Everything To Know Before Your First Laser Hair Removal Appointment

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Summer beach time or winter sunshine getaway? It doesn’t matter the time of year, the occasion, or the locale, we all want soft, smooth and yes, hairless, skin. Yet, shaving, plucking or waxing to get the desired results can be time-consuming and downright painful – not to mention the aftermath of ingrown hairs, itchy bumpy skin and the odd nick with a razor. The solution might be simple; laser hair removal.

How It Works

Like our skin, our hair contains melanin, which is what gives our skin and hair its color pigment. The specialized lasers used for hair removal target and heat the individual follicle and actually vaporize the hair, while not heating the rest of the skin around it. Basically, the light from the laser is absorbed by the melanin in the hair follicle. The damage caused by the laser to the follicle is what inhibits hair growth. Considered a non-invasive procedure, laser hair removal is safe, fast and lasts.

Where It Works

Similar to other hair removal techniques, lasers work on every part of the body you want smooth and hairless – legs, back, face, underarm, bikini – you got hair, there’s a laser to zap it off.

Who It Works On

While any skin tone can, in theory, benefit from laser hair removal, it works best on fair skin with dark, fine hair. That is because of the level of melanin in dark hair – the darker the pigment in the follicle the more the laser can vaporize it into oblivion. Essentially, lighter hair or darker complexions make it more difficult for the laser to zero in on the hair follicle itself – what the laser can’t “see” it can’t destroy. If you fall into the blonde, red-headed or darker skin tone category, ensure you get a detailed consultation to explain where you want the hair removed and if you are a good candidate for the procedure.

Before You Go

Once you’ve had a one-on-one consultation and have booked your appointment, you need to remember no waxing or shaving or any other hair removal techniques for 4-6 weeks prior to your first session. This is to ensure that the majority of hair will be at the stage necessary to get the best result. It will also be recommended that you avoid extended sun exposure the month prior to your first session.

How It Feels

Laser hair removal is considered non-invasive but that doesn’t mean it’s painless. It might hurt less than a wax strip, but won’t be as comfortable as a razor in the shower. Why? Because every hair follicle has nerve endings that surround it, so at the very least expect a strong sting each time the laser zaps your skin. Depending on where on your body the hair is being removed, the level of discomfort will increase or decrease – think sensitive bikini area versus your thigh. If your pain tolerance isn’t high, then even sturdier body parts such as the lower legs might hurt more given the how close the skin is to the bone. To help mitigate pain and make the procedure more comfortable, clinicians and aestheticians will use a numbing cream or other cooling techniques such as ice prior to the laser. Some lasers also come with cooling tips at the end to help lessen the pain, especially those designed for use on the face.

The Results

Despite what you might think, laser hair removal isn’t permanent. It’s considered a hair “reduction” procedure. The only approved permanent treatment for hair removal is electrolysis. That said, after a few laser sessions your hair will be reduced enough that you can stop shaving or waxing altogether. Keep in mind, however, that you will need maintenance appointments eventually or you will see hair growth return – not as thick, but it will be there.

The Cost

Choosing laser hair removal is an investment. Over a lifetime it may be more cost-effective than all that waxing but it’s not cheap. The average cost of laser hair removal is $285 per session, according to 2018 statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). And remember, while 4-6 sessions is average, some people require up to 12! Laser hair removal costs can widely vary depending on several factors, according to the ASPS site, “the price of laser hair removal may be based on the expertise and qualifications of the person performing the procedure, the type of procedure used, the time and effort the treatment requires and the geographic location of the office.”

The Time

Laser hair removal is also an investment in time. You will need multiple sessions – on average 4-9 treatments are required for the best (and barest) results. And while the hair will fall out within a month, you will have to wait approximately 6-12 weeks between procedures because the lasers are most effective during the hair’s natural growth cycle.

Who Is Doing It

There are currently no national standards or licensing requirements for laser hair removal. In fact, licensing varies from state to state, leaving it up to the consumer to do their due diligence and check the credentials of the person offering the service. Ask for his or her certification and training. Getting too good a deal on price might leave you with poor results, or worse, scars or burns on your skin.

Curious about trying laser hair removal at home? These are some of our favorite products to use, which have been handpicked by our beauty editors!

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