Shaving? If I have too… Waxing? Ugh… Laser hair removal? Why not?! Let’s give it a try.
I have been getting laser hair removal done for the past three years. I have done my underarms, forearms, lower legs and my bikini area. The process begins with a consultation and should never be skipped. If you want to be extra cautious see your dermatologist first to advise your doctor that you are undertaking such treatments. That is also a good time to verify if you are indeed a good candidate. During the consultation, or even when speaking with your friends, many will recommend numbing cream and applying it before your session. I decided to omit the cream so I have never purchased any sort of numbing agent and although some body parts were extra sensitive, it was nothing I could not handle. If you wax now, rest assured you can take it. Pain simply depends on the thickness of the hair and the area you want to target. Discomfort was virtually nonexistent on my forearms and legs but rest assured I definitely felt the pinching sensation under my arms and around my bikini area.
Ideally the laser’s perfect candidate would be someone with dark hair and light skin as the contrast in pigment is what the laser uses to identify what to ‘attack’. It is for this reason that it is difficult for lasers to differentiate between redheads, blondes, people with grey hair and anyone with an overall dark complexion. Believe it or not, lasers in our day and age are not that advanced yet. It is a very black and white system (black hair/white skin). This is also one of the reasons why they warn you to stay out of the sun: to not disrupt the color contrast between the hair and your skin. Therefore, as your skin darkens in the sun and the hair lightens, targeting the area is nearly impossible as the system is not set up that way. Not to mention you should be limiting your sun exposure due to the harmful UV rays in general, but when you are out in the sun prior to your session your skin is more sensitive to the treatment. We want to avoid any significant pain, am I right? So regardless of the complimentary cooling gel that they apply please use sunscreen if you go outside for effective results. If that is not enough to remember you must also take note that in between sessions it is okay to shave but not to wax or tweeze as the laser during the treatment is looking to locate the hair follicle. When one disrupts the hair shaft by plucking/tweezing/pulling hair out, the laser cannot do its job. After all why spend so much money and not have it done properly?
Additionally at every visit, settings on the laser are adjusted to a higher temperature and a different intensity depending on your skin condition/color. After a few sessions your technician may find that certain stubborn areas need more attention. I was told that the average time it would take to eliminate my hair would be six to nine treatments, which I already knew from doing my own research. Almost three years later, I have currently doubled that dosage and yes the hair is thinner, finer and patchy but it is still there! Doesn’t the name ‘hair removal’ mean it will be gone? Ellecanada.com says: “Laser Hair reduction is a great option for people who want a permanent reduction of hair rather than having to do something again and again” (2014). I was convinced this was the hair removal method for me. Countless sessions later I discovered that laser hair removal does not remove your hair completely it only decreases the growth. Did I miss that in the fine print? If you are pro laser and decide to stop reading at this point and will not hear of any other alternative, I am glad that I got at least one major misconception across.
My goal for laser hair removal was to be hair free in the areas I specified earlier. I am realistic and realize that there is a possibility of it not working but being the ‘perfect candidate’ I did not think it would take this long for results. Mayoclinic.org has an article on laser hair removal and begins by defining the procedure in the opening paragraph as: “…a medical procedure that uses a laser — an intense, pulsating beam of light — to remove unwanted hair”. Not only two paragraphs later they say: “Although laser hair removal effectively slows hair growth, it doesn’t guarantee permanent hair removal” (2014). Did I not just read that it “removes” unwanted hair and now there is no “guarantee of permanent hair removal”? If the name (laser hair removal) was not a misconception in itself why didn’t tell me this before I started spending all my hard earned money? Moreover, webmd.com states: “You’ll get treatments until hair stops growing” (2014). Yes, of course you will be able to get treatments if you pay for them… but until your hair stops growing could be an extremely long journey. This is why I am so surprised to read in elle.com that: “according to the American Academy for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery laser hair removal was the third most popular nonsurgical aesthetic procedure (after Botox and hyaluronic acid fillers) in 2012, totaling more than 1.2 million treatments”. Are we not doing our research? Is this temporary treatment enough to satisfy most people? Isn’t waxing and shaving doing that for a fraction of the cost? Or are we giving up after six expensive sessions to just leave it be? Let’s take a look at what each session may cost you.
Prices range if you buy per session, but if you are starting off you typically buy a set of six. Most spas offer a better deal for buying in advance. Also, a set of six is the bare minimum recommended to see any sort of results due to the different phases of the hair growth cycle. I have gone to two different spas in Toronto, Canada and as you shop around you will see that prices will alter from each place mostly due to different lasers. From the various body parts that I have treated, here are the approximate prices that you can expect per session: underarms range from $20.00-$30.00 a session, a bikini cost approx $40.00 – $60.00, my lower legs $70.00- $100.00 and my forearms $25.00-$35.00. As you can see, it is very easy to hit the thousand dollar mark and no that does not include taxes or gratuity.
Essentially, if I knew what I know now I would not have started this process in the first place. I would have looked into other options and possibly opted for a different procedure such as electrolysis. Abbeywoodspa.com defines electrolysis as: “ a way of removing individual hairs from the face or body. Today’s medical electrolysis devices, called epilators, destroy the growth center of the hair with a short-wave radio frequency. A very fine probe is inserted into the hair follicle at the surface of the skin. The hair is then removed harmlessly with forceps” (2008). Moreover, the article declares that indeed it is: “the only medically proven permanent method of hair removal”. A friend of mine, Bibi Lucas, vouches for electrolysis as she saw results from her younger sister. After only ten sessions, she is now hair free and tells everyone about her experience. Bibi says, “I have never considered laser hair removal. After waxing and sugaring… electrolysis was the next option. Although it is a bit painful, the results are amazing”. Electrolysis costs are based on the length of the session, not the body part like in laser hair removal. Bibi pays approximately $90.00 per session and after a bit of research on my behalf you can find costs ranging from $80.00- $110.00 for a one hour treatment.
Hair growth can be unpredictable at times. A rumor I always hear is that when you are pregnant your hormones change and the hair that you have been so tediously avoiding comes back. Thelaserclinic.ca mentions that: “Puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can… cause excess hair growth. During the normal systemic changes in a woman’s life, hormone production varies. It is not uncommon for hormones during these times to be unbalanced” (2010). However, according to Sonia Alvarado, Senior Teratogen Information Specialist says: “it is unknown how the skin/hair of pregnant women might respond to laser treatment compared to non-pregnant women” (2014). Moreover, americanpregnancy.org confirms that: “there are no studies that evaluate the safety of laser hair removal during pregnancy. Many health care providers recommend avoiding laser hair removal during pregnancy because of the lack of information about the effect on the fetus” (2014). So the myths are still myths my fellow curious minds. I really hope that as I age and have children, those tiny hairs stay away.
You may be wondering, what now? Am I willing to buy another six sessions? At this point I have personally spent so much money that I feel I almost have to continue to justify the thousands of dollars already spent. Whether or not you decide to undergo laser hair removal, at bare minimum do a ton of research on the laser being used at your facility and read reviews on other people’s experiences. Better Business Bureau is a great site that helps look up businesses and will let you know if any serious complaints were filed against the salon/spa you are looking into. Here is the link: http://www.bbb.org/council/ Happy browsing!
© 2014 Olivia Gudaniec