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The case for laser hair removal
Admittedly, it took a while for me to get on board with laser hair removal. Whenever someone suggested it, I pictured an intense stream of lightsaber-esque light, moving back and forth over and over again, burning off hairs one by one—no thanks. Besides, I was happy enough with my once-a-month waxing services, a standing appointment I’d had in every city I’ve lived in for the past decade.
But when The Ten Spot, a Toronto-based chain of beauty bars that recently added laser to its list of hair removal services, offered me the chance to try it out last November, I agreed for the sake of hair removal equality.
In the dregs of winter, hair removal isn’t exactly top of mind. But if you’re considering laser, a permanent solution to all hair-removal woes, then it should be, because the first rule of laser treatments is to stay out of the sun.
Laser makes skin more sensitive to sunlight, and you shouldn’t have the treatment done if you are tanned or sunburned. “The Skintel, a melanin reader, won’t read the pigment properly,” says Holly Sanderson, an aesthetics expert with The Ten Spot. “It will read darker, so you’re going to be treated at a different setting.” Worst case scenario, you could incur burns.
Make sure to have multiple pigment readings done of the area you want treated, especially for Brazilian laser services (because melanin is often different on the labia), says Sanderson.
Also worth noting: Pre-laser, you need to shave hair, which preserves the follicle. (Waxing and tweezing pull hair out, so there is nothing for the laser to destroy.) Which brings me to the second rule of laser hair removal: shave the area you’re having treated the day before your treatment—it will give any razor burn time or irritation time to calm down.
In swimsuit season, this process is not ideal. But when there are layers of clothing between potential bumps and the world? Parfait.
Image by: The Ten Spot
It takes between four and six treatments to see an entirely hair-free area. “Everyone needs a minimum of four treatments,” says Sanderson. “The are three stages of hair growth, and only in one of those stages can we remove the hair for good.” There’s no way of knowing what stage each hair is in, which is why multiple services are recommended, each four weeks apart.
Here’s how an appointment goes down: The Ten Spot uses the Vectus laser from Cynosure, which is able to treat all skin and hair types (except for gray hair, because it contains no pigment and there is nothing for the laser to target) so there is no consultation appointment needed. The technician inputs your hair type (fine, coarse) and colour (blonde, brown, red, black), as well as the density of the hair into your machine.
The area to be lasered is outlined on the skin with a white eyeliner pencil (very similar to how brows are outlined before they are waxed) and glycerin water is applied to the skin, which acts as carrier for the laser. Both the patient and the technician put on protective glasses, and you’re ready to go.
To address the question everyone wants to know the answer to: the pain is totally tolerable. If you get regular Brazilians, this will be a breeze. If you have waxed any body part before, you can handle this. If you’ve snapped an elastic band on your wrist (the sensation I think is most similar to the flash of the laser) and survived, you’re good to go. Beyond that, you should know it does feel quite warm at times, however the Vectus has a built-in cooling system that works before, during and after the treatment to help with that.
I will say, the first session is the easiest, pain-wise. It gets progressively more uncomfortable each treatment (but again, it’s never unmanageable). “When you have a lot of hair, the energy isn’t going to be as strong because the follicles are right next to each other,” explains Sanderson. “As the hairs are more spread out, the intensity has to be higher to find the hairs.” You can apply a numbing cream, but, in my opinion it’s not worth the annoyance (it needs to sit for at least 45 minutes before the treatment to be effective).
Five treatments later, I’m a laser convert. My only regret is not starting sooner.
A version of this article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of ELLE Canada.