LASER HAIR REMOVAL | WHAT'S THE BIG FUZZ?
BY MARIA THATTIL
Be it an unruly shag or a chic flow of silk – hair is and always will be a hot topic of conversation. And whilst beloved on our head, it can be despised in the wrong region. From an evolutionary perspective, we need it – be it for insulation, cooling, or protection from moisture, sweat and bacteria. And whilst my personal opinion is that the appeal of body-hair is at the discretion of the individual, the media perpetrates a stigma and social expectation that women need to remove body hair to be desirable, attractive or hygienic. And if it’s coming from a place of self-loathing or rejection, removing your body hair won’t fix the underlying, subconscious belief that your worth or beauty is pinned on your physical appearance.
However, as I’ve progressed into my twenties, it has become my personal preference to have less. And it’s not because I believe it to be repulsive, masculine or unfeminine. When it comes to my body, I prefer the look and feel of hairless skin in certain areas as I physically feel more comfortable without it. I’ve trialled and tested shaving, waxing and threading but have been invested in securing a more sustainable and relatively more permanent alternative to body hair removal.
Cue: Laser Hair Removal - a safe and effective means to impede the hair’s ability to regrow.
How does it work?
When the laser hits the hair follicle, it’s energy is absorbed into both the follicle and the melanin pigment present in the hair. The energy pulse of the hair removal systems heat the hair, damage the hair follicle without affecting surrounding skin, and this causes the hair to fall out and to not grow back over a length of time. It is worth noting that most people expect to see permanent, ‘forever’ results but laser hair removal requires maintenance sessions to ensure that the hair doesn’t grow back over time.
What hair/skin combination attains the best result?
It’s a procedure that works best with darker, coarser hair as the follicles have very high melanin content – it is harder to achieve optimal results with lighter hair due to lower melanin content. Also, laser hair removal is more successful when there is a stark contrast between skin tone and hair colour– for example, a fair skinned individual with coarse, dark hair would likely find the treatment highly effective.
The number of sessions required to achieve a permanent result is not standard – and it varies from person to person. We are all different biologically – factors like hormones, medications, hair colour, skin tone, hair type and more all impact how many sessions you will need. The body part in question also impacts how quickly & effectively the hair growth is inhibited. After years of dipping my toes in the ‘hair removal’ waters, and unwittingly trialling a few different clinics in my younger years, I decided to educate myself on the procedure and commence treatment again – older and wiser.
The problem with a lack of information
Prior to my treatment with Smart Skin Clinics, I had laser hair removal on my Brazilian region in 2013 and more recently in 2017. In 2013, I had no education on the procedure or how to maintain and care for my skin. The therapist had the laser on a high setting and I remember suspecting that my skin was slightly burnt. 9 sessions later, I stopped treatment as I travelled to Europe for a few months. Upon return to Australia, I didn’t recommence treatment again. That is – until 2017, where I hadn’t made any further effort to educate myself on the procedure, my skin’s needs or aftercare, and underwent 5 sessions without adequately caring for my skin.
In December 2018, I spoke with a representative of Smart Skin Clinics and made it clear that I was weary about the procedure because of a fear that my deeper skin tone would burn easily. Without hesitation, I was referred to their Moonee Ponds clinic to visit Ann for her experience, ability to work with deeper skin tones and handle my many questions with lots of TLC. From the get-go, Ann was friendly, professional and very easy-going. She made a few jokes, put me at ease, and I felt immediately less awkward about the fact that I would be stripping out of my underwear within the next 5 minutes as she lasered areas of my body that are more private than my tax file number.
I had laser hair removal on my upper lip, underarms & Brazilian region. I used to thread my top lip over the course of 2017. However, threading was a painful and problematic method for my face, as I suffer from comedonal acne and it would cause folliculitis. The constant removal of hair from the root caused the follicles to get infected once open, and led to the appearance of tiny bumps on my face. Over time, this caused congestion under my skin, which I am only just now clearing up with my new skincare regimen.
What machine was used?
The laser used was a Candela GentlaLaser Laser Technology – the gold standard in medical grade laser hair removal. The Clinic only employs TGA and FDA approved equipment, and the therapists are qualified in laser safety and Candela Laser Practitioner Certified.
They move the device over the area and it emits short, light-based pulses. This round of treatment was the first time that a device with an Air Cooling Compatible (ACC) feature was used on me – this means that it simultaneously releases a cool flow of air right beside the part of the machine the emits the hot, light based pulses.
Without ACC, I have to honestly tell you that laser feels as though someone has held a rubber band over an open fire and then flicked it onto your skin. It’s a hot, tight, quick sting – but the pain is over as quickly as it came on. Different people have different pain thresholds, and without ACC, I would cringe when it came to lasering my Brazilian region. Nonetheless, it still felt remarkably less painful than waxing – where I historically would have to mentally convince myself to not get up off the table mid wax due to pain. With the ACC feature, the procedure was virtually painless. I felt nothing but cool air and the glide of the machine on my skin – this applied to all regions.
How long does it take?
For all three areas, I was on the bed for 10 minutes – under 1 minute for my top lip, a minute for my underarms, and maybe 3-5 minutes for my Brazilian. This factors in her periodic pauses for my comfort. We kept the laser at the lowest level to test how my skin would react.
As I write this, it has been 8 weeks and I have since had two sessions. The results so far are outstanding. The hair on my top lip didn’t show signs of growth until 8-9 days post the first session, and after the second session, the hair took 2 weeks to show signs of growth, and even then it is very patchy and fine.
I am a little more unlucky when it comes to underarms. Here I notice the most rapid hair growth of any where on my body. If I shave, I tend to notice regrowth after 24 hours. After my first laser session, I didn’t notice regrowth till day 5. And when I did, it was patchy. This is a massive result to attain in one session, especially as this has always been a problem area for me.
As for my Brazilian, it was simply a maintenance appointment as I have had previous effective treatments.
Aftercare & Maintenance
More important than the procedure itself is the after care. After having laser treatment, your skin can retain the heat emitted from the machine. This can cause inflammation and hyperpigmentation. Post treatment, I maintain the following steps:
1. Cooling Cream - apply a cooling cream to mitigate inflammation, draw the heat from the skin and soothe it.
2. Sunscreen – protect any areas exposed to the sun with SPF50 sunscreen for 6 weeks.
3. Hyperpigmentation cream – to prevent excessive discoloration.
As a passionate advocate for doing what makes you happy with your body - if you want to have laser hair removal treatment, do your research on a good provider, learn about what your body needs and don’t forget to follow aftercare strictly. And if you prefer furry insulation, be proud. Either way, do you and do it with confidence.
Until next time,