To examine the effect of laser thermal injury on Langerhans cells (LC) within the epidermis, the dorsal skin of mice and hairless guinea pigs was exposed to varying levels of laser irradiation using a thulium laser at a wavelength of 2.0 μm. At 6, 24 and 48 h post irradiation, animals were euthanized, skin samples prepared for histology and the epidermis obtained and stained by major histocompatibility complex-II staining (mice) or ATPase assay (hairless guinea pigs) for the enumeration of LC. Mouse skin exhibited histological evidence of thermal damage at 24 h post irradiation at even the lowest dose (0.14 W) and decreases in the numbers of epidermal LC were observed at all doses and decreases were proportional to dose. In contrast, hairless guinea pig skin only showed consistent histological evidence of thermal damage at the highest dose of irradiation (0.70 W) at 24 and 48 h post irradiation and exhibited a statistically significant decrease in numbers of epidermal LC only at this dose. Thus, epidermal LC depletion occurred in the skin of both mice and hairless guinea pigs in response to laser treatment and the magnitude of depletion directly correlated with the extent of thermal damage both within and between species.