The other day I posted on my Instagram stories about the laser hair removal that I am doing and some of you asked for a blog post about it. What follows is quite a long post with everything I would have wanted to know before hand myself, in the hope that it would be useful for somebody else as well.
I am lucky enough to have spent my teen and early adult years in Spain where everything beauty related is well seen and encouraged and which I think is good – always to a certain extent, of course. Laser hair removal is quite a big thing there and there are beauty/medical centres pretty much everywhere, so that is how it all started.
I have done about 7 sessions by now spread throughout more or less 5 years. Because I moved to Berlin in between but did not want to give my Spanish medical & beauty centre up, I was limited to doing my sessions whenever I could go home – which I wasn’t always able to do as often as I would have liked. Despite somewhat losing track of the frequency, I have been quite happy with the results. The areas I do are my legs up to over my knees, under arms and the bikini line.
Now, in these areas and even after 7 sessions, the hair is still partially regrowing after a few weeks. However, there is much less amount of hair and also there is no ingrown hair anymore. Because I have blondish hair mostly, I know already that the laser will not be as effective as it would be for the dark hairs and effectiveness wise this is something that I have already assumed.
How the laser works is that it “burns” the roots of your hairs so many times, such that it destroys the root until it does not grow anymore. More technically what it does is that the light is picked up by the pigment in the hair follicle, which destroys the root so that it cannot produce hair anymore.
The one thing to understand is that the laser permanently reduces the number of hair but it does not completely reduce all the hairs on the treated areas, and a few months after the last session, you will see hair growth again. For people with dark skins or light hair, the laser hair removal is generally less effective due to the lack of contrast (pigment in the hair follicle vs. melanin) and will experience more hair regrowth than those with light skin and dark hair. The hair that regrows though tends to be thinner and lighter and therefore easier to manage.
In terms of number of sessions, they generally advise around 10-12 sessions, first every 3-4 months for the first two or three sessions and then every 6 months for the next six, seven sessions. Once you have done approximately ten, you will generally have to do one session every year or two in order to maintain. This will of course depend on your own situation.
How to prepare for it
Before starting you need to make sure not to use any method that rips the hair from the root. This means no waxing, no Braun Silk Epil and the likes for 3-4 months before starting. You can only use the razor for this period – as it just cuts the hair on the surface of the skin, without touching the root. The idea is that you need to have the roots in place so that the laser can burn them, as the laser is attracted to pigment in the hair follicle.
After each procedure you need to make sure to keep the skin moisturized; they generally recommend natural products such as aloe vera gels in order not to cause irritations and also not to use deodorants for the same reason. I have generally only followed the deodorant rule for the first 1-2 days and this way it has always worked well for me without any irritation.
Also, very very important is that there is no sun exposure before and after the session, at least for a period of two weeks before and also after – I always play it safe and do a much longer period. After all and unfortunately, in everything skin related the sun is not your friend. You can get burnt easily if you get into the sun right before and after the laser and even scarring can occur, and we certainly don’t want that.
You can also do this for facial hair. I have personally not done this but both my mom and my sister do the upper lip and they are both extremely happy with that. The one thing that differs when there is localized hair is that depending on your hair and skin type, you might have to go with the electric hair removal instead of the laser, which can be done hair by hair, literally. Again, if your hair colour is very light or there is not much to work with, chances are that you will not be able to do any, which is my case.
Pricing wise, this is quite costly compared to the regular methods of razors and even waxing. Nonetheless, the benefits are undeniable and it is more of an investment. Investment in your comfort, your peace of mind and to be honest, it is one of these technology advancements that are so helpful for the modern, working woman – and man – always on the go and with no time to waste. It will be just one thing less that you will not have to worry about.
For my first few sessions I had to pay approx. 150 euros in total per session, but then my centre had a special offer where I paid abou 350 euros for a pack of 5 sessions in my three areas. This will depend on your country and medical centre, but you can always keep an eye on special offers at reputable places. If you don’t go to the beach much in summer, it is generally a good time to look for offers as the demand is lower in summer time since people prefer to be able to go to the beach instead of doing the laser.
Very important – please don’t go for the cheapest place or for these special offer places advertised on Groupon and places like that. Chances are, it will not do anything good for you and it will also not be the best experience. Research the centre very well, pick not a beauty centre but a medical one, with supervised doctors and read a lot of reviews before hand, get an appointment with them to discuss any concerns and so on.
- The hairs get thinner, lighter and grow rarer. After 4-6 sessions, you will notice that even though the hair still grows, it will be much thinner and there will not be as much as before. This difference will make your life much easier, trust me!
- After the sessions and once the burnt roots fall off, the skin gets incredibly smooth and for a couple of months you will barely have hair. You can still use the razor in between sessions as the hair will still grow a bit – don’t expect magic after a few sessions, the improvements are incremental – and you will notice that after one razor go your skin will be smooth for weeks.
- There is no more ingrown hair under the skin and little red bumps from using traditional methods. To be honest, I think this must be the number one benefit of the laser for many, many people. Once you have gone through a few sessions you will pretty much have no more ingrown hairs; it really does magic with that. I have seen quite a few different cases from friends with darker skin and/or darker, thicker hair that would tend to have a lot of issues with trapped hairs, and they really saw a dramatic improvement. If you are struggling with this type of problem, I would 100% recommend that you go for it, and as far as I know even doctors recommend this to people who have a serious case of ingrown hairs.
Pain and Effectiveness
You should not be afraid of the pain as it can definitely be handled. My first few sessions I would always get tickled and make fun of my friends when they would complain that the laser hurts like crazy. Disclaimer: I have blonde hair and not too thick so I assume that has helped as well. The caveat though is that the blonder the hair is, the least effective the laser is.
If you cannot handle the pain too well there are creams and gels that you can buy and use before the session so that you have less sensitivity. I cannot speak for the effectiveness or whether it’s worth it or not as I have never used it.
Types of laser
The most known types of laser are Diode, Alexandrite and Nd:YAG. The reason why knowing the type of laser is important and making sure you are talking about it to your doctor is because based on your skin type and colour as well as on your hair type, one of the lasers will be more fit than the others. I am not very proficient with the details but below is some starters info:
- Diode – this laser is known to be very effective for most types of skin as the wavelength can be adjusted to fit both light and dark skin. As far as I know though, Diode is still generally recommended for light-to-medium skin tones and thicker & darker hair.
- Alexandrite – this one is generally easier and faster as it can tackle a bigger portion of skin at a time, and therefore can be easily applied to larger body areas. Again, this is mainly recommended for people with light-to-medium skin tones – this is actually the one I am using.
- Nd:YAG – this is the laser type that is safe for all skin types, including dark or tanned skin, as it ignores the melanin in the skin and instead goes straight for the hair follicles.
Once you book an appointment at a medical centre that does laser hair removal procedures, make sure to talk to the doctor and ask about the different types of laser they have and which one would suit your skin type the best.
I am writing this post based on my own experience for the sole purpose of sharing it with others that might be interested. Having a laser procedure done can sometimes feel controversial from the potential health risk perspective. To this moment, there have not been enough research to say that this type of treatment is related to any health problems, but please make sure you read about it and you are comfortable with the procedure before going for it. In my opinion I don’t think it has high risks, but be sure you are making an informed decision that you are at peace with.