Candid Thoughts on Laser Hair Removal for the Uninitiated

If you’re ready to jump on the laser wagon, here’s my, ahem, low down on all the things that they won’t tell you in the glossy brochure.

I have a skin allergy to wax. I’ll just let that rest with you for a moment. Perhaps along with the word “lesions.” 

While I could completely reject the general concept of hair removal, I persevere through personal choice. Particularly since I’ve hit my thirties, previously separate colonies of hair have mobilized to join and cross-pollinate, and I’ve somehow lost track of where my bikini line ends and my leg hair begins. (Above the knee, yes?)

After the latest episode involving a supposed non-allergenic wax, a whole tub of nappy rash cream, and much sideways head-tipping from fellow pool-goers, I resolved to give laser hair removal a go. Now I’m a complete convert. I feel like I’ve lifted the lid on the best kept (yet heavily advertised) secret ever. Organic bike pants be gone!

Of course, reclining near-naked on a table and submitting to a stranger wielding a staticky vacuum cleaner hose that shoots sparks at you in the name of hairlessness is not for everyone. However, if you’re curious about whether you too might be ready to jump on the laser wagon, here’s my, ahem, low down on all the things that they won’t tell you in the glossy brochure:

1 | You have to nude up

Even for moderately enthusiastic nudists, it’s quite a position to be lying naked, except for compulsory safety glasses, on a table in a fluorescent-lit room 30 centimeters from someone’s face. It’s a bloody cold room too, because the laser is hot.

This isn’t like when you go for a facial and they tell you to take off all your clothes and to get into the warm cocoon of towels (which seems bizarrely unnecessary, but they do have a warm cocoon of towels that would be a shame to waste).

If you’re getting your legs or bikini area lasered, there is no way around taking your pants off. Take a cardigan and complain about the cold (while pretending you’re fine with the nudity if you inexplicably feel you must) and slip it on or huddle under it for warmth and some semblance of decency (except for when she’s zapping your underarms). Or you could wear a sleeveless dress, as the technician pointed out to me today on my seventh or so visit.

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2 | The technician may draw on you with a pink highlighter

She is drawing on you to grid your legs so that she doesn’t lose her way and miss bits. Don’t freak out when she asks you to lift your leg as she starts inside your ankle and draws all the way up onto your inner thigh. Ignore the opportunity to make jokes at your own expense about surface area or topography, it’s awkward for everyone.

3 | Buy the skin-calming stuff, but don’t read the label

Ignore the rest of the products they try to sell you. As the Queen of Post-Hair Removal Lesions, I know good skin-calming stuff and you’ll be squirting this onto a human-sized bit of saran wrap and rolling around in it in about 24 hours. It’s possible that there are other application methods too. The skin-calming cream is good for sunburn and insect bites as well.

4 | Shave the night before and then do a final going-over on the morning of your appointment

This saves you the stress of feeling like you’re trying to mow an acre of dense scrub with a push mower. Thank me when you’re not screaming through the shower glass at your kids to get ready now because your deforestation attempt has taken an hour longer than anticipated. Warm shower, lots of shaving gel, and new shaver for a close shave.

5 | The hairs will still be there (inside the follicle) after your appointment

They somehow (I haven’t researched this, but we’ll put it down to one of the great mysteries of science) work their way out over the next few days, but they’ll be all messed up and wonky-looking like Homer Simpson’s over-ear hairs. They’re not properly attached anymore and need to be exfoliated out after about five days. You can shave again to clean them up if you’re an overachiever.

6 | Set appointments for roughly every four weeks

You’ll feel like you’ll never need to go again a couple of weeks after the first session, but you will. Apparently eight to 12 sessions is average for effective ongoing hair reduction, with a yearly maintenance zap thereafter.

7 | Pasty with coarse dark hair, I am the ideal laser candidate

If only I received as much enthusiasm in response to this profile as I do in other areas of my life. Apparently, the laser does not do so well with blonde or red hairs, and there are different lasers that work better on different skin tones, so go in for a consultation if you’re curious.

8 | If the technician asks you if you want the “add on,” she’s probably asking if you want her to laser your butthole

She may use some other weird non-specific, deliberately-vague word but this is what she is asking you. Apparently some people have hairy buttholes. Please, don’t make it easy for her – express confusion and make her spell it out to you. Get her to draw you a diagram if you’re up for it.

9 | Don’t draw inferences if the technician asks you if you want the “add on”

She’s probably just up-selling. Probably.

10 | Avoid sun and chlorine for a couple of days and exfoliate well in five

Become that weird evangelical laser-hair-removal lady that approaches strangers who have what may be hair-removal lesions at swimming pools. Surely that can only end well.