November 5, 2008

'Begin "laser" ignition sequence!'

New layout! I like redecorating.

Perusing support forums I often see women--particularly young women--asking about laser hair removal. "Should I do it?" "How much is it?" "Does it work?" There have got to be a lot of girls out there wondering what it’s like and if it’s worth the money. Now before you read this post, allow me to insist one more time that each lady is different and may get different results. It seems to depend on the root cause of your hypertrichosis. Mine is yet unknown. But hopefully my experience will help you to make a decision you can feel good about.

Now, in 2004/2005 when I finally decided to try the procedure, there weren’t any of those commercials you now see on TV. Not for hair removal. It was all scar and cellulite reduction. I originally went to my family doctor a couple of years before that and said, “Look, I’ve got this hair in places I shouldn’t. What’s up with that?” He referred me to a dermatologist, who in turn referred me to a laser clinic in the same building. A laser? For hair removal? How was that going to work?

Created by Aesthetic VideoSourceIt was a nice-looking place, almost spa-like, and the consultant was sweet and sensitive. She gave me some publications and tried to describe the process to me, and what I would be expected to do, and how it was supposed to feel. "Like an elastic snapping against your skin, at most," she said. She even offered to zap my inner elbow once so I could see what it felt like. Now, I’m terrified of needles, and her putting a mysterious machine in the same spot you get pricked for a blood test intimidated me far too much, and I gave a nervous laugh and declined. But she zapped herself in the arm like it was nothing, which heartened me. Still, I said I’d think about it.

But I was getting sick of shaving, and I was getting older. I left high school; met a guy. Well, I met a few, but one of them was particularly special. In my second year of college, I started thinking about living life as a couple--even though the relationship didn’t work out, it awakened in me the awareness of that eventuality. Was I going to have to sacrifice half an hour of each day for the rest of my life to this? Besides, how much easier would it be to tell a boyfriend about my hirsutism if I could refer to it in the past tense? I knew there were no guarantees on the permanency of laser hair removal, but I was finally willing to try.

I got another referral. I met with the same consultant. She commended me for the effectiveness of whatever hair removal method I was currently using (shaving and slathering on the make-up)--said I was very good at hiding it compared to some of the women she’d met. It was a welcome tonic, but my eyes welled at the possibility of waking up one day and not having to spend half an hour in front of a mirror shaving/bleaching/plucking before doing anything else. We went over the procedures together once more, and I booked my first appointment.

I won’t go into how laser hair removal works here, because plenty of places already do that. Like here, for instance.

There were a few stipulations before treatment. I had to avoid the sun for 4-6 weeks before and after treatment, and use a sun block of SPF 30 or higher even for short trips out of the house. I started treatments in September, so that was not a big deal, but I’m extremely fair skinned, so I wore SPF 45 all the time. Darker skinned women might have to begin a bleaching regimen 4-6 weeks before treatment can begin, which may be more of an imposition. And if I’d had cold sores, I would have also had to take a course of anti-viral pills starting the day before treatment and for one week afterward.

Also, there was to be no bleaching, plucking or waxing for six weeks prior. I was at a shaving stage of my life then, so it made no difference to me. This may freak a lot of girls out, but it’s for the best. If you remove the hair from the root or lessen its pigmentation, the laser can’t get at it to damage the hair follicle. The area to be treated had to be shaved 24 hours before treatment, and no later.

I was also told that after treatment, I could continue with my day right away. There could be some redness and swelling, but makeup could be used immediately. She recommended not using hair removal products like depilatories that could aggravate the area afterward, but I was allowed to continue my shaving regimen as normal.

I bet you’re curious how much five courses of this was supposed to cost. Keep in mind, these quotes were rough estimates, in Canadian dollars, and given to me four years ago:

Sideburns and chin: $500
Stomach: $600
Lower back: $1200

Unfortunately, those are the only quotes I have. I don’t have quotes for chest, arms, or legs written down anywhere, but assume the larger the area, the more expensive treatment becomes. Now for a girl who went right into college after high school, completely funded by scholarships and student loans, how was I intending to pay for it all? Well, having the cushion of the student loan made me feel more confident in parting with so much money all at once. I went for the sideburns and chin only, which would eat up all the money I had ever earned in my life--from baby-sitting in high school. When you’re young, $500 seems like a lot of money to pay for any one thing. That, I think, was the most difficult part of the decision.

To keep this from getting too long, next week I’ll talk about what it was like, and how well it worked.

No comments: