Everything you always wanted to know
about Laser Hair Removal
By Juliana Day
It's like a bad scene in one of the old
Star Trek episodes. Captain Kirk is being
held down by busty aliens in tight-fitting
spandex, a laser slowly inching up the table
- it's just about to laser him in half.
Inches before piercing him, he is beamed
out by Scotty and saved from the busty aliens
and their deadly laser.
Thankfully, lasers have come a long way
since cheesy sci-fi TV shows. They are now
touted as the fountain of youth, the end
to razor burns; and the secret to fewer
wrinkles, less fat and a hairless body.
Laser treatment is one of the latest crazes
to hit the beauty world. Do you want to
wave goodbye to your razors? Are you ready
to give those pesky chin hairs the zap?
Here's the latest scoop on laser hair removal.
Does laser hair removal hurt?
You may have seen the laser commercial
with the woman in goggles lying comfortably
on her back with her head resting contentedly
on her arm, looking like she's relaxing
on a tropical beach. That's a somewhat unrealistic
portrait. Laser treatment hurts a little
less then electrolysis. (Wow - getting zapped
hurts less then getting poked a hundred
times with a needle; now that's comforting!)
A friend who recently had the procedure
made this comparison, "It's like an
elastic band snapping your skin." There
are some lasers, such as the LightSheer
Laser, that have a built-in cooling mechanism
to decrease pain, but this is a more expensive
system that is rarely used.
How many treatments will I need?
I saw an advertisement the other day offering
a flat price on laser treatment for bikini,
legs and armpits. It looked appealing to
me because I thought, "I would spend
that much in razors for the next 5 years,
and this is permanent". Well, it's
not that simple. You have to go for 4 to
6 treatments before you are completely free
of that body hair, even more often if you
are also having your face treated. (Suddenly
the amount I spend on razors doesn't seem
How much does it cost?
As a cosmetic procedure, laser treatments
are not covered by insurance plans. Also,
treatments are done at private clinics,
so prices vary from one to another. In general,
laser hair treatment is much less expensive
than electrolysis. However, it requires
multiple treatments and you usually end
up paying around $1000 by the time you're
done. Of course, if you only need treatment
on a small area, like your upper lip, the
costs are much less. Likewise, treatment
on a large area, such as your entire back,
can run much higher.
How shall I prepare for my laser treatment?
The preparation required depends on your
age, lifestyle and specific needs. My friend,
also in her mid-twenties said, "It's
great, when you don't have a tan, you're
not pregnant, and you have $200 extra dollars
(for one treatment)". So, for many
women in their 20's and 30's, laser treatment
is not always an option.
Your skin must be the absolute lightest
possible to prevent discoloration; you must
not wax or pluck hair for eight weeks prior
to the procedure (shaving is fine); and
if you are prone to cold sores, you may
have to take anti-viral medication for two
days prior to treatment to prevent possible
scaring. On the day of the treatment you
must shave your legs so the hair doesn't
need to be burned, and avoid using make-up
Laser treatment risks
The risks are minimal, but still important
in weighing your decision. In 25% of cases,
discoloration occurs. There is a higher
rate of occurrence in darker skinned people.
In some cases in can be avoided by simply
staying out of the sun for six weeks after
In 10% of cases, painful blisters can form.
Fortunately, there is medicated ointment
available to help manage the pain and reduce
Occasionally scarring can occur if the
patient has a cold sore at the time of treatment,
or if blisters develop.
Should I go for it?
If the hair scare has you up in arms, laser
treatment may be the way to go. It's like
an American Express commercial: "Laser
treatment of pits, legs, and bikini line
$1500. Never getting a wax, using a razor
or having electrolysis again - PRICELESS."