Is Laser Hair Removal Right For You?

If there is one thing that I remember clearly when I first had my laser hair removal treatment over ten years ago, it’s the pain from the freezing ice packs that were placed under my armpits to numb them. As I lay on that bed inside the treatment room with my eyes closed tightly, I tensed my legs to stop myself from squirming. And to think the laser treatment had not even started yet.

After about five minutes of having ice packs under my arms, my armpits were good and numb, and I was ready for the hair removal procedure. The clunky machine was right there, and it started zapping away at the area using short bursts of heat. The pauses between the pulses were punctuated only by my racing heartbeats. After 20 minutes of treatment, ice packs were applied to my skin, and I was grateful for the relief.

The whole procedure and the experience itself was far from pleasant. Back then, I was a student at university and willing to try everything, especially new things extolled in glossy magazines. I was backed only by my mostly completely disposable income. After spending $800 on eight sessions, the hair on my armpit had been reduced by around 50%. I still had to shave, but I did not get as much irritation on my armpits anymore. However, I wanted more.

I did not have a lot of expectations when I signed up for an appointment. Recently, the wax bar expanded its services by adding laser hair removal to its list of procedures. What made them different was that they promised not just a quick waxing but also minimal pain. Eighteen months after the launch of the service, Finnegan Burns ran a test with the Cynosure Vectus, a device that uses a diode laser to remove hair. It is the latest hair removal technology that addresses a common problem in laser treatments, which is the inability of laser devices to remove hair on darker-toned skin.

According to Burns, the machine successfully met her requirements, such as:

Effectiveness. It produces a longer light wavelength that is capable of reaching deeper into the hair follicle.

Speed. It emits faster pulses that completes the procedure at a much shorter time.

Low Discomfort. The cooling tip, coupled with the faster pulses helps reduce pain significantly.

All these new advances made me rethink my trepidation about giving laser hair removal another go. This time, however, I opted to have my bikini line treated. So there I was, laying on the table with no clothes on from the waist down. First, a laserologist (a technician in other clinics) used a beige-colored tool that determines skin type and the color of the hair. This tool is important because it adjusts the settings on the machine automatically, making sure that the laser strength is just right. After the skin scan, the gel was applied to my skin.

The machine emitted a high-pitched beep, and the first laser pulse hit my skin, and I was… fine. My worries had been for nothing. The beeps kept going, and there was still no pain. Although the laserologist periodically kept tabs on how I was feeling, she really did not have to, because I was doing great. Every so often, as the laser tip moved over my skin, there were intermittent tiny pricks, but any sting I felt were calmed down by the cooling tip.

It took just under five minutes and around 30 beeps for the procedure to be completed. I was given post-care instructions to ensure that I took care of the treated area correctly. I was told not to use hot water overnight and to only exfoliate the area after a few days. Ten days after the treatment, the hairs that were growing out of the treated area began to fall out.

In all, I underwent four treatments every six weeks. I simply repeated the aftercare procedure and followed whatever instructions were given to me. It still amazed me that pain was kept to a minimum and even more amazed at how much smoother my bikini line was. The few persistent patches that grew were simply shaved away. Now, I am planning on a few more sessions for completely smooth skin and then maybe have my armpits treated again. Yes, second chances are a good thing.

What You Need to Know About Laser Hair Removal

How does laser hair removal work?

Laser hair removal is a type of cosmetic treatment that reduces unwanted hair on the face and body permanently. This is done by destroying hair follicles using light pulses from a laser device. It is commonly used to treat most areas in the body that has hair, such as on the chin and upper lip, underarms, and bikini area. It is not recommended for use around the eye area.

Are the results permanent?

The laser devices used in laser hair removal can reduce hair growth permanently in the treated area. However, hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy or menopause, could trigger new hair growth. According to a plastic surgeon, laser hair removal treatment reduces the thickness and number of hair in the treated area. Over time, the treated area will require less maintenance due to the very thin growth of hair.

Is there pain involved in the procedure?

People who have undergone laser hair removal compare the experience to having a rubber band snapped lightly on the skin or to the sting of a pinprick. Any discomfort or pain as the result of the procedure is often minimal. However, this will depend on the client’s tolerance against pain and in the treated area. Newer devices that work fast often help reduce any discomfort further. If the potential for discomfort worries you, ask your technician to use a numbing cream. There are also laser devices that use a cooling tip that will help reduce pain.

How many sessions are necessary before I see results?

Older laser hair removal treatments required at least eight sessions and up to 10 sessions to see results. However, newer machines are now capable of shortened treatment time with improved technology. According to Finnegan Burns, it is unlikely that their clients come back for over six sessions. Clients actually require multiple sessions because of the natural cycle of hair growth. The cycle consists of three stages. Hairs that are exposed to laser pulses may not all be at the exact same stage to be destroyed completely. This is why it is necessary to wait at least four weeks and up to eight weeks between sessions to ensure that the timing with the growth cycles is aligned.

How much is the cost of laser hair removal?

How much you will pay for laser hair removal will usually depend on the treatment area and the medi-spa or clinic that offers the treatment. In general, the typical costs charged for the treatment may be as follows:

  • Chin or upper lip: $75
  • Underarms: $100
  • Bikini: $125
  • Legs: $350

The prices indicated above are on a per session basis and may differ depending on the service provider. Clients may also avail of discounts if they purchase treatment packages.

How should I prepare for laser hair removal?

Typically, you will be asked to avoid shaving or waxing at least four weeks before the treatment. Laser hair removal targets melanin found in the hair follicles, which means they have to be intact during treatment. In between appointments, you may shave to keep your skin smooth. There are clinics that ask clients to shave immediately prior to their session. There is, however, a common precaution given by laser hair removal clinics to their clients, and that is to avoid tanning. To get the best results, it is best to avoid sun exposure or self-tanning lotions.

How should I care for my skin after laser hair removal?

For at least two days after your appointment, you may feel some discomfort in the treated area that is similar to having a mild sunburn. Treat your skin very gently and avoid using hot water. Do not stay too long under the sun (avoid it if necessary) and no rough exfoliation. After several days, you will notice some new hair growth in the treated area, but these hairs will fall out soon enough. You could perform some gentle exfoliation to hasten the process but never pluck these new hairs. If you have to, you can use a razor to shave.

Is laser hair removal effective on light hair?

Laser zeroes in on hair pigment, which makes light blond hair difficult (not impossible) to treat. According to Finnegan Burns, as long as pigmentation is present in the hair, it can be treated. For individuals with very light blond hair or those who have grey or white hair, ask a technician for a proper assessment.

Is laser hair removal effective on people with dark skin?

The good news is that laser hair removal can work well on both light and dark skin tones. Newer machines are equipped with different laser wavelengths that can target hair even on darker skin tones. If you are concerned about your own skin tone, ask your local hair removal clinic or medi-spa regarding their services.

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