I have been completely open with my audience in regards to my laser hair removal treatments. The body areas in which I have treated are the underarms and bikini/brazilian. The motivation behind my decision for initial treatment was mostly in hopes of potentially not having to suffer from the painful razor bumps that I would sometimes get from shaving my underarms. Also, to be frank, the convenience of not having to shave altogether – I mean, yes please!
Starting last year, in February 2018, I had my very first session. The technology that is used at the medical spa in which I have received all 8 treatments at thus far, is the Alma Laser’s “Soprano Ice” Laser Hair Removal Machine. This system is marketed as “virtually painless”. And after my first treatment, I couldn’t believe just how painless it really was!
You see, years before, when I first became a mother, I had purchased a hand-held at-home laser hair removal wand and although I started to see some results from that, I just could not commit to keep doing it myself, because it was essentially like snapping yourself with rubber bands in very sensitive areas of your body, for 30-40 minutes straight, every month. Yea – that got old real quick!
So, going in to my first professional laser hair removal session at the medical spa, though treatments were marketed as virtually painless, the least that I was expecting to feel was rubber band snaps. However, after the initial treatment, like I mentioned, I was stunned as to how little I actually felt. I honestly had barely felt anything during my underarm treatment, and the bikini/brazilian area was very tolerable – I’d rate it a 2 on a pain scale of 10.
The after-effects that I noticed following my first session, was hair fall-out at about one week, and then a good 2 weeks thereafter of basically not needing to shave at all. Then it was back to normal hair growth. Still though, I thought to myself, “If this is the result after only one session, I can’t wait to see what happens later down the road!”
Skip ahead 6 weeks now, my second treatment came around and this time I had a different laser technician treating me. It was then that I realized that the previous technician who had performed my very first treatment, did so in a very rushed manner in compared to this secondary technician. And THAT, was probably why I didn’t feel very much during my initial session. This time, the technician was pretty much the opposite of the first one, and took her time. I felt lots of pinching and a bit more warmth during the laser beams. But still, the pain was around a 3 or 4 – tolerable for me. The after-effects of my second treatment were pretty similar to the first one.
Now on to treatment 3, where it all changed.
I now had met a third laser technician and realized yet another unique style of laser treatment. Though, she was the most remarkable out of the 3 that I had treatments with at that point. That was because, being someone who always seeks to understand things thoroughly, I really appreciated the time that this third technician took to explain the actual technology, technique, and hair growth patterns to me.
Hair has two distinct structures – the follicle itself, which resides within the skin, and then the shaft, which is what is visible above the skin.
There are three phases within each hair follicle growth cycle.
Unlike other mammals, human hair growth cycles are random and not seasonal or cyclical. At any given time, a random number of hairs will be in one of the three stages of growth and shedding: anagen, catagen, or telogen.
Laser treatments are feasible for the hair that is within the first phase, “anagen”.
The first phase is the active growth period. Hair on the arms, legs, eyelashes, and eyebrows have a very short active growth phase that lasts about 30 to 45 days, which explains why they are so much shorter than hair on the scalp. Pubic hair and underarm hair, however, stays in this phase for about 3 to 4 months.
Furthermore, hair growth is very much determined genetically and will overall differ from person to person. Rates can also vary by age, metabolism and during times of stress.
With all of this being said, the recommended timing for laser treatments is every 6 to 8 weeks. Laser hair removal works by targeting melanin, a substance responsible for pigment in hair, that is only available in abundance during the anagen (active) phase. So this timing (every 6 to 8 weeks) is thought to be effective for catching hairs within the active phase – to then basically deactivate the follicle itself from continuing to grow hair.
At this point in my overall experience, I realized that I should start to specifically request the same technician for all subsequent treatments because consistency seemed to be needed. So I completed sessions 3, 4, and 5 with that very thorough and explanatory technician.
However, this ended up also being the time period in which my results hit a plateau. After speaking to a few peers who have also gone through LHR treatments as well, this “period of results plateau” seems to be a bit of a common theme though.
After treatments 3, 4, and 5, hair fall-out took longer to happen, there was less fall-out all together, and shaving was still needed more frequently than what was needed after treatments 1 and 2. This was a bit frustrating and disheartening to say the least. Regardless though, I religiously continued with my treatments every 6 to 8 weeks.
Treatments 6 and 7 were done by a fourth technician now since the third (enthusiastic one) to my surprise, no longer worked at the medical spa. Now this fourth technician was the most aggressive out of all the technicians. She even stated this about herself in the beginning of my first treatment with her. Also, because I was expressing my let-down feelings in regards to the plateau that I was going through with results, she said that raising the intensity level of the laser could possibly help to “catch back up”?..
Something that I have yet to mention though, is that the “Soprano Ice” laser machine is comprised of a hand piece with a cooling tip that when it touches the surface of your skin, works to cool the temperature before/after the laser beams. Priorly, I had been intermittently feeling that “icing” feeling throughout the sessions. However, for the most part of treatments 6 and 7, I did not feel that at all. I actually had to ask the technician to bring the laser level back down, because at one point, I was about to jump off the table. All of these aspects, combined with the fact that both of these treatments were a week before the start of my period, the pain level that I felt for treatments 6 and 7 was a solid 7/10! *Differing hormonal aspects, as well as increased blood flow that occurs around the timing of a menstural cycle has been reported to cause an increase in sensitivity to laser treatments.
The results that I received after these treatments (6 and 7) though, were more satisfying than my deemed “plateau period”. I had a lot more fall-out 10 days post treatment, and I only had to shave once between treatments as the hair that grew back had little to no color pigment, and was the texture of peach fuzz.
Now here we are presently, a few days after treatment number 8, which also completes one full year of laser hair removal sessions. This most recent treatment, I had to work around a specific schedule of mine, so the more agressive technician that I had for sessions 6 and 7, was not available for my appointment. At this point though, I pretty much have given up on trying to keep the same technician.
Interestingly enough, session 8 was actually a few days before the start of my period, though the technician listened to my overall story of treatments and results, and was very considerate of my pain reactions during treatment. Things were overall back to being “tolerable”, at a pain level of 4/10. Also, the physical reaction of my skin afterwards, was different than after all of my other treatments. The skin was remarkably more “puffy” and red afterwards, which I was told should be a great sign in regards to the session’s effectiveness. We shall see!
If you have made it through my entire laser hair removal testimony here, then you will understand why it is so difficult to answer when someone asks me straight-out, “is it worth it?” or, “is it working?”. Even after one FULL year, and 8 completed laser hair removal sessions, I don’t have a simple “Yes” or “No” answer to either of those questions.
Though because I have come this far, I am not going to quit now. The most common amount of treatments for results of 70-90% hair growth reduction, is 6 to 8 treatments. However, seeing that every body will respond differently, as well as the fact that each person’s biological make-up and overall health status differs – the number of treatments that it will take to see those sought-after results, can be up to 10 or more. Furthermore, each person’s desired results can vary as well. Some people will be satisfied with 70% hair growth reduction and with what does grow back being peach fuzz. Yet there will be some, like me, who desire a little more “bang for my buck” with at least 90% reduction or more, and little to no growth.
There are a few more things that I figured are worth noting to anyone who may be reading this and contemplating treatments themselves…
As of now, the most current technology, is not approved to be used on tattooed skin. For me, because one of my tattoos drops down in to my pelvic region, there is a section of about 1/2 an inch that gets taped up every time I receive treatment.
Also, I was told by a technician, that the current technology is not approved to be used on darker skin color pigments, because of the potential to burn. (However, I recently read an article that there are new systems now on the market that can be used on all skin types.)
Something else that I have thought about, is the fact that I have psoriasis. This is a chronic skin condition caused by an overactive immune system. Basically, the life cycle of my hair growth is much faster than people without psoriasis. Though I form my lifestyle around keeping most of the physical symptoms of my autoimmune conditions in check or remission, I believe that there could be an aspect to this that could affect my results from laser hair removal treatments. Who knows?
To make things even more complex, I recently learned that the human body can actually activate “new” follicles into hair growth at any point in time throughout life. Though, technically, these aren’t new follicles (because like female reproductive eggs, we are born with all of our follicles) but there can be a triggering of hair growth from follicles that were otherwise, naturally dormant. This can happen because of changes in hormone levels, like what happens during pregnancy. Other potentially activating things such as taking “hair growth” supplements as well. Now, nothing is for sure and each person will differ, but this is also why it’s difficult for some to understand that “permanent” laser hair removal, actually just means reduction and removal. (though some may get super lucky?)
Overall, if someone were to ask me for my advice now, on whether or not to invest in laser hair removal treatments; I would direct them not only to my own testimony, but also to do their own research in to the medical spas in their area, go to consult appointments and ask questions prior to making a decision, as well as to think about if they are okay with spending money and committing regular time to something that could potentially not give them the results that they desire. However, a technician also told me once that there are some individuals who indefinitely go to LHR treatment sessions with no end in sight, just to keep their hair growth at a point in which they like.
To conclude, I apologize if you began reading this article with the hopes that it would tell you that LHR was either a great investment, or just simply not worth it. But, this is my story. Stay-tuned, for perhaps my testimony will change in the future, because I do see myself completing at least 3 to 4 more sessions from here.
Thanks for Reading,