HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW: LASER HAIR REMOVAL 101
If you’re tired of shaving every other day or find getting in regular wax appointments to be more trick than treat, then there’s a good chance you’ve thought about – or started looking into – laser hair removal. The thing is, like any treatment, it’s best to know what you’re getting yourself into so that, should you decide to go the laser hair removal route, you know what you’ll be getting out of it.
First things first, as soon your first laser hair removal appointment is in your diary, don’t go throwing out your razor or sending your favourite waxer a ‘Farewell!’ fruit basket just yet. You’ll need a series of laser hair removal appointments before you start seeing silky smooth, fuzz-free results and your therapist may, in fact, ask you to have a wax a couple of weeks before seeing them or shave the day before.
Think long-term investment, not short-term spending.
Embarking on a laser hair removal journey takes time and money. For most deemed to be good candidates for this form of hair removal, 8 to 12 treatments are recommended, at 4 to 6 week intervals. This is a guide, though, not a rule. The number and frequency of treatments will depend on the individual and area/s being treated.
It takes two or three weeks after your first treatment to see a difference – finer, less noticeable hair growth – and, for best results (aka getting real value for your money), you can’t go skipping an appointment or move them around too much. Why? Well, come appointment time, your hair follicles are all at different stages of their growth, so you want to make sure each one has a chance to get zapped. If you stop and miss the ‘zapping’ window (hair in its active growth stage), your hair will grow back.
The question is, “Is it painful?”
Laser hair removal works by sending the light (which converts to heat) of a laser through the pigment in the hair, damaging the hair follicle and hair bulb in a controlled way. You can expect a quick, sharp pain, which will be more heightened on thinner skin – for example, near the nose, chin and temples.
An experienced therapist will help to minimise the pain and discomfort, though, knowing how and how long to numb with ice, and how to mentally prepare you for each step of the treatment.
Also, if you’ve ever wondered why a bikini wax one month was more sore than a bikini wax the month before, then it’s helpful to know that our hormone levels,particularly the stage a woman is in her menstrual cycle, and our body temperature plays a key role in how painful or painless a treatment feels.
Before your appointment: What to DO
- Cleanly shave the area 24 to 12 hours prior to the treatment with an old school, manual razor. Electric razors typically leave the hair too long.
- Arrive at your appointment free of makeup, lotion, deodorant and sunscreen if you can. Plan B? Take some wipes with you to remove all the contraband lotions and potions beforehand.
- Stay out of the sun for 4 weeks before your appointment as areas that have been exposed to the sun (tanned or burnt) can’t be treated.
- Give the fake tan a break for a month before your treatment, and be sure to gently exfoliate the area you want to treat to remove all residues.
After your appointment: What NOT to do
It's important to remember that the heat from the laser stays in your skin for 24 hours, which means no hitting the gym, sweating in a sauna or taking a hot shower. Why? Well, if you do get yourself ‘heated’, you run the risk of creating an ideal, warm environment for bacteria to multiply, which could leave you with irritation and spots. (It also makes the possibility of getting blisters post-treatment a bigger risk)
You’re also – as with preparing for your treatment – going to want to think seriously before heading into, or soaking up, the sun. Having a tan may mean you’ll have to wait until it fades to start your laser hair removal journey. (Sun exposure post-treatment puts you at risk of getting PIH, so your skin will appear blotchy and uneven)
In terms of your skincare routine… scrubs, glycolic acid and retinol creams need to be avoided two to three days before and after treatment, and you’ll have to hold off getting a chemical peel or reaching for the fake tan for two weeks after undergoing laser hair removal.
Does it work on all skin tones?
Not for all, but for most. For this treatment to be successful – and safe – the hair needs to be dark enough to be drawn to the laser. Whether or not you’re a candidate will be determined by the technology being used by your therapist:
- Older laser hair removal technology was previously not recommended for people of darker skin tones because the energy from the laser struggled to differentiate between the pigment in the hair and the pigment of the skin, putting darker skin tones at risk of burning.
- The new long pulsed ND:YAG lasers are safer for treating pigmented or darker skin tones, which is why you want to check which laser a potential therapist uses before booking an appointment with them.
As with any aesthetic treatment or medical procedure, be sure to do your homework and pick a reputable place – with a good track record and excellent reviews – that you know knows what they’re doing. Because, if you’re going to let a laser near your, um, nether regions, you’re going to want complete peace of mind that the experience will be world-class and the results worth every cent.