You Asked, I Answered: Laser Hair Removal

No need to adjust your computer screen.  This post really is about laser hair removal.  Coming from a DIY home improvement blog.

If you think seeing this post is weird and don’t care to read it, I am totally fine with that.  I agree that it’s weird to be coming from my blog, especially when I don’t share a great deal of these kinds of stories (I work on it though, as evidenced by this departure from the usual subject matter).  Normal sawdust-related topics will commence again next week.

It all started with an Instagram post.  And then the post requests came via email.  They were even requested back when I did my first reader survey (and speaking of, should probably do again soon at some point).  And the questions were what you might expect when inquiring about laser hair removal.  What is it like?  What were my results?  How much does it hurt?  And is it worth the cost?

Now that I’ve had some time post-treatment to truly give a results-based review, I felt today was just as good a time as any to give an account of my experience with it.  So, here we go!  I’ll be as PC as I can about the details, but this is a more personal post than normal.  You’re forewarned.

I made the decision to get laser hair removal about three and a half years ago.  My sister had been going through the process a year before and had been raving over her results, so I figured with our similar skin types, it may not hurt for me to go in for a consultation.

I wanted to get a number of areas treated.  You can probably guess the top ones.  Yep, both legs.  And other things.  And since I consider applying very powerful lasers to my skin to be akin to plastic surgery, I didn’t go with the budget choice.  I didn’t go to a “spa” that says they do this and sixteen other services that don’t require knowing how to not fry skin.  I did my homework and went with a company that had lots of guarantees, competent staff, and certifications saying that they knew what they were doing.

Consultation

The first thing I noted about my consultation was how thorough it was.  To my surprise, the treatment zones you’d normally think of are subdivided into separate sections.  For instance, your legs are actually divided into upper and lower zones.  Your underarms are considered one zone as well, but for more complicated regions, like your bikini area or face, you specifically pick out your problem areas (so you’re basically paying for a group of itemized services instead of one-size-fits-all package).  Each of these subdivided areas have their own pricing, so you have to pick and choose what’s best (and most needed) for you.  However, there is still an incentive (or rather, a few, but I’ll get to the others later) to get all of your problem areas treated together (as opposed to, say, doing your legs & finishing those off, then doing your underarms after all of your treatment on your legs is done at some other point in the future), because you get a package discount.

Cost

In other words, it wasn’t cheap.  My package was going to cost me several thousand dollars (just under $4k if memory serves).  And while it can be financed pretty easily (they typically offer financing deals at places like these), that may not always be the ideal option.  But my advice is to treat it like any other contracted service; your deal is between you and the negotiator on the other side of the table.  Don’t think of it as a set price, and that’s what you have to pay.  Since my sister had already gone to the same place, I not only asked for a referral discount on top, but I (politely) asked them to pull up her history and compared her price apples to apples with mine (since a year’s time had passed, their prices had gone up, but I wasn’t having it).

Skin Types

Another bit of info that’s helpful if you’re looking into this:  the laser (or so I was told) is only really effective for certain skin types.  Apparently, the laser needs the contrast between your skin color and hair color; if the two are high contrast (such as dark hair and pale skin), the results are better because they are able to intensify the laser with each treatment.  If your skin is dark and you have dark hair, to be safe, they don’t zap as strong because it wouldn’t be able to differentiate the skin versus hair follicles quite as well… which runs a risk of burning your skin instead of the intended target.  So when considering this treatment, make sure you think you’ll get the results you want out of it.  And the consultants will tell you upfront whether or not they think you’re a good candidate.  I kind of like that the folks who might be especially embarrassed about hair issues (such as Italian descent, like me – lots of hair with fair skin, which makes hair super noticeable) are especially good candidates for it.

Treatment

Once I signed on for my package, I was up for my first round of treatment a week or two later.  The process itself doesn’t take very long at all; I would usually get mine done during my lunch break (it was close enough to my office to work with my schedule).  You disrobe and put on gowns like a doctor visit, clean your skin (to remove any residues, like from body lotion), and the first treatment is usually a little longer than average to go over the process so you know what to expect.  You wear funky glasses to protect your eyes, you’ll talk more about hair in places you’d ever expect to in your life, but overall, the staff is incredibly friendly and walks you through the whole thing.

Then, the zapping begins.  If you’re doing multiple areas, they’ll recommend a starting zone or you can choose for yourself.  When doing larger areas, like your legs, they’ll take a chalk pencil and mark a grid all over them so they can properly map out the areas being treated.

Pain

Yes, it hurts.  The first treatment stings like a tattoo or rubber band snapping your skin (and the staff tells you the same thing to prepare you, which doesn’t sound as bad, but then you have to wrap your head around the idea of it snapping against your skin over and over again).  The zap is very intense, but by the time you’re zapped again, the last spot doesn’t really hurt anymore (there’s no throbbing).  Your pain tolerance will differ depending on the area being treated.  You can also opt to buy ridiculously expensive numbing cream (I didn’t, but I considered it… my little sister didn’t, so I didn’t want to chicken out!).  With each subsequent treatment, the laser gets turned up to eleven, so-to-speak.  It hurts more and more as time goes on, but you’re more used to the pain.

I noticed that the sharp, intermittent pain caused me to sweat a lot in unexpected places that I was never quite aware of before.  The backs of my knees… my scalp… between my toes… etc.  It was simply strange.  It also smells a lot like burning hair.  You are zapping hair follicles, after all.

After your treatment is finished, you clean yourself up a little again (to remove the chalk marks and apply a soothing gel).  Your treatment areas will look, appropriately, like they’ve been stung repeatedly by an angry swarm of wasps.  The body simply has an almost allergic reaction to what you’ve just subjected it to.  After a few hours, the welts go down (and they look way worse than they feel – there’s a mild general soreness).  I experienced no scarring, but at times, I was kind of afraid I would based on the intensity of the pain during treatment and the size of the welts.  Nearly every treatment resulted in a disappearance of any marks within about 12 hours.

Treatments happen in planned intervals (apparently, to accommodate your hair’s growth cycle – since your hair doesn’t all grow in and fall out at the same time, they space out treatments to get ‘em all).  If I remember correctly, it’s somewhere between every six to eight weeks, but I could be wrong.  They also recommend planning around that time of the month… your pain sensitivity will increase and then decrease a little bit, so they want to do things when it won’t be as painful.

Time Commitment

My treatment plan lasted for nearly two years.  I’m sure that will differ depending on the facility, since my package bought a specific number of treatments for each area.  During that time, I also had to stay out of the sun.  The goal was to keep my skin as light as possible.  That also meant no tanning salons, no spray tans, nothing that would darken the color of my skin.  Since I was in grad school for most of it and unable to take extended vacations, that wasn’t nearly as much of a problem as I first thought it might be!

Results

I started noticing results after the very first treatment.  My hair fell out and didn’t grow back in quite as heavily as it did before.  And then that continued the next time, and the next.  Each time, fewer hairs grew back.  As treatment went on, the process was less zap-all-over and more zap-in-stubborn-spots (I was encouraged to have a little bit of stubble with later treatments… seeing exactly where a stubborn hair follicle is helped).

Toward the end, since the most dramatic changes happened near the beginning, it felt more of a nuisance to go in and get the process done.  But I stuck with it for several more months.  Continued to say out of the sun (which in a city like Atlanta, isn’t exactly easy!).  And now, I honestly can’t remember the last time I shaved.  I am so used to leaving the house without it being a concern, it’s harder to remember what life was like when it was.  Temperature changes and goosebumps from cold drafts are a thing of the past.  So is annoying stubble-rub from things like jeans (that used to be one of the main motivators for shaving in the winter).  During the summer or on vacation, I can put on a bathing suit or sundress and just go.  No razor burn.

No, not all of the hair is gone.  Until the dark hair disappeared, I didn’t realize how much blond-ish hair I still have (which, because of the lack of contrast, wasn’t effectively treated).  So I still have to take care of that from time to time with a quick swipe of a cheap razor, but I usually don’t notice it until I’m in the sun and the light makes it obvious (so maybe in the week before heading to the beach, I’ll remember to shave, just in case… but there’s no need to pack it with me).  I only have to shave every few months, and I determine when that is more based on feel or catching myself in the right light as opposed to it being something that I’d be embarrassed about if I forgot.  But since I do still have to shave, I also think that whole advertising shtick of “Never shave again!” is, obviously, complete bullshit.  A complete lie.  Way, way less?  Like, 98 percent less?  Definitely.  But not never.

My skin is also always soft.  The baby-blond stuff doesn’t feel prickly, so my skin feels smoother.  I can still tell a difference when there’s a little bit of blond hair grown back versus that just-shaved feeling, but the just-shaved part last for weeks.

Overall?

For me, based on the results I have so far, I am really, really pleased with my decision.  It’s been well over a year since my last treatment, and I experienced the bulk of the results about a year before that.  I don’t regret it at all, and I feel like it was money well spent.  A present to myself to enjoy far longer than most things I buy.  That’s not the case for everyone of course, and I’ve been told that hormone changes could cause my results to change over time, but from where I sit, it was worth it for me.  Plus, if I ever feel the need to go back again, there’s a set cost for re-treatment that is way less than what I initially paid (just to give you a ballpark, think one or two hundred versus the thousands paid initially).

So, if you’re considering this yourself, my advice to you is to do your homework.  Get referrals from people you know.  Don’t believe that it’s equally effective for everyone (since when has that ever been true about anything, really?).  Don’t believe that you never ever ever have to shave again, or any other too-good-to-be-true promises.  Be realistic with your expectations.  Ask lots of questions.  And if you do decide to move forward with it, best of luck (and shave-free months) to you!

 

Comments

  1. says

    How creepy is it that I was SO EXCITED for this post. I have SUPER sensitive skin and get really bad razor burn almost EVERY time I shave. It always hurts, is uncomfortable and I’m always super self conscious that my legs look “ugly.” This results in almost never wearing shorts or dresses. It’s not super hot where we live, but I’m missing out on cute clothes! :) I’ve always thought about getting it done, but have been hesitant, you may have finally pushed me over the edge :)

    • says

      I am simply grateful that I had one, positive comment on it. Posts like these are always weird for me to publish. I have to take a shot and then hit “Schedule” for them to go live ;) But I had great results, so hopefully more people will think it’s not so bad (or worse, a total ripoff).

  2. Holley says

    Thanks for this post! I know it’s a deviation, but I have a feeling a lot of your readers will be glad to have the info. I’ve wondered about this a million times, so it’s nice to have a first-hand account of how it goes. Oh, to be able to shave 98% less! I think laser hair removal is officially going on my wish list.

  3. Judy says

    So now if only there were an at home DIY laser hair removal kit that we could build from maybe a cordless drill and a laser level. :-) A girl can dream

  4. Maria says

    I had really good results as well. 4-5 years later, I can say some regrowth did happen during my pregnancies. But it’s pretty light. I might go back in for a touch up after I have the baby I’m currently pregnant with. Just as an FYI for anyone wondering.

  5. says

    Really informative and helpful post and I don’t think anyone would really down you from deviating. (And those that would…I read a funny statement while researching blogs the other day. The Minimalists say “We call these people seagulls: they fly in, shit on your site, and fly away.” Love it!!) Remember the posts on your personal life where you were afraid to hit publish? I recall those were well received also. :) You can hate me but I have no hair issues. In my younger years I did shave more but I have that thin, soft hair. So yeah, I go months (oh, perhaps too many months) now without shaving and unless it hits the light no one would know. I had a friend in college who hated the fact that her leg hair looked like one day men’s facial stubble within two days and I could go for a few weeks without shaving. See–I have no need for the info. but totally enjoyed the article. :)

  6. says

    Cool, man! I would be a TERRIBLE candidate, because over half my hair is blond blond blond. And blond roots run deeper than dark hair – my wax aesthetician would tell you that in a half second! :) Glad you are so happy with it!

  7. Missy G. says

    Thanks so much for all this info! I didn’t even know that I wanted this, but now I think I neeeeeeed this!! And apparently, I’m a perfect candidate. My legs are so pale that it looks like I need shave, even 5 minutes after I just shaved. I will definitely be looking into options here. Thanks again.

  8. Juliet says

    I’m going in for a consultation on this very thing in the coming week. So grateful that you were comfortable enough to share the results. Fingers crossed that it proves to be anywhere near as effective for me. Thanks for being brave enough to share your experience.

  9. says

    Thanks for this post, always wondered about laser. Now I am informed.
    And by the way, you need a deviation from DIY because we are all REAL people and have lives other than DIY and this a great way to know and enjoy our fellow DIY bloggers!

  10. Carla says

    I had this done several years ago and am so happy I did. It is particularly painful on the upper lip because that is really soft skin. But I had electrolysis many, many years and nothing is as painful as that. I think for women who have very dark hair and very pale skin (think Snow White) it is a confidence booster when you’ve had it done.

  11. Lisa says

    Is there any chance you would be willing to disclose the location to a fellow Atlanta resident? Is it the one I always hear advertised on the radio? I’ve had laser treatments done in one area which was great for a few years. Now I’m back to shaving/waxing/plucking that zone. I’m on the hunt for something a little more permanent.

  12. says

    I have to admit I skimmed the post because as a guy, I just don’t need to have this done. And call me a whoose, but I can’t even begin to imagine how it would feel to have a rubber band snapped against my face.

    However, I applaud you for posting. Blogs provide lots of information to a lot of people and often covers things that we learn about through some one else’s experience. While laser hair removal might not do it for me, obviously based on the comments above, it has answered a lot of questions by others. It’s cool that you shared your experience.

    But I’m still not having it done…

  13. Kelly says

    My eyes bugged out at the cost, but I’m cheap. I could never justify it, but I totally enjoyed this post. I had no idea how it all worked. Thanks for posting about it.

  14. Sarah In Illinois says

    I agree with the above post, I could never justify the cost, but I appreciate the information. And anytime someone uses a Spinal tap reference, I give them a virtual high-five!

  15. Jennifer says

    It is expensive to get everything done. Interesting fact, when I first started (I’m in DFW area), laser places here were required to have a licensed medical practitioner on site. So the first place I went was a doctor’s wife working out of his office. I also went to one in a chiropractor’s office. I think that requirement went away, but it left a lot of mom & pop type places around here. They have always offered excellent service and usually much cheaper prices too. I still need to go in for a touch up about once a year, but then I don’t have to shave practically all year and my touch ups only cost $50 so I’m ok with that.

    And whatever the cost… if you’re pale and hairy like me – totally worth every penny!

  16. hill says

    This was really interesting!! I don’t have any problem shaving my legs, but I would love to get the bikini line done once and for all!! I bet a small area like that would be affordable, and with the price of waxing it would pay for itself quickly. I cannot believe the timeline, I remember my mom getting electrolysis when I was a kiddo, but that was all on the face…

  17. Sarah says

    Thanks for posting this! I was one of the eagerly awaiting readers. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since you posted and am hoping that after our next big move (happening in a couple months) we can start a removal fund. So interesting about the contrast between hair and skin – maybe there is one reason to be grateful for darker body hair…

  18. says

    Since I live in Atl too, do you think they would allow other people to do the price comparison to yours? Just a thought!

    • says

      No idea! I’m almost always of the mindset that it really usually doesn’t hurt to ask for discounts as long as you have a good reason for them, but they would probably be hesitant to share a non-family member’s info (and honestly, if they were ok with it, I might be a little bit weirded out if they just up and shared details about specific treatment areas). Couldn’t hurt to just say you were referred and ask if the price they give you is really the best they can do (they will want to seal the deal during your consultation, so if you have price comparisons from elsewhere, it might help too). Hope that helps!

Leave a Reply

Comment Policy: I love comments, especially if they make me laugh. Feel free to let your words of wisdom and humor fly (there's no swear jar on this blog), but if you're overly spammy, rude, or just plain boring, you're just going to have to accept that your comment may not see the light of day.