In an older blog post (8 years ago to be exact … dang!), I casually mentioned getting laser hair removal in Boston and received a number of questions. At that time, I was just finishing up treatments on my legs and didn’t feel like I could speak to long-term results yet. I thought about getting the bikini area done in one fell swoop, but was literally scared off by other customers screaming bloody murder and cursing through the treatment room walls!
Fast forward to last year. I’ve been so happy with my long-term results from pre-2010 that I decided to bite the bullet and get my bikini area done (currently on pause due to pregnancy). I mentioned this recently on Instagram stories, and TMI be damned, it sounds like several of you have considered it too but have questions. Hair removal is not a sexy topic yet is something many of us are confronted with regularly, so I wanted to answer some of your Q’s! I am not a doctor or specialist, so please do your own research on the risks – I’m just sharing my personal experience and what worked and didn’t work for me.
A Hair-y History: removal METHODS TRIED
When I mention hair removal, people often go “oh please, you’re Asian! You can’t have much body hair to begin with…” Well not everyone fits that stereotype, in fact, according to my mom I was dubbed a “wolf child” at birth. But if excess body hair also means more hair on my head, I won’t complain too much! Here are some general hair removal methods I’ve tried since my early teen years:
- Shaving: a wasted effort for me – if I shave in the morning there’ll be new growth by afternoon.
- Waxing, sugaring, epilating, threading: even though these methods pull the hair out by the root, I usually see new growth within a few days, so the cost and time spent really adds up! Also factor in uncomfortable ingrown hairs, even when I exfoliate beforehand. I do still use these methods for facial areas because I’m hesitant to laser near my face.
- Electrolysis: I tried this once, but it targets one strand of hair at a time so was time-consuming for me.
- At-home laser hair removal: I purchased the Tria many years ago. It’s a small device and I’m guessing the settings are less powerful in order to be safe for at-home use. This has good reviews from some so may work for certain hair types. Personally, it was time consuming as well and I didn’t notice much of a difference. After I started getting professional treatments, I would notice dead hair shedding itself the week after treatment (a good sign) which I didn’t see happen when I used the Tria.
- Professional laser hair removal: This has been my favorite solution by far and so worth it given my long-term results. But results will vary for everyone based on your hair and skin type, the # of sessions you go, and of course your clinic’s laser technology and technician!
What is Laser Hair Removal?
It’s a laser that aims intense pulses of light at the roots of your hair. The laser head is about an inch wide, so each zap targets any hair follicles growing in that area. The heat of the light travels down the root of each hair follicle and disables it, which should reduce chances of future hair growth.
The laser is able to selectively target your hair (instead of your skin) because its drawn to pigment in hair. An ideal treatment candidate has dark hair and light skin for maximum contrast. If you have light hair or lower hair to skin color contrast, I was told you can still do the treatment but at an adjusted laser setting.
Image source: Affordable Laser Texas
Does it remove hair completely + permanently?
Laser hair removal is technically hair “reduction” instead of removal. Results also take time, so manage expectations accordingly. Because each strand of your hair is constantly growing in different cycles, it may take several sessions to successfully target and disable the follicle for most strands. Sessions are usually spaced out about 2 months apart, to allow hair that wasn’t disabled the last time to grow back and be re-targeted.
In my own experience, after 6 to 7 sessions (done over a 1-year period for each body part) for my underarms, forearms, and legs, I’m happy to say my unwanted hair was almost completely gone and has stayed gone for years. With each later session, I would notice finer and less re-growth. These days, I will spy an occasional lone strand of hair every few months or some baby hairs, but other than that it’s been very effective for me. Some said that removed hair may grow back during pregnancy due to hormones, but so far so good …
Image source: Groupon
Finding a Good clinic
- Look for trustworthy reviews: If you don’t have a friend’s personal recommendation, start by looking for reputable reviews online. Be wary of Yelp reviews done by people with only 1 or 2 reviews total!
- Ask questions: Call the center and ask if you can go check out the facility and/or have a verbal consultation based on your skin and hair type and concerns. If you have very sensitive skin, express that concern as they should start with a gentle setting in a small area. If you are on medication, be sure to let them know in case it causes sensitivity. Generally, I looked for centers that appear updated and clean with knowledgeable staff. They should make you feel comfortable about asking questions, and not rushed or pressured straight into buying big packages (which happened a LOT during my search) right away. Be wary of guarantees or prices that seem too good to be true.
- Start small: If you have doubts about the laser center or how effective the treatment will be for you, don’t be tempted by temporary pricing specials on larger areas until you’ve tried a smaller spot first (i.e. underarms)!
Where I go in boston
For fellow Boston ladies, I started at Laser Care in Brookline then switched to the Laser Skin Center on Newbury Street (Yelp page), and am very happy with the latter one. The facilities are clean, and each technician I’ve had has been professional and swift.
Other Laser Hair Removal FAQ / TIPS:
Where to start? I vote the underarms. This was the first area I did while on a budget, and it was 100% worth it (and the least painful area for me). No more running out the door in a sleeveless top, only to turn around when you realize it looks like you’re smuggling baby porcupines in your armpits!
Sun exposure / tanning: I was told it’s very important to avoid sun exposure before sessions and between sessions, and to always use sunscreen. Faux tanners can also affect your treatments. I chose to start most of my sessions in the middle of winter when I was at my palest, and took long breaks over the summer if necessary. If your skin color does change a bit, your technician should evaluate that before proceeding with a session.
Pain level: Each zap is a small blast of pain. For me personally, the underarms were a breeze, the upper thighs were sensitive but tolerable, and the bikini area was nothing short of brutal! The latter area is obviously sensitive and with thicker, more coarse hair. So as the roots of those thicker hairs get lit up, you may feel the burn more. I had to keep asking the technician to pause for breaks, otherwise the neighboring offices might’ve thought a crime was being committed ; ) As you’re yelling or gritting your teeth, just try to picture no more irritating ingrowns or having to waste time grooming that area again …
Before sessions: Avoid waxing weeks before your first session, and do a close shave with a new, clean razor the night before a session. Otherwise, the technician may need to dry shave you right before using the laser (and for me, nothing causes irritation like a razor to dry skin)! I used to think hair stubbles needed to be visible for the technician to target each strand, but that’s not true – in fact, stubble during laser treatments can add to skin irritation.
After sessions: The week after a session I will see dead hairs “eject” themselves, which I mentioned before is a good sign. I also have sensitive skin and occasionally get redness or a slight rash after sessions, but it goes away in a few days. I’d call your center and send photos if this happens. They may prescribe you a cream and/or adjust the laser setting next time.
Maintenance between sessions: Shaving only. No tweezing, waxing or methods that remove hair by the roots, since that will disrupt the hair growth cycle and make your next laser session less effective.
Numbing cream: I did not need this until I did my bikini area (and trust me, you will want it for that). It’s not magic but helped a little bit, although there’s mixed opinions on whether it make the session less effective. I’d ask your laser technician about recommend creams – I know my center sells one and schedules for you to come in 30 minutes before each session to apply it.
Package vs individual sessions? I always got multiple session packages for one particular area, instead of paying pricier per-session rates and hoping for results after 1 or 2 sessions. You likely won’t see visible results until multiple sessions in, but each person could respond to treatments differently!