What’s your least favorite beauty chore?
If you’re like 85% of women, you probably said shaving. Yet, despite being the most dreaded task on your to-do list, 50% of women say unwanted body hair makes them feel self-conscious, less confident, or insecure.
The topic is even more on our minds as the weather warms up and hemlines get shorter. Sundresses, bikinis, and skirts are very in-fashion in the summer, which means more plucking, more waxing, more shaving, and more frustration.
Laser hair removal is a tempting option, and it’s undoubtedly an effective alternative, but there are some common misunderstandings about the process and how it works.
Before you toss out your razors or cancel your waxing appointment, learn more about how laser hair removal works and what you can expect from treatment:
What is Laser Hair Removal?
In science class, you probably learned that darker colors absorb more light and more heat than lighter colors. That’s why it’s a bad idea to sit down on black leather seats after leaving your car in the sun, but not as bad if it’s cream-colored leather.
Laser hair removal works the same way.
The laser is a light that seeks out the darker areas in your skin– specifically the melanin in your hair follicle. These hair follicles absorb more of the light energy from the laser than the surrounding areas, which destroys the hair while leaving the comparatively lighter skin intact.
Is Laser Hair Removal Painful?
Laser hair removal has gotten a pretty harsh rap for being painful, sometimes compared to getting popped with a rubber band or a bee sting.
In reality, it feels more like a warm pinprick, which some people may find uncomfortable, but not necessarily painful.
A cooling device attached to the machine or a cool gel applied to the skin helps reduce discomfort.
How Long Does It Take to See Results From Laser Hair Removal?
Unfortunately, you won’t be going home after the first session free of all your body hair woes.
Over the next 2-3 weeks following treatment, you’ll shed hair as it moves through its natural growth cycle. Most people need between 4 to 6 treatments to target each follicle in their growth stages, with touch-ups required over time.
The number of treatments you’ll need depends on several factors, such as the natural texture of your body hair, the pigmentation difference between your skin and your hair, and the length of your personal hair growth cycle.
Is Laser Hair Removal Permanent?
This is a widespread misconception about laser hair removal, but it is not a permanent solution.
It’s better to think of it as hair reduction. While it will take months, sometimes even years, your hair follicles will eventually recover and begin the hair growth cycle again.
The good news is that the hair is often lighter, softer, and more brittle, making traditional hair removal methods less of a pain.
Touch-up treatments are recommended for long-lasting results.
How Should I Prepare for Treatment?
You’ll need to avoid any other hair removal method, such as waxing, creams, or plucking, for at least four weeks before laser hair removal treatments. Shaving is totally safe, though!
Your doctor will ask that you shave each area you want to be treated no more than 24 hours before your appointment to avoid damage that can occur from hairs burning on the skin’s surface.
Avoid sun exposure as much as possible, and that includes tanning beds. Use at least an SPF30 each time you go outside, or cover the treatment areas with clothing to protect them. Not doing so can cause the lasers to overheat your skin, leading to dark marks, burns, and scarring.
Are There Any Side Effects?
Laser hair removal is safe and effective, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind following your procedure.
You cannot go out in the sun for at least two weeks after treatment for the same reason you have to be careful before treatments. Your skin is sensitive following laser hair removal and more prone to sun damage.
It is recommended that you begin treatments in the fall or winter when it’s colder outside and the sun is less harsh. That way, by summer, you don’t have to worry about overexposure, and you’ll be able to show off your smooth skin in all its gorgeous glory.