July 22nd 2020
The laser hair removal diaries Part 1: How does your garden grow?
August 9th 2014 / 1 comment
Ever considered zapping it all off? Anna Hunter is on a laser quest, and you’re invited to her first (and second) appointment. Don’t say we don’t treat you...
In the spirit of baring all (more of that later), I’ll let you in on a secret. I once ended up in A&E due to a wayward waxing episode involving a Latin American “therapist”, uncomfortable long-haul flight and Bank Holiday GP closure. My doctor dad happened to have worked with the medical professional on call that day. He’d been to dinner at our house quite possibly. It was a bikini wax, may I add. Not just any bikini wax; an actual accident and emergency in my nether regions. Red faces all round, and vats of hydrocortisone cream for me, not to mention lukewarm salt baths. You’ll understand that ever since then, I’ve been more than a little wary of the waxing table, and squeamish across the board concerning most depilatory methods. Venus and I are just fine thank you.
Except that, we weren’t. I hooked up with Venus most days, and while she served me well in the leg department (still does), my bikini area looked more calamity zone than clean-shaven. Redness, ingrown hairs and uncomfortable regrowth were a daily battle, and it was early this year that I decided to do something about it. While I admire those who can pluck up the chutzpah to leave well alone, and despite the “girl power” self-acceptance associated with preserving a “lovely curtain of public hair” (in the words of Cameron Diaz), au naturel wasn’t for me. Perhaps it’s easier to let it go and let it grow when you’re tanned and blonde rather than pasty pale and raven haired, but keeping the lady garden in check felt like a grooming essential for me, like covering up a raging spot with concealer or keeping the monobrow in check. I just didn’t want to have to think about it, fuss about it or endure a seemingly endless cycle of razor burn and red raw skin. Enter, the laser.
My laser quest began with an insider beauty tip-off - I was to seek the expertise of dream team hair removal sister act Sonya and Rachel Cross at their Chiswick HQ, The You Clinic. I shivered on down to their clinic one January morning to find out how this whole permanent hair removal business worked, and to test whether it would be right for me (PLEASE GOD).
For once my ghostly pallor (“enhanced” by the fact it was January) and dark, obvious body hair came in handy - I was the perfect candidate for laser hair removal. As Sonya explained, IPL laser works best on dark, thick hair and pale skin as the laser energy targets melanin, the pigment that gives skin and hair its colour. If skin is pale but hair is dark, the laser energy can target the hair follicle and destroy it safely and more efficiently. While laser hair removal isn’t out of the question for those with darker skintones or fair hair (see our Not Fair columnist’s review of the GentleLaser), results and pain involved can vary - the ideal combination is still pale skin and dark hair. Just be prepared to forfeit the fake tan and definitely don’t go near a sunbed or pool lounger pre or post laser treatment. Tan beforehand and you’ll thwart the efficacy of the laser or risk being burned as the laser would need to be on a high setting to heat and destroy the hair (Sonya simply wouldn’t treat you, but some cowboys might). Tan afterwards and the skin will be highly sensitised - you’ll risk permanent skin discolouration.
It being the bleak midwinter, and given that my particular treatment area rarely saw the light of day, this wasn’t too much of a concern, but after my test shot results proved that laser and I would get along like a house on a fire (hopefully without the burn), Sonya scheduled all of my future appointments around a hot weather holiday I was taking in June. If after I’d completed my course of laser hair removal I had a few stubbornly active hair follicles (most people have a few stragglers), I’d book in with Rachel to cauterize the blood flow to those pesky few with electrolysis, followed up with yearly maintenance laser appointments to blast any rogue regrowth.
The You Clinic offers a belt and braces approach to hair removal - Sonya and Rachel want you to be smooth and satisfied when your treatment journey comes to an end, and their priority is to get you to destination depilation safely. My initial consultation with Sonya was more in-depth and professional than many GP appointments I’ve had, taking into account my medical history, current medications and a million nervy questions. Once I’d signed on the dotted line it was goggles on, pants down, game on.
If you’re shy about revealing all to a virtual stranger, don’t be in this case, as you can tell by Sonya’s calm, chatty bedside manner and gung-ho attitude that she’s seen it ALL before. She shaved my “area” before tracing the treatment territory with pen and applying a cool, conductive gel. During the main event she talked and joked just the right amount to distract me from the hot, flicky, scorchy pain that hit every time the machine went “click”. Sonya promised me that my first treatment would be the most uncomfortable, as the hair follicles are strong and thriving. A few treatments down the line my regrowth would be much weaker, thus treatment less painful. It probably also didn’t boost my pain threshold any that I went out the night before, and was therefore tired and maybe a teeny touch hungover. It wasn’t a case of Dutch courage; it was pure stupidity in hindsight. Fatigue and fuzzy headedness does not increase one’s tolerance of pain - a cautionary tale.
Actually, I learned many a lesson from my first session. I can assure you that my second was a lot smoother and breezier, in many ways. My top tips would be:
· Don’t wear lace knickers. It’s breathable cotton all the way. Encasing your lady bits in a lace prison will only aggravate the “situation”.
· Don’t go near a gym for at least three days. Explaining my “injury” in my drill sergeant class wasn’t really an option. Chafing was the result.
· Ditto hot baths, saunas, swimming pools and clammy environments in general.
· Buy aloe vera gel. Keep it in the fridge. Apply at regular intervals.
Sonya will warn you of the above too (LISTEN), and also advise you not to remove hair in between sessions if at all possible, and if you do, just shave. Any other form of hair removal is off the cards, especially waxing, as it will rip hair out of the follicle and interfere with your course of laser treatments. The hair will begin to fall out of its own accord one to two weeks after your first laser appointment anyway. I’ve convinced my sister to follow me down laser lane, and she’s beyond pleased with the results on her underarms so far (as am I with the progress in my more delicate area), but her word of counsel on this topic would be:
“Allow a week for hair to shed before an arm-raising event.”
Otherwise, fret not and look forward to your next session, if that’s possible. It will smart less, you’ll be less of a hairy Mary by that point and the road is smooth from thereon.
Check in for the next installment of my laser hair removal diary, in which I take my bikini line on holiday, reacquaint myself with Venus and reach ingrown-free nirvana...
Treatment prices at The You Clinic
Consultation & Patch Test
30 mins – £20 (redeemable against your first treatment)
Pay in advance for five treatments and receive your sixth treatment FREE.
The list of different areas that can be treated is extensive, but here are some examples of prices per treatment:
Underarm – £75
Extended Bikini Line – £110
Lower Leg incl Knee – £185
Full Leg – £300
Packages can be negotiated. For more information call 02087422266.
I reviewed this treatment free of charge for this feature