January 25, 2013

Vlog #2

Here it is already: the second installment of the video blog!  This time I'm talking about my first laser treatment.  No puppies though.

And if you don't wish to watch it, the topical anesthetic I am using is EMLA this time rather than Maxilene.  Maxilene was 5% lidocaine, EMLA is 2.5% lidocaine and 2.5% prilocaine.  I discovered that although EMLA is inconvenient in that you must cover the cream with an air tight bandage (ie, plastic wrap) and leave it on for 1-2 hours, the numbness lasts much longer, even increasing after you wash it off. 

The treatment itself didn't hurt as much, possibly both because of the EMLA and because I have less of that really coarse dark hair on my face now.  Additionally, the new laser machine they use ("Alex") does not require the tip to be pushed into the skin like the LightSheer diode laser they had eight years ago, so it can easily skim over your skin and treat a larger area with smaller pauses in between.  The Alex also blows cold air during the process, which almost instantly calms the pain you feel after the laser hits.

The worst of the pain was around my chin, where the worst of the hair still lives.  There, I really felt the pain surging down into each hair follicle, and smelled the burning hair, both of which are good signs, apparently.  I also heard a weird popping or crackling sound at those points, which I wasn't sure was from the laser or my hair.  When it was over, the technician wiped my chin and said some of the hairs had "popped" right out on the cloth, which was another sign of good results.  It certainly made me feel good.

My laser technician has spent ten years in aesthetic work, including laser, once owning her own clinic, so she is pretty awesome to me.  She had me out of that chair in less than half an hour.  But she seemed to fixate on the irritation of my skin when I came in, like she'd never seen razor burn before, which made me wonder if I have been doing something really wrong all this time.  Still, it didn't interfere with the treatment, and she just told me to apply Polysporin every night for the next little while to keep any infections at bay. 

That was how the topic of redheads came up; she asked if my beard was red because she couldn't tell with all the redness from the EMLA and the razor burn.  And she told me that they had found some redheaded women have less success with laser hair removal because the laser is also in the red spectrum, making it less effective against red pigments.  I don't think I've ever checked to see if there is red in my beard.  It was interesting, though.

The only new thing about the actual treatment process was that I had to sign a waiver acknowledging, among other things, that laser hair removal would not bring 100% results.  I wish I'd had that eight years ago, so I would have had the possibility of disappointment firmly in my mind.  I think they may have had some upset clients in the past?

One thing I forgot to mention in my vlog was that the technician looked me over, and said the treatment would be closer to $100 because there was more hair than the consultant had quoted.  I had wondered about that--the consultant didn't look at my hair at all.  So I wasn't surprised.  It's not a huge price difference.

So now I've got a really red chin with singed stubble sticking out in places, and the smell of burning hair is stuck in my nose.  I've engineered it so that tomorrow is a day off from work so I can give my skin a good holiday.  My next appointment is in five weeks, only because we couldn't make four weeks work for our schedules.  So look for the blog to update in the meantime! 

January 19, 2013

Introducing: The Vlog!

Ladies, I am very excited about this.  I have decided to turn my laser hair removal adventure into a little video blog.

I'm also very nervous, because this brings a whole new intimacy to the blog.  However, I've been struck time and time again by the strength of the empathy and solidarity you feel when you watch someone share their experience.  I'd like to do be able to do that for someone else.

It also gives me another place to set up my soapbox about finding out why you're hirsute before getting laser hair removal done.  You all know how much I love telling people that.

This first video is about my consultation and it also covers some of the hirsutism basics; the things I wished I knew going into laser the first time.  To make sure I covered everything, I was working off a script so I'm just a tiny bit stiff (yes, I am always to some extent stiff).  And you may want to turn up your volume; I'm a soft talker.

And excuse the shameless cuteness exploitation.  I was dog-sitting and she simply has to sit in my lap when I work.  Usually she'll just sleep there, but when she interrupted me in the middle of my sentence, I realized it would probably be the only impromptu thing to happen in the video, so I kept it.

And for those of you who can't view the video, or don't wish to watch me talk (which I totally understand; I abhor watching me talk), the consultation went fine.  I was somewhat disappointed by their lack of knowledge, which was probably my fault for having such high expectations that the clinic (which is affiliated with the dermatologist who didn't test me for anything before sending me there, as I've mentioned) would have made advancements since I last came to them.  She didn't even try to look at my face to see the hair.  But it's costing me less than $100 per treatment, a big improvement on last time.

I booked my first treatment for next week, so there'll be another video following soon.  This vlog is going to be a big job, however, so expect blog posts to be a little more scarce while this is happening.  Hopefully this new media will make up for that.

If you guys have anything you'd like me to ask the laser technician, leave a comment!  I'll need something to keep my mind off the pain...

January 9, 2013

Laser Consult Next Week!

How long have I been saying I am seriously considering trying laser hair removal again?  Last January, when I went to see the endocrinologist and decided to stay with the medication I am on right now, I knew it was probably the next step in reducing the hair I have to live with.  In August I think I was more seriously resolved, because my ovarian cysts had finally been explained to me and I could move on from that.  I seem to focus on the health concerns that worry me most, and then go down the list.  That indicates to me that hirsutism is no longer my highest concern.  That's pretty exciting on its own.

But I'd love to push it even further down the list, even if the results of laser hair removal are as temporary as last time (3-4 months, if you remember). And it will always be a lingering question in my life if I don't try again--what if the results are better on the medication?  I'll always wonder.

Funnily enough, it wasn't so much the inspiration of others' New Years Resolutions that finally urged me to make the calls, though it is that sensation of January being a "fresh start."  It's hearing about friends taking charge of their own lives and doing the things they always meant to do for themselves that is spurring me on to tackle the questions in my life.  It's getting me beyond the fear of being disappointed, the fear of pain, and the fear of cost.

So I called the same clinic I went to before.  The technician I used to see no longer works there, but they still have my life from 2004-2005, and I feel more confident using this place than trying another clinic elsewhere.  This one is connected with a team of dermatologists (even if one of them is the one who sent me right to laser instead of trying to figure out the cause of my hirsutism), and not one of the many salons that have popped up all over the place in the last several years.  You might be able to get good treatment from a salon, but I can be fairly sure a clinic like this with the backing of doctors will have the most state-of-the-art equipment and most highly trained staff.  I'll know for sure by the kind of questions they ask at my consultation.

I like to think I'm going into this with more realistic expectations.  I know what laser hair removal feels like, and I know the worst-case scenario results.  What I don't know is how much it costs now, and how well it will do this time.  So there's plenty to still be nervous about, but I also feel excited that I am finally trying it again.  I am brainstorming how to document the journey this time, so if anyone has any suggestions, or anything they would really like to see, please leave it in the comments!

January 1, 2013

What I'm Using Now

Hello and welcome to 2013 everybody!  I'm still here, and if you're not, I hope it's because you're off having fun!

The last time I did a post about my morning shaving routine was in 2010.  I don't update it much because, really, not much has changed.  I thought I'd share the subtly evolving line of products anyway, though, especially because newer readers would have to wade through over two years of posts to read about it otherwise.  So.

 Step 1:  Soften the hair and cleanse the skin.  I run very warm water over a washcloth and hold it to my face to open the pores and get the beard all soft, and rub my chin where the hairs seem to dislike standing up and are more likely to grow back into the skin again.  Then I use a Cetaphil or drug-store-equivalent gentle skin cleanser, whatever's cheapest.  I find the imitations work just as well.

Step 2:  Shave - stubbled sisters do it against the grain.  I've been using the King of Shaves Azor System Razor with Kiss My Face moisture shave.  The razor lets me have a greater range of pressure on the skin and the blades last a long time, and a small dab of the foaming gel goes a long way and is easier to come by than my other preferred mediums.  And yes, I shave against the grain.  I don't want any evidence of stubble or a shadow by afternoon.  I pay for it with a few ingrown hairs, so if that worries you, try shaving across the grain.  I finish off with the styptic pencil to stop any bleeds, and am now able to apply moitsurizer and make-up much sooner than before.  

 Step 3: Make amends with your skin.  That poor organ goes through a lot when you shave it.  Now that I've been on Spiro for a while, I don't have the same problem with oiliness that I used to, but I still like to use Aveeno's Daily Moisturizing Lotion or its less expensive imitations, all of which are light and leave no feeling of residue.  It's just enough for my face, but my chin needs a little something extra.  It's always dry and flaky after repetitive shaves.  I ran out of jojoba oil a long time ago, and man that stuff is expensive!  So I now use a tiny bit of Vitamin E oil, which promotes healing among other things, and allows make-up to sit more easily over the abused areas.

Step 4:  Cover it, girl.  I always see the stubble lying just under the skin, no matter how aggressive my technique, and then there's sometimes blemishes from ingrown hair.  I need a thick concealer, and I still use CoverGirl's Smoother because it has that extra shot of moisturizer right in the stick.  It's opaque enough to cover all but the worst spots, and I find it doesn't blob on any dry bits like other concealers do.  I also still use CG Fresh Complexion Pocket Powder even though it's designed for oily skin.  It is such a lovely fine powder.  Really, I could probably just pat a bit over my chin and neck where I have things I want to hide, but my brain still thinks I need all-over cover, even though acne is not nearly the problem it used to be.

Step 5:  At the end of the day, thank your skin again.  It's put up with your torture and carried you through the day.  I wash off all the make-up with the same gentle cleanser, and will usually gently rub with a washcloth again just to coax those hairs not to grow into the skin overnight.  My medications have really evened out my skin, so I'm not afraid to moisturize every night, now, and will often use Vitamin E oil again to encourage healing overnight, or Polysporin to prevent infection in any open cuts.  I don't even use Persa-Gel anymore, except directly on the odd pimple.

My skin does very well without the harsher cleansers or benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, thanks to the Diane and Spiro.  If I thought my face was good before, this is amazing progress.  I get compliments often.  It's funny, I really thought these chemical treatments were preventing acne, until I saw what my skin could be like with my androgen blocked.  I have to acknowledge the pills for the impact they've had on my routine.  It's nice not to have to worry about acne and oil nearly as much, and to focus on a safe, clean shave and hiding any leftover shadow.