Shedding light on laser hair removal

When the boys in middle school were praying for peach fuzz, mine had already sprouted.

I’ve always loved everything about being a brunette, except for one thing: the dark facial hair that came with it. I think I was the only girl in my entire middle school who got her upper lip waxed. And I’m sure everyone knew it when I came into school the next day with a mustache of redness where the hair used to be (but would soon return).

For years, I continued to get my upper lip waxed, as well as my eyebrows and chin. I’d have this done every two or three weeks and, for days following, I’d have a mustache or unibrow of irritation due to having very sensitive skin.

Seeing the light: laser hair removal

It wasn’t until I was 26 and about to get married when I considered a more permanent (but costly) solution: laser hair removal. In support of my pursuing this, my then-fiance/now-husband asked me to think about the amount of money I had been spending on waxing versus the investment in laser hair removal. We arrived at the conclusion that this was viable, since leaving the hair on my face wasn’t an option.

So, in January 2014, just three months before my wedding, I began my research by reading about the various types of lasers, spas, pricing, etc. This led me to the Candela GentleMAX laser, which is FDA approved and among the highest-rated lasers available. From there, I found Izalia Laser Hair Removal and Rejuvenation Spa in Old Town Alexandria, Va. – a lovely spot in a charming historic city just down the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., and a few minutes from where I lived.

I didn’t receive much information until I went in to Izalia during the following week for my consultation, which was “conveniently” after I had already paid and right before my first treatment. The technician could’ve told me that she was going to burn my face off just in time for my wedding, and I probably still would’ve started that evening. That was pure tunnel vision. It at least would’ve been helpful to know the treatment timeline before setting foot in Izalia.

I had about two months until my wedding day and five treatments, each requiring four weeks in between. That’s five months of time that I didn’t have. On top of that, Nate and I were fairly certain that we’d be moving away very shortly after our wedding. Izalia guaranteed that I’d be able to transfer treatments to other areas of the body. With that being said, I only had my face done at my February appointment. Surprisingly, my sensitive skin responded very well. I experienced minimal redness, and it made my skin flawless. In March, when our move was finalized, I threw in another treatment area, my underarms, and got them looking great for the wedding! At my April appointment, right before moving, I had one final treatment of my face and underarms. While I was able to use all five, I knew that I wouldn’t enjoy permanent results.

So I began researching my options in the city where we planned to move and now live, Augusta, Ga. I read that, if one must switch spas like I did, it’s important to find one with the same laser. The only one that offered the Candela GentleMAX laser was Ideal Image, which is a network of laser hair removal centers in the United States and Canada that has a center in Augusta. Ideal Image separates treatments by eight weeks instead of four like Izalia.

Apparently, four weeks isn’t enough time for hair to go through all stages of the growth cycle, which includes the following phases:

  1. Anagen phase (active growth) – Therapy is ideal for this time, because there’s an abundance of melanin, which absorbs light.
  2. Catagen phase (transitional) – Hair stops growing a separates from the follicle.
  3. Teleogen phase (hair loss/shedding) – New hair comes in and pushes out the old hair, which marks the beginning of growth.

Anyway, learning that four weeks isn’t sufficient made me feel cheated out of the money I spent on my initial round in Alexandria, Va. This is going to sound very fiscally liberal, which I’m not, but I didn’t want my initial round to be in vain. That’s why I bit the bullet and continued treatment in Augusta. The package includes nine, which will take 18 months – through February 2016.

So far, I’ve noticed that hair growth has slowed considerably, and I see progress with each treatment.

There you have it – my experience with laser hair removal. Over the past year, I’ve oddly become a mini-expert on the topic, so I’m happy to pass some what I’ve learned onto you. Here are a few dos and don’ts on laser hair removal.

Dos:

  1. Begin your research with the type of laser. Not only will help to narrow your search results on potential spas, but it’s important that the type of laser guides your research, because using the same type of laser during your treatment is key to seeing results.
  2. Have a consultation, and be prepared to walk away. Laser hair removal may not be for you, based on your skin or hair type. This is a big investment to be anything short of effective.
  3. Choose a spa whose technicians are skilled healthcare providers. At Izalia, my technician was trained, but, better yet, the one whom I see at Ideal Image is a registered nurse. This makes me, someone who works in healthcare, feel safe.
  4. Choose a spa that subscribes to the eight-week treatment cycle. While you may feel anxious about getting started, spacing out the treatments will likely be more effective in the long run, because you’re allowing adequate time for your hair to go through all stages of the growth cycle.
  5. Spring for the package and forever guarantee. Again, I’m not fiscally liberal, but spending a lot up front on a package and guarantee will save you a lot. (To this my husband would say, “Um, no. You’re still spending money.”) You get what I mean!
  6. Choose a spa that has locations all over. Doing this will help you to avoid the situation I got into, with starting on a second body part just to get my money’s worth. Sometimes I fear that strategy created a monster; I have a list of body parts I’d like to have treated. Next, I’d like to finish my underarms. Oh well, it’s not like this is plastic surgery. I’ll just try not to look like Mr. Bigglesworth at the end of all of this.

Don’ts:

  1. Don’t go for deals. I first heard about laser hair removal from friends who pursued this as a result of buying a Groupon or Living Social deal. I don’t know about you, but when I buy a deal, the purpose is to try something new and not to help me with making an important decision.
  2. Don’t wax or tweeze the areas that are being treated. The laser targets the pigment of the hair follicle. If you remove it by waxing and tweezing, therapy will be ineffective.
  3. Don’t get too much sun. This will help to avoid complications. If you must spend time in the sun, wear sunscreen and a hat with a brim or bill.

I hope that this blog post helped to “shed some light” on laser hair removal!

charm

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