Over the last year I’ve used laser hair removal several times. I thought it would be a good idea to discuss how the process works, the results I experienced, and whether I think it’s worth it.
Why would you consider laser hair removal?
- Waxing is too painful
- Shaving irritates the skins or creates ingrown hairs
- Tweezing isn’t possible or practical
- Hair is unwanted places
- Hair is hard to remove
Benefits of Laser Hair Removal:
- Lasting or Permanent Effect
Cons of Laser Hair Removal:
- Cost (it’s generally $100s)
- Side effects for small % of users-mainly changes in pigment or scabs/scarring
- Not effective on blonde hairs
- Higher risk of side effects on darker skin tones
What is Laser Hair Removal?
The process of using a concentrated light beam (aka laser) to impact the hair follicles (which absorb light). The process only works on darker hair because the method requires light absorption and blonde hairs do not absorb light.
Hair grows in several cycles so multiple appointments are necessary to eliminate hair growing in each cycle.
Numbing cream or ice is used to help decrease the sensation on the skin. It can still cause some discomfort or pain varying greatly based on your pain tolerance and the strength of the laser.
While widely used in the US (and around the World) there is a lack of regulation when it comes to the type and strength of laser hair removal. Additionally, there is no formal training that is required.
What to Look For
It’s best to research both the facility and the laser that will be used where you’re considering treatment. It’s best to look for a spa or treatment center that has a physician on staff. You should also be able to book an appointment to learn more and get a consultation.
There are home kits available to consumers. Though I have no experience with home kits looking at the information available it appears these home kits are less powerful. I would also imagine it’s difficult to use on certain areas.
Treatments happen every 4-6 weeks. Usually you purchase in packages-so a 6-pack of treatments will be effective and reduce hair more and more each time. Again hair grows in cycles, so you’re eliminating hair in each cycle.
You may be seduced by a Groupon package or similar but be sure to do your research before you buy. Most laser treatment centers offer discounts for larger packages and at certain times throughout the year.
While it’s important for everyone to do research those with darker skin tones will want to ensure their technician is experienced due to the increased risks of side effects (mainly changes in pigmentation). It’s vital to have a test spot done to ensure your own peace of mind and the technician’s ability. Read more on laser treatment for ethnic skin tones here.
How to Prep for your Appointment:
Don’t tweeze, pluck, wax or do anything that removes the hair follicle/root. You can (and should!) shave areas were applicable. If your hair is longer in these areas it will be trimmed first.
Don’t apply deodorant immediately before your appointment (recommendations vary but a minimum of 1 hour between application and treatment is usually recommended).
Consider an inconspicuous area for your first treatment to ensure that if you do have any changes in pigment of your skin or irritation.
Wear something that’s easy to get on and off, and know you’re likely going to remove your clothing (underwear and bras may stay on depending on the treatment area).
What to Expect:
You will have to undress or remove clothing where it gets in the way of treatment areas.
While it is relatively ‘quick’ it will take longer depending on the size of the area being treated.
Payment is generally made upfront for all your sessions. Come prepared to pay for your sessions and with your planner or phone in hand to make a followup appointment.
You will wear protective ‘sunglasses’ during treatment to protect your eyesight.
After Your Appointment
You may experience some discomfort in certain areas (akin to a light sunburn) and you may experience some skin irritation. Applying deodorant or lotion may cause irritation for the day or days following your visit.
Additionally you should not expose areas that are treated to the sun and use sunscreen if you do.
If you experience any issues contact your doctor and the treatment center immediately.
My Personal Experience
I did my first set of laser treatments months ago. I started with my bikini area and my underarms. I opted to do both because it was less expensive to do so. I started with 3 sessions to see how it went. (I’ve since had several sessions for my legs as well.)
It was simple and straightforward and on my first visit I got walked through the options and my technician put me right at ease. We chatted about the procedure, she checked in to gauge my pain level (it didn’t hurt at all to me the first time) and we made small talk. She used ice followed by the laser. It was over pretty quickly and I was on my way.
Subsequent visits the strength of the laser was moved up and I did experience discomfort. Any time it was painful I made it clear to my technician. She would adjust the level accordingly. Certain areas are more sensitive (more nerve endings). To me the discomfort is tolerable-especially because it is for a short period of time.
With the first visit and subsequent visits I have a day or two of slight discomfort if I wore a fabric that was tough, but using healing lotion and taking care helps.
I have extremely sensitive skin, so I experience some redness/bumps where the hair was treated. Technically I have dermographic skin (it just means stress/pressure can cause redness). It’s not great to look at but I don’t think it’s obvious unless I point it out. It goes away in about 3-7 days.
Here is what my leg looks like immediately post-treatment.
My left leg immediately after laser treatment
Was it Worth it?
In a word: yes.
I’m dealing with much less stray hair and the hair that has grown back (in the areas where I only had half the recommended number of treatments) is much, much finer and less noticeable.
I don’t need to shave as often and I am not getting razor burn/bumps the way I did previously.
While it’s not a necessity, and certainly something that you can live without, if you have issues with shaving, redness or bumps, or have hair in areas you’d rather not it is worth the cost to eliminate your unwanted hair.