I hesitated to write this post. Only because it could be seen as a little personal, but, I'm a journalist and we write about topics we know people need/want to hear about. So, in that light, here goes nothing.
When women find out that I know a little bit about laser hair removal the questions usually come at me in an avalanche. They are so intrigued, and rightfully so. As of last year, laser hair removal was the third most popular non-surgical cosmetic procedure in the U.S. Obviously, women are doing this and the desire for real information is out there. So let's dig in.
First of all, yes, I have had laser. And I LOVE it.
I was an early adopter of waxing. I started with my eyebrows and upper lip at about 13 or 14. My mother was, thankfully, sympathetic to the problems that hairiness could pose for a very pale, dark-haired girl. I've been waxing here and there for 13 years now but somewhere along the line I became obsessed with the ideas of getting laser and ending painful waxing forever. It seemed so wonderfully permanent. And hey, if you can stand the pain of hot waxed being ripped off your skin how bad can a laser be?!
I did my research, read the risks, talked to a technician, and read hundreds of reviews on different clinics (there are sooooo many in NYC). It took me about one year to feel as though I had researched enough to commit. I bought a LivingSocial deal for a reputable spa and started treatments. I haven't regretted it a single day.
So here come the questions......
Does it hurt?
Yes, yes it does. However, it's not unbearable. If you've gotten a tattoo it'll be a breeze. I think those hurt worse. The level of pain will depend on the type of laser used and the setting your technician puts it on. I -- with my super human follicles -- have to have the highest setting possible on the strongest laser and I lived to tell the tale. The key thing to remember is that the pain is over so fast you'll barely have time to dwell on it. Lasers are not like waxing -- you cannot go over an area more than once. If your tech does go over the same spot twice, tell her to stop and leave immediately. This can cause darkening of your skin -- it's a mistake no professional should make. The treatments as a whole are quick. Mine is usually over in 5-7 minutes - no joke. I'd rather get laser than go to the dentist if that says anything.
How many treatments will I need?
This depends on your hair, its growth cycle, and the color of your skin. A good tech should be able to estimate how many treatments you'll need by looking at your skin and hair after 2 or three treatments. The results will really start to show and you and your tech can decide together how many times you'll need to visit and what strength your laser should be set to. The average for most areas of the body is 6 treatments with 4-6 weeks between each.
Is the hair gone forever?
That's a tough one. No laser hair removal clinic can claim "permanent" hair removal. They can only claim permanent hair reduction. The laser is not pulling the hairs out like electrolysis. Lasers use pulses of light to damage the hair follicle and inhibit hair growth. It doesn't work 100% of the time. You should decide before you go and spend the time and money if reduction is enough for you, because you may see varying results. In my case it was absolutely worth it.
Were there side effects?The only side effect I've ever experienced is little red bumps that look just like razor burn. Those usually go away in less than 30 minutes. Some pain and swelling is also normal. Your side effects will vary. There is potential for some scary side effects like skin damage and discoloration. These things are rare if you are treated by a pro who is knowledgeable and certified. Do your research, go to a consultation before you decide on a tech. Ask techs how many procedures they've done, if they are certified, and any other questions you have. Be thorough and be intense about getting answers -- this is your skin after all!
Is it expensive?That depends largely on where you live and how in-demand the procedures are. In New York you can get great deals because there are so many spas and clinics trying to get laser patients in the door. If you live near a big city I'd start there. You can also do what I did and try buying a deal from Groupon or LivingSocial. This allowed me to see my results after two treatments and decide if it was worth it to buy a full package of sessions. (It was soooo worth it)
I could say a lot more about this subject. I think it's one of those things that may seem frivolous to some but it can be a real self-esteem booster when you don't have to lug a razor everywhere or suffer through embarrassing "did I shave?!" moments. If it makes you feel better about yourself and you've saved enough money to do it -- I say go for it.
I'm happy to answer more questions. Just leave them in the comments below.