Picture this: it’s mid-January. Your child receives a birthday party invitation to an indoor pool party. Said child is super pumped and you RSVP yes. One hour before the party starts (who are we kidding, it’s like, 15 minutes before, and you still have to grab a birthday present on the way), you re-read the invite and it says that parents are strongly encouraged to swim with the children for safety purposes.
A. Tell your child right then and there that Mommy’s too pudgy/pasty/hairy to go, and cancel last minute? Or, GO, but refuse to get in the pool, like a big fat party pooper?
B. Grab your swimsuit, a gigantic coverup, and the razor you haven’t touched in months and do a quick shave in the bathroom at the pool, inevitably cutting yourself in your haste—accidentally missing spots on your legs/underarms/bikini, telling yourself that even though the missed hair, blood from the nicks, and instant razor burn mixture will likely scar the children in attendance for life, but at least you are having fun in the pool with your child like a good mom?
C. Go to the party. Have fun. Know that even though you haven’t shaven anything in months, you will not have a single unsightly hair sticking out of places it shouldn’t be. You might be ghostly pale, but at least you aren’t ghostly pale AND hairy.
If you didn’t answer C immediately, then you need to try laser hair removal asap. It will change your life. Imagine not buying razors. Imagine not taking a razor when packing for a beach vacation. Imagine never having a painful bikini wax again. Imagine NOT having the pedicure lady continually trying to up-sell you a lip wax.
Laser hair removal is NOT a new treatment by any means, but the technology has improved by leaps and bounds over the years. And, because it’s not anything new and groundbreaking, cost has gone down significantly overall. You’ll probably be surprised at how cost-effective it can be. There really is no good reason not to try it.
5 things to know before trying laser hair removal:
1. Adjust your expectations. There is truly is no such thing as permanent laser hair REMOVAL. Most laser manufacturers have gotten away from using that terminology and instead call it laser hair reduction. That means that the normal end goal is an 80-90% total reduction. Because many areas that are treated with LHR are hormonally driven areas (i.e,, bikini, chin), you could have some regrowth as your hormones shift and change over the years, which means you may to need to go in for a single touchup treatment once every 12-24 months to keep things clean and fresh. Hopefully in the near future this will change, but currently, laser hair removal is best for darker, coarser hair. That means super blond, light hair on the legs, arms, and face may not respond as well. Gray hair lacks pigment, so it does not typically respond well. Red hair is also notoriously harder to treat. So while there are some limitations, laser hair removal is still the best way to dramatically reduce unwanted hair all over the body.
2. Know a little about the actual types of hair removal that are available, as well as basic information about the practice. While I am broadly using the term laser hair removal, there are two basic types of machines that could be used for hair reduction: LASER-based hair reduction and LIGHT-based hair reduction. Both can be very effective. Generally speaking, laser-based treatments can be done on darker skin types (Fitzpatrick I-VI) and on very dark, coarse hair. Light-based treatments may work better for lighter skin tones with finer hair (Fitzpatrick I-IV). Know which type your provider is using and WHY they think that it’s the most appropriate choice for you. Steer clear of places that don’t have the best option for you, might be using older technology, may be using rented, sub-par equipment, or have under-qualified staff performing the treatments. REALLY steer clear of too-good-to-be-true pricing, national chains that open and close locations at the drop of a hat (and often take any prepaid money with them!), and facilities that have no doctor associated with them. In the state of Texas, all that is required is that an office have a medical director which has to physically be within a certain mile radius from the clinic! Run as fast as you can if a clinic has no doctor or medical director affiliation. Your best bet is finding a facility that has a doctor on staff that actually sees patients AT that location; these places are way more likely to hire well-trained professionals, follow proper sanitation and safety protocols, and have effective machines. A few basic questions when you call to make your appointment should give you a good feel for the caliber of equipment and staff a facility has to offer.
3. Be ready for your appointment. Old school hair removal required that you grow hair out a bit so the laser could “see” it. Now, almost all modalities are made to be used on freshly shaven skin, NOT waxed or tweezed. The follicle must be intact so the laser/light can target the hair, but no hair has to be present on the surface of the skin (in fact, it will hurt more if you have lots of stubble). Do your provider a solid and shave before you get there. Do not expect them to shave for you (!!!!!!!!). Try to avoid photo-sensitizing drugs like antibiotics and retinols for two weeks before treatments, but if you CAN’T, make sure the provider knows what you are using. Also, for the most effective treatments, you want the variance between the hair color and the skin color to be as great as possible. So that means don’t go when you have a major tan. While you may still be able to get a treatment, the provider will likely have to turn down the power settings to maintain safety. Same goes for spray tans—wait two weeks post-spray tan or self-tanner to make your hair removal appointment. This is one of the reasons that fall/winter is the perfect time to work on your hair removal!
4. Don’t let the possibility of pain keep you from trying laser hair removal. Most newer machines will have self-cooling tips, and/or a cold air blower, and gel will likely be used to keep the temperature of your skin as cool as possible. Treatments are typically very fast depending on the area treated. For instance, a full bikini session might only take 15 minutes, underarms around five, full legs around 45 minutes (of actual treatment time, not including set up and cleanup). The pulses from the laser or light should feel like warm rubber bands snapping—annoying, but not necessarily painful. If you are truly afraid of the pain, ask your provider if they have topical numbing cream that you can apply beforehand.
5. The number of sessions required will vary, depending on the type of technology being used and your hair type, skin type, etc. An average treatment plan will require anywhere from 5-12 treatments. While you can expect to see some reduction a few weeks after your very first treatment, it’s necessary to treat ALL growth cycles of hair, not just what is growing right now; hence, the multiple treatments. The goal is to reduce all the hair follicles, no matter which cycle, so one or two treatments won’t cut it. Sessions will be about four weeks apart in the beginning and will likely spread out gradually with each treatment.
I can assure you that if you try laser hair removal, you will not regret it; as a mom, you’re too busy NOT to try it! Anything that can shave (pun intended) precious minutes off of your daily beauty routine is totally worth it, leaving you with more time to focus on the important stuff, like not waiting until the last minute to buy those darn birthday party gifts!