Photosensitive Drugs to Avoid Before Laser Hair Removal

Medications have become so common that it has become more difficult to find someone who isn’t taking a daily dose of something than someone who is. This has unfortunately resulted in some unexpected side effects when people combine medications or have simple procedures done while on meds.

Laser hair removal is no exception; certain topical and oral medications can have negative effects on your results. Even natural and herbal remedies can be a concern, so it’s essential to know what medications will cause side effects during laser treatments, and to avoid them before your next laser hair removal appointment.

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Learn more about laser hair removal interactions here.

What Are Photosensitive Drugs?

Photosensitive drugs contain chemical compounds with photoreactive agents that cause them to react to UV light. Reactions often take place in the dermis of the skin and vary depending on the medication that has been taken, as well as the skin type. Therefore, taking photosensitive drugs doesn’t necessarily mean you will experience a reaction. Every person is different.

There are two kinds of photosensitivity that can result from combining photosensitive drugs with laser hair removal: drug-induced photosensitivity and natural skin photosensitivity. Drug-induced photosensitivity occurs when you take a photosensitive medication either orally or topically before your laser treatment. Since the drug is in your system during your laser treatment, the photoreactive compounds might damage your skin cells as they’re exposed to the UV light of the laser. As previously mentioned, each person will react differently depending on their skin type and the kind of medication they’ve been taking.

Natural photosensitivity is genetic and is something that can be worsened by certain medications. Typically those with light or pale skin who are prone to sunburn are considered to have this condition. Your licensed medical technician will know if your skin is likely to have natural photosensitivity and be able to personalize your laser hair removal treatments to avoid skin damage, but if they’re unaware of the medications you’re taking, then you might suffer from some skin damage. Those with this kind of skin should know that it’s even more important that they stop taking any photosensitive drugs prior to their laser treatments, since they will be more sensitive to the negative effects than others.

What Are the Side Effects from Combining These Drugs with Laser Treatments?

The degree of the side effects varies, but some of the most common types are hyperpigmentation (the discoloration of the skin), blisters, and mild burns. While most of these side effects are hardly more than a mild irritation, there is a chance that some reactions can be worse.  

Some people might suffer from a phototoxic reaction, which looks and feels like an extreme sunburn. It’s caused when the UV laser activates the chemicals in the medication, which have already been absorbed into the body’s system. The pain and irritation are mild and temporary, but can get worse over time and even damage the skin if you continue treatments without stopping the medication.

Another more serious reaction is a photoallergic reaction, which occurs when the UV laser actually changes a drug’s chemical structure within the skin. This causes the immune system to attack the drug, making the skin swell up and itch. While this is a temporary side effect, it can lead to more permanent skin conditions such as eczema or dermatitis.

Medications to Avoid

You might be surprised at how many common medications can cause this kind of reaction when combined with laser hair removal technology—or even coming in contact with the sun. This is why it’s so important to wear sunscreen; you never know what kind of effects the things put in or on your body can have. We will list some of the most common medications that have negative reactions to UV rays, but for more information, a full list of medications to avoid can be seen here.

Acne Medicines

It’s not uncommon for people to take acne medication long after their hormonal teenage years are behind them. Most of these topical creams can do some serious damage when worn out in the sun. Many people might not associate laser hair removal treatments with having the same side effects, and this can be dangerous, specifically for those seeking out facial laser hair removal treatments. Keep in mind that using any product containing Retin-A should be avoided for several days leading up to your treatment.


Speaking to a doctor or medical professional about taking antidepressants can be hard for some, so they might end up avoiding it all together. Most of these medications, however, contain photosensitive compounds that can react poorly to laser hair removal treatments, so it’s essential to let your licensed medical laser technician know of every drug you’re taking, regardless of whether or not you think it’s related. Some medications that are known to have negative responses to UV are Zoloft, Prozac, Adapin, Vivactil, and Paxil.


It may be allergy season, but the medicines you’re taking aren’t as safe as you might think. Many antihistamines, which are used to reduce allergy symptoms, contain photosensitive compounds that might also react negatively to laser hair removal treatments. This is important to know since the spring is a popular time of the year for both allergies and laser hair removal. Some drugs that should be avoided before your treatments are Benadryl, Claritin, and Periactin.

How to Minimize Your Risk

This list only covers some of the dozens of drugs that should be avoided, including oral contraceptives, most antibiotics, anti-cancer medications, anti-inflammatories, anti-psychotics, cardiac medications, and many herbal remedies. Be sure to check the full list and be completely upfront about everything you’re taking when attending your laser hair removal consultation. Also, to minimize your risk, be sure you’re being treated by a licensed medical professional since they will be aware of the dangers of these side effects and can personalize your treatments accordingly.

While this doesn’t guarantee that you won’t experience any of these side effects, a medical professional will be aware of the dangers of taking any photosensitive drugs or medications and be able to personalize your treatments accordingly. Additionally, if any side effects are experienced, they’ll be able to determine the severity and provide you with treatment. The only way to be sure you won’t experience these side effects is to stop taking all oral and topical medications for several days prior to your treatments. Note that each medication you take will remain in your system for different lengths of time. Book your free laser hair removal consultation at Body Details today.

Have more questions about laser hair removal? Contact Body Details and speak to an expert today!

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