hives look like?

Hives are distinct from a typical laser hair removal rash. This is because it causes many small bumps rather than a large, swollen area.

Find examples of hives.

An older 2012 study examined records from 13,284 people who underwent laser hair removal and identified 36 individuals who began experiencing hives within 6–72 hours of the procedure. The rashes resolved within 7–30 days of treatment.

Rashes that worsen, begin spreading, are very swollen, or occur alongside a fever may signal an issue other than hives.

However, hives from laser hair removal are very rare.

Corticosteroids can help resolve hives.

Histamine blockers such as diphenhydramine (Aler-Dryl), hydroxyzine, and loratadine (Claritin) can also ease symptoms.

In addition, it is important to avoid the source of the hives. For example, if a person is allergic to latex or a cream and comes into contact with either during laser hair removal, they should avoid these substances in the future.

Learn more about treating hives, including home remedies.

To help with recovery, a person should cover the area with sunscreen since sunburn can damage the skin. With the guidance of a doctor, a person may also use steroid creams on the skin to reduce swelling.

Some medical professionals recommend antibiotic cream after laser hair removal. A person should only use antibiotics with the oversight of a doctor.

Subsequent sessions

A person may need multiple laser hair removal treatments and will require maintenance procedures every 6–12 months. Most people who experience hives from laser hair removal the first time are likely to develop them again in the next session. Researchers have not developed any specific strategy for avoiding hives.

Learn more about how long laser hair removal lasts.

A person should seek emergency treatment if they have difficulty breathing alongside hives.

A person should contact a doctor if they develop any of the following symptoms:

  • very painful skin wounds or sores
  • hives or a rash that is worsening
  • fever or feelings of illness
  • red or discolored streaks extending from the rash or wound site

A person should also inform the laser hair removal practitioner about their hives. This can help identify the cause and potentially prevent the issue from recurring.

Hives are an uncommon reaction after laser hair removal, but they can still occur. It is important to seek medical care for any adverse reaction to laser hair removal.

It is also possible that a rash after the procedure is due to another cause, such as skin irritation or infection. A person should contact a doctor if they develop a new type of rash.

A doctor can offer guidance about the risks and benefits of having further laser hair removal sessions after experiencing hives in response to the procedure.