I tried laser hair removal and these are the 15 things to know before getting it done
By Chelsea Hughes
Before we delve into laser hair removal, let's be clear on one thing: what you do with the hair on your pits and bits is totally your prerogative. If you prefer to let it sprout with free abandon, that's great. If you'd rather keep it smooth and blitz some or all of it away, you do you.
For de-fuzzers, getting rid of body hair on a monthly, weekly or sometimes daily basis can feel like a chore. Anyone who's had a shaving rash knows it's not pretty and regular waxing can be painful and expensive. All this in the name of smooth-ish skin for a week at best?
Enter laser hair removal as a more effective and longer-lasting alternative. It goes without saying that, due to the nature of lasers, it is always best to have the treatment with a qualified practitioner. The in-clinic treatment works by sending a laser directly to the root of your hair. The laser light is attracted to the pigment (colour) in your hair. When targeted at the correct stage of growth, the light converts to heat, destroying the active hair follicles and preventing further growth.
There are essentially four different types of laser: Alexandrite, Nd:Yag, Diode and Ruby. Young LDN, where we tested this treatment, uses one of the most powerful and most effective, pain-free laser hair removal machines on the market, combining the Nd:Yag and Alexandrite lasers, enabling treatment of all possible hair types.
So, if you're feeling tempted by the promise of long-term stubble-free skin, this is what you should know.
It's important to catch the hair at the correct stage of growth, so that the laser has the best chance of zapping the follicle. Depending on how stubborn your hair is, Young LDN recommends 6-8 week intervals for your body and 4-6 week intervals for your face. For long-term hair reduction, a course of six treatments is the usual amount. So, from start to finish, it will take at least eight months. it's also worth noting that areas with hormonal receptors, such as the groin, may involve a few extra treatments. We started to see a real difference after the second treatment, during the third and fourth it was a little patchy and stubbly, but by the fifth it was smooth as a dolphin.
The treatment time itself is actually super-quick, for a bikini and underarm treatment in one sitting, we were in and out in about 25 minutes.
This question is always a tricky one, as pain is very much subjective. The aesthetic therapists at Young LDN are very helpful and always ask about your pain on a scale of 1-10. They then adjust the intensity of the laser to make it comfortable for the individual. The machine they use has built in cryo-cooling paired with a zimmer cooling device which gives you a much more comfortable experience than with IPL. For me, the pain was tolerable, nothing worse than a normal wax, and definitely less painful than someone plucking your eyebrows. Following the treatment, you may feel a mild sunburn sensation, but this is totally normal.
We recommend getting legs and arms treated in the Winter as they’re less likely to be exposed to the sun. Tanning, both real and fake, can also affect your treatment. Exposure to sunlight can damage your skin during your laser hair removal course as the laser can target the pigment in the skin instead of in the hair. For this reason, the area cannot be treated if it has been exposed to sun up to four weeks prior to treatment. Fake tan will need to fade or be scrubbed away before your treatment, as the colour can get into the hair follicle affecting the laser catching the natural pigment in the hair. Your aesthetic therapist can advise you about SPF and skincare.
Exercise should be avoided up to 48 hours post treatment, as well as any activities that will encourage sweating. Hot showers, swimming pools, saunas and exfoliating lotions are to be avoided immediately before and after sessions.
The area must be cleanly shaved within 24 hours prior to the treatment. In between treatments you need to become best friends with the plain-old-classic razor, as until the course is complete this is all you should use because most other methods remove the bulb of your hair.
The most common areas for laser hair removal are the legs, underarms and bikini. But, you can have almost any area on your body treated including, lips, chin, neck, arms, stomach, back and shoulders.
You may think that if you have dark hair and dark skin that the laser could have difficulty picking up the pigment in the hair, but this isn't true. What is crucial is that the right wavelength is matched to your skin type. As mentioned earlier, there are different types of laser hair removal. Ruby is best for fair skin, Alexandrite is recommended for olive skin, while ND:Yag is best suited to dark skin. We asked the head aesthetician at Young LDN and they said that combining the ND:Yag and Alexandrite lasers enables them to treat all skin and hair types.
The heat from laser can trigger post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation in dark skin. So it's worth doing your research to find the right treatment for you. Ideally the laser that is used will have a cooling device.
Abrasive ingredients such as scrubs, AHAs and retinol should be avoided two days before and after treatment. You may also want to add an extra shot of hydration to your skincare routine, such as a hyaluronic acid serum.
If you’re considering getting laser treatments you should always use a fully-qualified practitioner; any outlandish bargains are probably best avoided. So far, there does not appear to be any long-term health risks associated with the procedure. Temporary side effects may include mild redness, bobbly skin and itchiness. Also important: having a patch test done and checking that clinics are CQC-approved and that their technology is FDA-approved.
Fluctuations in hormones during your period may make the skin more sensitive and the procedure more painful than usual.
There's a common misconception that you're 100% hair free forever when you have laser hair removal. Most people report 90 percent permanent reduction in hair growth but hormonal changes can make hair grow back. So you may need to book in for additional treatments further down the line.
Laser hair removal is a short-term investment – prices can start from around £50 per session and you'll need about 6 treatments – but long-term it can save you time and money waxing, shaving or epilating. Fun fact: if you pay the average price for a bikini wax every month from the ages of 18 to 50, you’ll spend around £10,000 on your bikini area alone. That figure doesn't include the amount you’ll spend on razors and other hair removal methods over the years
Post laser treatment, I didn't notice any regrowth for a year and the few hairs that have grown back are very sparse. I could do with a few more top-up sessions but overall I'd definitely recommend.
If you can't make it to the salon, at-home laser hair removal devices can give impressive results when used regularly and can fit conveniently into your routine when you have the time. We've rounded up the best to consider here.
This article first appeared on glamourmagazine.co.uk
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By Ana Morales1. Results aren't immediate 2. It's actually pretty quick 3. The pain isn't too bad 4. Winter is the best time of year for laser 5. You can't exercise immediately afterwards 6. Don't ditch the razor just yet 7. You can have almost any part of your body lasered 8. Laser works on all skin tones 9. But do your research if you have more melanin-rich skin 10. You might need to rethink your beauty regime 11. Always visit a fully-qualified practitioner 12. Avoid laser when you have your period 13. You may need top up treatments 14. Long-term it's cheaper than a monthly in-salon wax 15. There are at-home versions available too Also read: