I touched briefly on this topic in my Time Saving Beauty Hacks That Actually Work blog post. However, it clearly needs its own center stage because it is the essential pretty-skin primer for most of us. Are you resentfully plagued with time consuming shaving, waxing, and depilatories? Do you dread being cold & getting goosebumps because you turn into a porcupine? Do intimate moments feel embarrassing unless you’ve taken care of your “situation”? I don’t know about you but, the only maintenance that feels good to me is NO MAINTENANCE. However unrealistic that sounds, there are steps we can take to get closer to that common goal. Permanent hair removal has been a gateway to heaven for many of us; Here’s the scoop.
Are you considering permanent hair removal?
Is it too good to be true? For some of us, it absolutely is. For a lot of us, it’s heaven sent. It’s super important to be well informed and to know your skin and hair type before considering these non-invasive treatments. It is also imperative that you understand what your options are and that you’re thoroughly prepared. Lets not depend on other’s knowledge or be fooled by sales tactics. Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to one’s own body. You have three options: electrolysis, IPL (intense pulse light therapy), and laser if you are looking for permanent reduction.
What is Electrolysis?
Electrolysis targets one hair at a time by inserting a probe into the hair follicle using an electrical current. The current targets and damages the follicle before they can delevope resulting in less growth. It is quite uncomfortable, however, very little aftercare is necessary. The skin may appear slightly red and/or feel irritated but usually resolves within a couple of hours. Personally. I found it to be quite monotonous and uncomfortable. I had trouble sitting still and didn’t have the time required for the close-set appointments. I did however get positive results.
PRO: Little to no downtime
CON: You will need a lot more treatments than laser hair removal because the skin has multiple follicles for each hair and each session consistst of targeting one follicle at a time which is really tedious work. Theres no way that all of the follicles can be targeted per each session. Larger areas may require up to 30 sessions! Yikes! In order to make up for this annoying reality, it is suggested that touch-up sessions are required almost weekly! I don’t know about you but, that makes me feel a little anxious.
PRO: It is said that once the hair is eliminated, it is permanent permanent permanent!
CON: Quite uncomfortable. Most of my clients who have committed to electrolysis have one common complaint…how painful it is. If you choose to go this route, I’d advise taking a pain killer before treatment and asking your therapist if they provide a topical numbing pre-treatment Rx for your comfort.
PRO: Treatments are relatively inexpensive compared to laser packages and IPL sessions. Yay!
CON: Adverse affects include pigmentation and scarring, and in rare cases infection from unsterilized needles. Therefore, this is not ideal for skin types that are prone to easy pigmentation or keloid scarring.
PRO: Those with very light hair, laser hair removal may not work due to the lack of pigmentation, making electrolysis the best option.
What is IPL?
IPL (Intense Pulse Light) is a technology used for multiple treatments with interchangeable filters such as, hair removal, photo-rejuvenation, and skin ailments such as acne. It’s broad spectrum pulse of light targets the melanin in hair (decomposing and shrinking the hair) or the hemoglobin in blood vessels. This decomposes and shrinks each hair before it can erupt, significantly impeding hair growth. It is ideal for lighter skin types 1-3 and those with medium to darker shades of hair. In a nutshell, it targets the dark follicle inhibiting its ability to re-grow. IPL is similar to laser treatments because they both use light to heat and destroy their targets. However, lasers use a single wavelength to target a singular condition.
PRO: A large area can be covered in a short period of time. Typically, it is likely to take around 10 - 15 minutes for a whole leg.
CON: Not ideal for darker skin types 4-6. It picks up on pigment, therefore, if your skin is rich in melanin it will target that as well resulting in risks of burning and scarring.
PRO: No unsightly regrowth. You can shave between treatments!
CON: IPL is not effective for anyone with light blond, white, grey or red hair.
PRO: Hair that does re-grow in between sessions comes in lighter, softer, and finer. You can look forward to up to 90% reduction.
CON: Swelling and potential bruising, a temporary sunburn-like reaction, and temporary darkening of treated spots of higher pigment.
PRO: Helps to eliminate ingrown hairs
CON: The upfront cost can be a bit costly, anywhere between $600 for a package on the low end and $1200 for a package on the higher end for small areas. The prices obviously increase the larger the area. In my opinion though, its worth it in the long run because you’ll end up spending more on waxing, depilatories, and shaving. I don’t know about you but, my personal time is valuable and I don’t want to waste it.
PRO: I’ve experienced certain IPL technologies that are actually quite painless and speedy! Look for those with cooling systems. I’ve personally experienced the updated technology and the pain is far less!
What is laser hair removal?
Laser is a single wavelength light source that targets the melanin in the hair follicle for permanent results, leaving the skin untouched, and the follicle damaged inhibiting the root to form new hair. 6-10 sessions and 4-6 weeks between sessions is standard.
PRO: In my personal experience, I had hands down the most lasting results with thorough treatments.
CON: Certain hair types can be stimulated into growing longer and thicker. But don’t worry, if hair isn’t suitable, your technition will let you know and you’ll notice quickly. I’d suggest a spot treatment if you are considering this as your best option.
PRO: Great for all skin types and a positive option for ethnic skin types. The hair simply needs to be dark enough for the laser to pick up on. Long-pulsed NDYAG lasers, in my professional opinion are the safest option for pigmented skin tones. The advancement of laser technology allows for reliable treatment in dark skin that didn't exist years ago. WOOT! WOOT!
CON: The heat from the laser tends to resinate in the skin for… give or take 24 hours so, anything that may encourage more heat needs to be resisted for a day or two. This means refrain from exercise, steam rooms and saunas, hot showers or baths, and so on. We want to avoid providing a bacterial environment for inflammation and temporary red spots that may occur in the follicles. Its honestly not a huge deal and doesn’t happen to everyone but, I encourage you to be aware and take proper precaution.
PRO: Up to 90% permanent hair reduction and no unsightly regrowth. You can shave between treatments! Hair that does re-grow inbetween sessions comes in lighter, softer, and finer.
CON: You will need to avoid sun exposure as much as possible before and after treatment. Tanning is a NO-NO, as the laser picks up on pigment, therefore, you risk burns and sensitivity.
PRO: Quick follicular damage. Bye-bye pesky hair! I swear I saw a noticeable difference in just 3 sessions!
CON: I find laser to be a bit more painful than IPL. It’s quite intense, however, there are sometimes numbing creams offered and some new technology that offers less painful options. For me, it felt like a series of elastic bands snapping mixed with an intense heat. Im super sensitive, you may not be. I suggest trying a spot treatment for your tolerance.
All three options are similar in that they will all result in permanently reduced hair growth. You will need repetitive, scheduled sessions depending on your cyclical growth pattern (which is genetically pre-determined), how thorough your technician is, and your hormonal makeup. The goal is to kill the follicle at it’s anagen (active) regrowth phase. As, hair removal is permanent once the follicle is destroyed.
Are you a candidate?
°If you have red, blonde, or gray hair you’re going to have a challenging time receiving results. As, without solid pigment its quite impossible for these different hair removal technologies to read the follical.
°If you are an avid sunbather, I don’t recommend putting your skin at risk. You will most likely be turned away by your therapist due to the high possibility of burning and scarring from treatment. It is not safe to be tanned or sunburnt (spray tan also applies). However, if you don’t mind taking a break from the sun for the duration of your sessions, and you come prepared without photosensitivity we will most likely make an exception.
°If you are on Accutane or any oral or topical antibiotics, you risk severe laser burns. Infact, you must stay away from treatment for 6 months to a year after Accutane.
°If you are pregnant or nursing don’t bother. BIG FAT NO.
°Scrubs and topical chemicals such as retinol and glycol acids should be avoided 1 week before treatment and 2 days after treatment. I recommended that for a 4 week period before laser and a 2 week period after laser, you avoid chemical peels and sun exposure.
°If you have open or wounded skin you risk adverse reaction. Please allow wounds, and open acne lesions to heal before exposing them to treatment. You risk permanent pigmentation and scarring.
°Areas with psoriasis or like-disorders should be avoided.
°Treatments can be done on both men and women
***I’d like to stress once more that it is not advised to use these treatments if you have skin conditions such as psoriasis, photosensitivity, are pregnant, tanned or sunburnt, over tattoos or moles.
When is the hair ready to be treated?
Every single hair on the human body operates independently. Each hair progresses through three stages, from growth to rest which is why it takes multiple sessions to damage the follicle. The three stages are anagen (growing), catagen (transitional), and telogen (resting). We want the hair to be treated in its anagen phase for optimal reduction. In the anagen phase, the hair is in its beginning phase of growth. Therefore, you will notice it visibly above the skin (aka stubble) and if its pulled out, you will see a thick knob-like substance at the root. In this stage, the hair is available to attract and absorb the laser’s energy. In simple terms, I’d suggest shaving 2-3 days before treatment depending on the rate at which your hair grows. For me, it took a good 4 weeks after treatment to notice hair coming back through. Its important to notice your cycle of growth.
What we, the therapists have a challenging time communicating
Please shave before you come so we don’t have to and so that you can get the most out of your treatment! It is recommended to stop shaving 2-3 days before your procedure: You want a little bit of the hair (pigment) to be read by the laser (stubble) for optimal results.
Please come clean. We tend to not enjoy uncleanliness or treating someone sweaty from the gym. It encourages our human nature to rush the treatment because its simply super uncomfortable and unpleasant for us.
Please be clear with your preferences regarding communication. As, we only want to please you and are not mind readers. Don’t be afraid to communicate your needs, we want to make you as comfortable as possible. You won’t offend us, promise!
Please come prepared. We really appreciate you coming prepared with quality awareness and your budget. Most therapists share the same dilemma. We WANT to give you everything for free! But, we simply cant. Come with realistic expectations by educating yourself (just minimal awareness) and ownership of your personal budgetary boundaries. This way, we can work together to come up with a system that will actually give you the results that you desire at a fair price. This is an investment, not something that you want to haggle to death like you would when buying a car. This is the health and the longevity of your skin and there’s honestly only so far we are allowed to go! Please don’t shoot the messenger. The goal is to get the absolute best service for a price that is comfortable for you, not to acquire the cheapest possible service!
Permanent hair removal is the best cosmetic choice I’ve ever made.
*Keep in mind that most insurance companies do not, under any circumstances provide cosmetic coverage.
There are some solutions for the pain! I’m a total wuss too! Ladies, avoid treatment one full week before your mensural cycle. I can’t even tell you how much this has helped me. Also, habits like eating a balanced meal before treatment and staying hydrated the day before, day of, and the day after will not only help your treatment to be optimal but, it will provide more comfort and healing! Finally, pain relievers! Take your favorite pain killer 30 minutes prior. Be aware that there are many topical creams available with or without a prescription and some medical professionals even provide them pre-treatment.