I wish I had invested in laser hair removal from day one. Read on if you are very hairy, or very vain, a beauty junkie or, all of the above, like me. Just kidding – but not really…
A lifetime of waxing costs about the same as a series of laser treatments. Granted you have to come up with the series of payments over a time span of 6 months to 1 year, but, in my book, no more ingrown hairs EVER is priceless.
Thick hair growth on my arms legs stomach, upper lip, and sideburns is something I’ve been contending with since high school. (Please, don’t even get me started on the dreaded menopause whiskers cropping up under my chin. Could nature be so cruel as to let those become a beard?) What perplexes a girl, vexes a woman. I’ve been waging follicular warfare for 33 years against perpetually hairy parts of my anatomy.
At 53 years old I decided to take the nuclear option against painful ingrown hairs that almost without fail crop up post waxing leaving the back of my calves covered with red ugly bumps and the back of my thighs dotted with purple spots from deeply entrenched ingrowns requiring long sessions with needle nose tweezers, daily scrubs in the shower and a cult-like devotion to swabbing my legs with TendSkin (an effective, yet stinky OTC potion) to reduce ingrowns.
Then, after all my efforts for smooth hairless legs, I’d end up wearing pants to hide the ingrowns. In my long modeling career I’ve been in the embarrassing situation of having to dry shave my legs and abdomen while I was standing on the set, the clock ticking and the crew waiting for me to finish, because I was in between waxing sessions and fuzz was visible. Seriously. Not. Cool. Worst of all, emergency shaves caused stubble ingrowns and even thicker regrowth – can you say time and money down the drain.
Why did I wait so long to go laser? Well, I witnessed some bad results on dark skin when the procedure was first introduced 20 some years ago I’m talking like brown girls with white polka dot marks along the bikini line and thighs – that would take YEARS to fade, or worse, not disappear if at all. When I saw that happen to my friends I was like… No way. No thank you. No how. Plus, it was expensive back in the day and it’s still pricey now. Either in a physician’s office or done by an aesthetician at a beauty spa you’re going to part with anywhere from $70.00 at the low end, to $180.00 at the higher end, to have your body waxed as smooth and clean as a baby’s butt.
In high school, I wanted to start waxing to lessen the crops of hair growth flourishing on my legs and stomach. My mother would not allow chemical hair removers to be used on my developing body. Salon waxing was out of reach on my salary from babysitting and working at the ice cream shop. DIY waxing is a very messy undertaking that can go very wrong if you don’t have a waxing buddy to help you or if you have curly/ kinky hair. Did that stop me – hell no! Waxing at home on my own I ended up pulling my skin off, getting wax stuck in places I couldn’t see and worst of all, afterward being left with a minefield of red angry ingrown hair bumps caused by breaking the hair off at its roots.
I’ve been professionally waxed by the best of the best everywhere in the world, and if you have thin straight hair and can deal with the pain of waxing it’s an excellent hair removal option for a lot of women. But if you’re talking wooly mammoth time like me you’ll on get a week at best of smooth legs and then stuck in a no-go zone for skirts or shorts while the hairy bumps reclaim their territory. Laser hair removal had now become my final resort
New York based triple board-certified dermatologist dermatologic surgeon, Dr. Michelle Henry, (full disclosure she’s my weekend workout buddy) convinced me that laser was a great option for permanent hair removal on darker skin. Dr. Henry told me, “Of all the things I’ve done,’ she said, referring to the fact that dermatologists try nearly every treatment that they offer on themselves first before introducing it into their practice, ‘laser hair removal is the best present I’ve ever given myself.” This sounded so promising, but I had questions for Dr. Henry before I decided to take the plunge. Here are her answers:
WOTF: Who is the ideal candidate for laser hair removal?
Dr. Henry: “Anyone with dark hair is a candidate. Patients who have blonde or gray hair in the areas targeted for laser removal are not candidates for the procedure. The laser is targeting melanin. Both dark hair and dark skin are packed with melanin. This can confuse the laser. The ideal candidates for laser hair removal are those that have light skin and dark hair. However, there are lasers that are better at bypassing the melanin in the epidermis (superficial skin) and penetrate to the follicle to effectively treat the hair without damaging the skin.”
WOTF: Should anyone avoid laser or only have the procedure done in a physician’s office?
“I strongly believe that laser should be performed by a board-certified dermatologist that truly understands interactions between lasers and the skin. I have treated severe burn complications from laser treatments done by under experienced persons.”
WOTF: Are there particular skin tones that need special attention or differentiated lasers?
Dr.H:“Dark-skinned patients need special attention as they are the most vulnerable to burns.”
WOTF: Which lasers do you most highly recommend?
Dr. H:“I typically use a 1064 Nd:YAG for patients with dark skin and a diode or alexandrite laser for those with lighter skin.”
WOTF: Typically, how many treatments does it take to see a result and how many to complete cycle?
Dr.H: “Patients usually see results after the first treatment. It takes anywhere for 5-8 treatments depending on the area treated for permanent results.”
WOTF: Are there any side effects? Does laser hair removal change the rules for sun exposure?
Dr. H: “Typically, there are no side effects beyond slight redness post procedure. However, if the settings are incorrect, burns are the largest risk. Because darker skin is more at risk, it is very important that patient avoid tanning or excessive sun exposure for 7-10 days post-treatment to protect the area from potentially developing hyperpigmentation or dark spots.”
WOTF: Will laser hair removal stop ingrown hairs from returning?
Dr. H:“Yes. If the hair is removed, ingrown hairs will not form. It’s a great option for men prone to ingrown hairs from shaving their beards and mustaches.”
WOTF: What do you recommend for women wanting to remove hair from areas like the upper lip and sideburns?
Dr. H: “Laser Hair Removal is great for those areas as well. In many ways, I feel that it is safer than a lifetime of waxing or shaving and less expensive.”
WOTF: Are there any unusual or “off-label” uses for laser hair removal?
Dr.H: Some balding men, tired of shaving will request that I remove all of the hair on their scalp. The Nd;YAG laser can also be used to treat toenail fungus. “Laser toning is also used to improve the skin tone.”
I’m happy to report that after 4 treatments in the space of as many months, waxing shaving and ingrown hairs are no longer a factor in my life. The dark marks on the back of my thighs have become extinct. The treatment is painless in a physician’s office because lidocaine cream is applied to the areas to be treated 30 mins prior to the procedure, hence the plastic wrap on my legs and the laser feels like quick strong bursts of air hitting your legs.
Aftercare is simple, a little hydrocortisone cream rubbed on the treated area once a day for up to 2 days to reduce redness. For re-growth in between monthly laser sessions, you have to shave. No depilatory creams or waxing allowed. “The follicle has to remain intact under the skin in order for the laser to detect it – chemical hair removers and waxing removes the follicles rendering the laser useless” advises Dr. Henry.
Echoing the earlier sentiments of the good doctor, laser hair removal is one of the best cosmetic procedures I’ve ever done for myself. Having the freedom not to have to be conscious on a daily basis of the need to wax or shave my legs, also being liberated from the tyranny of ingrown hairs; it’s up there with botox and that’s saying something.
Ok, so what’s it cost? Initial consultation with the doctor is $450.00. Full leg $1,440 and full bikini is $600.00. That’s less than I’ve spent on waxing in the last 2 consecutive years, we’re talking New York City prices here by the way. Comparatively, National chains like Laser Away offer the service at a price of approximately $99.00 – $599.00 per treatment depending on the area which rings up at around $1,794.00.
If you want to book an appointment with Dr.Henry at New York Laser Skin Surgery Center of New York you’re looking at a wait of up to 30 days for her busy practice, where you can address every issue concerning both skin health and cosmetic procedures. Tel (212) 686-7306.
story x @veronicawebb
photos x @cwxcreative
makeup x @marc_cornwall
smooth legs x @drmichellehenry