Is Laser Hair Removal Really Worth It?
Oct 1st, 2018 3:25 PM
Many years ago I decided to stop shaving my legs and switched to waxing. I was sick of ingrown hairs and the little red bumps that formed on my lower legs from an old school razor. (Note to readers: If this is already too much information, this article is probably not for you.) Waxing your legs, I soon learned, is wonderful—for three days. Then the hair begins to creep back in and you are stuck with it for at least 9month, throughout my pregnancy moments. It was so hard, that everything single on me grow so fast. At that time I knew I have to try Laser after the arrival of my baby. No more of this back-and-forth business, I decided. It was time to look into a more permanent option.
I remembered first hearing about laser hair removal years ago when people were first talking about it and thinking, “Eek, that sounds risky, I’m going to wait and see if this goes the way of the LaserDisc or the DVD.” Basically I wanted to make sure it was legit and worth the time, pain, and cost.
The way laser hair removal works, I soon discovered from a quick bit of precautionary research, is that pulses of highly concentrated light are emitted from the laser into the hair follicles. The pigment in the follicles absorbs the light and that destroys the hair. When I read that 90 percent of laser hair removal patients who are good candidates for the procedure report permanent hair loss after an average of three to six sessions, I was sold. “Chewbacca be gone,” I vowed to myself. “Next year, I am getting my legs lasered.”
My interest was particularly piqued by the spate of at-home laser treatments recently on the market. Could it be that easy? An investigation into the leading brands revealed some intriguing contenders, from the Tria 4X (an FDA-cleared device that claims to deliver more than triple the hair-eliminating energy of its DIY peers) to the IluminageTOUCH (which is approved to safetly treat a wider of skin tones than traditional lasers). But while the convenience of zapping away on my couch while watching Law & Order: SVU was seductive, none seemed quite right. I can barely operate my electric kettle—should I really be handling a laser?
“I advise caution because they’re supposed to be much less intense than in office lasers but in the wrong hands you can probably do some serious damage if you’re double- or- triple pulsing areas that you shouldn’t be,. “Typically people at home tend to be aggressive with themselves because they think that they can get a faster, better result without realizing potential consequences.”
I learned that in order to have bikini-worthy legs this season I would need to start the laser process in peak tights-and-boots weather. “Hairs have a growth phase and also a resting and a falling-out phase,. “Some of the hairs are not there right now because they are in the rest phase and not every hair will respond to the pulses.” Hence the need for multiple sessions, spaced about one month apart, the typical length of a hair-growth cycle.
I am next instructed to put on a pair of bottle-green goggles. Before we begin, she shares with me the one description of laser hair removal I have heard before: “It feels like a rubber band being flicked against your skin multiple times.”
Either I am wrong, or my pain threshold is incredibly low, because I find laser hair removal excruciatingly uncomfortable. In fact, I start to think, I would take a flick of a rubber band any day over the repeated burning zap of the laser. It feels like someone is taking a lit match to my leg and holding it up close. The darker the hair, the coarser it is; therefore more energy is emitted onto that follicle, causing greater discomfort. When those hairs are zapped, it feels like a bee sting—and you just have to hope there aren’t too many.
Clearly I’m not alone in this. Nearly half a million laser treatments were performed by dermatological surgeons in 2011 (the last year that collected data is available) according to the American Society for Dermatological Surgery, so it must be worth the minor suffering. Most people who get laser treatments are focusing on smaller areas of hair—underarm, upper lip, bikini line. These areas also happen to be much more sensitive: The very idea of getting my bikini line. These areas also happen to be much more sensitive. The lower leg, on the other hand, is one of the largest areas that they laser and it takes about 25 minutes altogether for both legs upon each visit.
By my next appointment I begin to see a real difference when I visit. The laser picks up a lot more “energy” when I find the whole experience far less painful. For several days following each treatment, I have a series of small red bumps on my legs and this actually elates me because I know it means that the laser has picked up that follicle and when the redness dies down that spot will be hair-free for life—a delightful thought as summer, and a season of confidently wearing my favorite miniskirt, begins.