Fun With Lasers!

The things I will do for vanity...

The things I will do for vanity…

Laser hair removal.

It was probably one of the strangest birthday gift requests that I’ve ever made. Upon discovering a Groupon-like voucher for  laser hair removal at a remarkable discount I was nearly beside myself with excitement. I was also beside myself with money anxiety at the moment because I had recently spent a day calculating the costs for attending graduate school, the short sale of our condo and travel expenses for my brother’s wedding and laser hair removal did not seem like something I could prioritize no matter how good of a deal it was.

So I added it to my birthday wish list and was blessed to receive it from my folks.

Now, my motivations for wanting laser hair removal are not strictly for the sake of my vanity: I struggle with trychotillomania which is a compulsion to pluck and pick at hairs. For some women (and men, but mostly women) this means pulling out head hairs. For me it means picking at the ingrown hairs on my legs. When I get bored or stressed my fingers start searching out bumps on my skin from ingrown hairs and once I discover such a bump I won’t be able to leave it alone. So I was anxious to give laser hair removal a try in the hopes that I could finally stop looking like a meth addict.

Yesterday was my first appointment so I drove to the La Belle Laser Hair Removal spa/clinic which was in the heart of a Korean/Chinese shopping center. On the surface it seemed just like a dentist’s office with a receptionist and a waiting area. I filled out the requisite “Please do not sue us” paperwork and was ushered into the treatment room which, likewise, seemed just like a dentist’s office except that the chair could be reclined all the way back until it was flat.

The laser technician had me remove the appropriate articles of clothing and lie on the totally-not-a-dentist’s-chair. She then put a pair of goggles filled with gauze over my eyes to protect them from the laser and then the totally-not-a-dentist’s-chair was rotated around 180 degrees. I wondered if, now that I’d been blindfolded and spun around, whether I would be expected to start yelling “Marco!” in order to find other laser treatment patients.

The rest of my experience was by sound and touch. Some kind of gel was applied (cold) and the laser treatment began. I was told beforehand that there would be a flash and that I would feel heat and “a little pinch”. The business end of the laser only seemed to cover about a square inch at a time.

“One, two, three” [beep!]

[Whirring of the laser’s cooling fan and recharging whine.]

“One, two, three” [beep!]

It didn’t hurt, exactly. Nor was it exactly a “pinch” that I was feeling so much as a series of needle-like jabs. I took this to mean that the technician had used the word “pinch” in the same way that doctors use it right before giving you a shot in the arm: you’ll feel something but it’s best if you don’t think about it being pointy.

Not that I really thought the laser was “pointy” either. Laser hair removal is supposed to work because the hairs, being darker, absorb more of the laser’s light than the skin does. So I assumed that the “points” I was feeling had something to do with the laser’s light being absorbed by hairs. What it really felt like was someone taking a toothbrush that had been in boiling water and was slapping it bristle-end first against my skin.

The treatment of the area I’d selected took about fifteen minutes in all and then the goggles were removed and I was told I could put my pants back on. I established, with a furtive glance, that I wasn’t red, blistered, or otherwise sunburned as some of the more dire side-effect warnings had cautioned me might happen. And to be fair the hair wasn’t exactly gone the way I had expected that it would be, but the treatment takes about six sessions to take full effect. It might just be a matter of time.

So that’s my adventure in hair removal. Fun with lasers!

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on July 11, 2013.

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