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Beauty Wednesday: Laser Hair Removal

Laser Hair Removal Experiences | CorporetteLaser hair removal | CorporetteI’ve shared my experiences with laser hair removal — let’s hear from you guys! Those of you who had your hair removed more recently than I did, what was the experience like? How much did you pay? Has anyone tried the newer devices for removing hair at home? Reader C wonders:

I would love to see an updated blog about laser hair removal. I’ve had my underarms and bikini done with great success at a salon, and am now considering lower legs.

I’ve received two quotes from different sales: one for $1600 (8 sessions with a Lightsheer diode laser) where she notes her machine costs more than $100k and is top quality and another for $500 (3 sessions with an IPL machine – Ultra VPL) where she thinks three would get me far into the process.

I could buy a Tria Laser system for $500 and do any/all surfaces myself at home… if, of course, I get results. Has anyone had good/bad experience with the Tria? It seems to be the most popular at-home system, but I’m open to other recommendations too.

Great question, C. For my $.02, I’m THRILLED I had my underarms and lower legs done about six or seven years ago at Beam Laser Spa in NYC — even though I’ve missed laser hair removal touchups over the years because I’ve been nursing or pregnant, my lower legs and underarms are pretty much a non-issue for me in terms of maintenance. As I mentioned in my original post, though, in a very un-Kat-like move I did zero research on the procedure, the laser spa, the equipment, etc. (I decided to buy a package on a whim after a beauty blogger I read recommended Beam and noted that they were having a sale.) So for those of you who DID do research and make more educated decisions, what did you discover and decide — and how did that work out?

(Pictured: Happy legs, originally uploaded to Flickr by Shawn Rossi.)

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Comments

  1. Cornellian :

    I went to a place to consider having bikini line/underarms done, and they said I wasn’t a candidate because my hair was too light. It was nice that they were honest, but I was surprised. For the record, I’m sort of a dark blonde/light brown with some auburn/red, and not a white blonde or anything like that.

    I did a few electrolysis sessions, but they were agony, and I stopped.

    • What celebrity has your color hair? Trying to gague whether I’ll have the same problem and it sounds like we have the same hair color.

  2. Kinda On Topic? :

    Anyone done laser stretch mark removal? I have them all over my belly from getting fat and they’re honestly the only thing I hate about my body. Red and angry looking, and I’m allergic to Mederma so cream isn’t an option.

    • Try a lotion or cream that you’re not allergic to. Even if it’s not designed to remove marks, just massaging the area can help marks fade. A lot of the effects of scar removal creams are due to rubbing in the cream, not the actual ingredients.

    • Try vitamin E liquid capsules – just poke a hole in them and apply. It’s thick and disgusting, but it works. I’ve had limited success with basic cocoa butter. Both options were for surgery scars, not stretch marks – YMMV.

  3. West Coast Lawyer :

    I did 5 sessions of underarms, bikini and lower legs for about $3000-3500 (I don’t remember the exact amount, but I paid for the bikini and legs and they threw the underarms in for free). I was so excited at the possibility of never shaving again (or even just picking up some strays here and there) but I’ve been really underwhelmed with the results. I was told I was an ideal candidate (very fair skinned with dark hair) and had it done in the cosmetic surgery group for my healthcare provider, who I assume is pretty reputable.

    I’ve noticed substantial (but not nearly total) hair removal at the bikini line – as in I’ll still probably wax 1-2 times per summer or just shave before I hit the beach. I still shave my legs 1x week on the weekends (and sometimes twice if I’m wearing a dress or skirt to work later in the week). Oddly, my underarms seem to have more hair than before. I’m curious as to whether anyone else has been totally underwhelmed with laser hair removal and has had anything else work better for them.

    Also, ouch! It hurt way more than I expected. I had heard it’s like being repeatedly snapped with a rubber band, but it felt more like being repeatedly stuck with a needle.

  4. Anyone have any luck/suggestions in DC?

    • I have an appointment for a consultation coming up at Washington Laser Institute. I will report back!

    • I will say this, I went to one of those med-spa places (reveal they’re closed now) and got second degree burns. After that, I would only be willing to go to a derm.

    • I’ve done legs, bikini and lower legs in DC, all at different places using Groupons. I read Yelp reviews and only went to reputable places.

      • I’m considering doing similar Bonnie and would love to hear your experiences at the places you have visited if you care to share.

    • Anonymous :

      http://www.capitallaser.net/index.shtml

      I went here a few years ago, and results are not perfect but it was a great price and I felt like the staff was very knowledgeable. Open weekends, which saved me because I didn’t work/live near Rosslyn and I found I had to wait a long time for my appointment on a few occasions.

    • I went to the Aveda on 14th Street NW in DC for a touch up earlier this year. The prices were expensive if you don’t catch a special (I managed to grab a groupon)- but I had a great experience and would definitely go back.

    • Anonymous :

      I go to a place called Lumiere Skin and Laser in McClean, VA (about 30 minutes outside of D.C.). I would highly recommend them. I paid $500 per visit for FULL BODY – underarms, full legs, full arms, stomach, bikini, tush, breasts, neck, and full face. (I am basically hairy as a monkey). No Groupon. That’s their going rate. I did six sessions last year, each about 4-6 weeks apart. It was a big improvement. I have almost no body hair in those areas now. Because the hair on my face is much finer, not too much of a drastic change there. I have dark coarse hair with a medium brown skin tone so that may have a lot to do with why it worked so well on my body. Since my first six sessions, I go once about 3 to 4 months for touch ups. A full session is about an hour long so getting laser hair removal has saved me so much time overall and I am very satisfied with the results. I have shaved 3x in all of 2014 and 2 of those times was to prep for the sessions. The staff is friendly and efficient, and the office is kept clean.

    • jumpingjack :

      I’ve gone to Azure Dream Day Spa, in Courthouse, and been very happy. Before that I went to Medical Cosmetic Enhancements, at 24th and M, which was just ok.
      .
      I’ve gotten bikini and full leg, and some sessions on underarms. I have light-ish skin and very dark hair. I’ve been extremely happy with the results. I used to have to shave my legs every other day to get them actually smooth. Now I barely have to shave once a week (and then only if I care what they feel like, the remaining hair is virtually invisible to the eye). I had six sessions plus one touch up on my legs.

  5. DIY options :

    I was going to post about at home recommendations for hair removal, so this is quite timely. I am also interested in hearing more about the Tria Laser, or any other home electrolysis or laser options. How did you decide what to buy? How well did it work? How painful? TIA!

  6. I’m in the process of lasering my underarms and plan on doing full leg and maybe bikini line next. Best thing ever! I bought a groupon for $100 for 6 sessions, but I did my research to make sure that the place was reputable and had good reviews. It’s very basic, but it gets the job done. I am a black woman somewhere between Beyonce and Mindy Kaling in complexion, so they use a yag laser. It’s quick, easy, and after only 3 sessions I can go weeks without shaving! It hurts sometimes, but it’s not bad. I highly recommend it!

  7. I purchased the Silk n’ Flash & Go system (larger treatment surface than Tria) and after I think 4 treatments on legs & underarms didn’t really see much result. In fact I was just thinking of eBaying it. It was pretty easy to use though, and not painful.

    • I wish those things worked. I am not about to spend the cash on having it done by a pro.

    • Anon because I'm hairy. :

      I have it. I used it a lot – probably more frequently than recommended by the directions. But, I found that it worked well on my belly, soft parts of my chest (a few weird errant hairs which have not returned), face, and to some degree, underarms. Armpits still have hair but a lot less and it grows back a lot slower. YMMV. I am very fair and have dark hair. I did many spots multiple times to try to get the hair at various growth cycles. I am happy with the results.

  8. Rachelellen :

    I had 5 sessions about 7-8 years ago, bikini line. It got rid of perhaps 80% of the hair. I used a Lifebooker coupon to have a touch-up some time later, and saw no improvement. That time, the technician told me to tell her how much it was hurting and she’d go no further… which i suspect is why the treatment didn’t seem to do much.

    I found the pain tolerable. It’s a dull pain, not sharp…. I think that’s what is meant by rubber bands snapping. And I think it’s pretty well known that underarms are the most painful area to do.

    • Wanderlust :

      I did 5 sessions of underarms about two years ago, through my dermatologist’s office. It was so, so painful. At times it felt like I was being punched hard in the side b00b.

      I definitely had to shave LESS after the process, but it didn’t entirely remove the hair. For reference I am very pale with dark underarm hair.

  9. Anonymous :

    I bought a deal for $100 for 6 sessions on my underarms (defined as a “small” area by this place–I’ve seen others define underarms as a medium area for their deals), and with a Living Social 15% off promo it came out to $85. I have very fair skin and dark brown or black underarm hair, so I was a really good candidate. Like Em, I did my research on the place offering the deal–there are usually 3-4 deals on both Groupon and LS at any given time, and I filtered out the ones that had poor reviews and chose mine because it had outstanding reviews and the receptionist was very friendly and informative when I called to check it out.

    I did not think the first session hurt at all. The burnt hair smelled a little gross, but I was not uncomfortable at all and had no redness or pain afterwards. I had really great results beginning two or three weeks after just one session (the hair was so sparse that I was only shaving about once every week or two, when I used to shave every day) that I decided to also do a bikini package.

    The bikini package was $400 for 6 sessions (this is a Brazilian package, not sure if straight bikini is cheaper). You can generally find deals for this area for about $200, but I wasn’t eligible to use the deal site promos at my place because I was not a new customer. I decided that I had a good enough experience there and it was a sensitive enough area that I was willing to pay a little more than try out another place on a deal.

    I think they may have turned up the laser after the first session went well with no redness, because the second time did sting a little on my underarms, and certain areas of the bikini definitely made me cringe, but only for a second. They were out of ice that day so the higher sting feeling may have just been from not having that instant cold ice towel applied after each zap.

    Their laser is the Candela GentleLase (I may not have that name exactly right, but close enough). The tech said she’d worked at other places and liked this laser the best, but equally important was how often it was maintained. If the laser isn’t maintained regularly, it loses its strength and won’t be as effective. She also said that IPL is not great for hair removal–it’s used by doctor offices because it is a sort of all-in-one machine that lowers the investment for performing lots of different procedures, but it’s a “jack of all trades and master of none” situation. The IPL machine will often require much more than 6 sessions, and after the initial deal of $99 for 6, it can get a lot steeper. (I was already in the door and paid, but I imagine at least some of that may be her default sales pitch, so take it FWIW).

  10. Anon for this :

    I’m having the treatment tomorrow actually on my bikini and underarms. Mine is a bit unique as I’m having it to treat a medical condition rather than to obtain hair removal. A pleasant side effect will be hair removal. I have the option of using a numbing cream beforehand. Anyone try that?

    On the odd chance someone else had it done to treat HS, let me know how it worked out!

  11. Electrolysis :

    I am fair with dark hair. Laser worked OK on arms (reduction but not elimination, but in the realm of acceptable in the southeast) and legs (maybe shave weekly b/c the stragglers can be very dark / long, like a boy going through puberty).

    But I am in my 40s and the dark facial hair has not really yielded to laser. Like 2x attempts. Either I’m growing new hairs (likely for some) or they aren’t coarse enough (thank g-d). But electrolysis is working well for me (bonus: less painful, not smelly, less expensive, and I can go straight back to work without looking like something weird is going on with my face). I think that electrolysis seems hopelessly old-school compared to the pretty marble medi-spa places that do laser, but it has been the only thing that works. I’m not sure I could deal with it on an area as large as legs (or as personal as the bikini area), but I did not want to be the Bearded Lady any more (which would probably get worse as I got older).

    • fellow bearded-lady :

      Co-signed. I thought lasers would be the answer for my dark facial hair, especially because I’m pretty fair skinned. Frankly it had almost no effect. Electroysis is working like a charm though!

    • This is really interesting. I have been seriously thinking about getting my eyebrows done for a while – dark hair, olive skin.

      • Electrolysis :

        I think it will work for you. Electricity knows no colors, the nice lady tells me. :)

        Although IDK about eyebrows. Maybe if they are all over the place / unibrow? But I don’t know if they do cosmetic sculpting of eyebrows. But complexion won’t be the limiting factor (maybe the person being worried about sour graps if you don’t like the shape in 5 years or reluctance b/c eyebrows thin with age [at least mine have, and the ones that are left can bush out — it is a lot of work being a lady!]).

  12. Great topic. I am constantly debating this one. I have dark hair and am fair so if I don’t shave it’s very noticeable. In the summer, I’d say I shave every other day and I’ve realized that the days that I don’t shave I am so happy in the morning. Like, I wake up and I think, “ooh, quick shower today! Yay!” I’m thinking even at $1600 it’d be worth it to have that happy feeling all the time, no? Also, I have these tiny little red dots on my legs even if I do shave which I absolutely detest and according to my dermatologist laser is pretty much the only solution, so that’s another in the plus column. But then I think, what if it turns out that it’s horribly bad for you some years down the line? Or, what if it doesn’t work and then I am out so much time and money? Plus, it’s such a long process…. Decisions, decisions!

    • Dark hair, fair skin, and got the little red dots after shaving, too. I paid about $650 for a package of 12ish sessions for my lower legs back in 2008, when the economy was cratering. I am very, very happy with the results. No more red dots! No more Richard Nixon legs (I pretty much got a 5 o’clock shadow on my legs)! I used EMLA so it wasn’t as painful, without the EMLA, I did find it kind of painful.

      I never went in for touch-ups, and now, 6 years later, I do shave about once a week, but pretty half-heartedly. Hairs grow, but they are so much finer and lighter that they’re nowhere near as noticeable as before. Also, I would get pretty intense itching on my legs in the winter that lotion did not seem to help, and that’s gone away, too.

      So yeah, I’m a fan. I don’t think the place I went to was that great (I usually had early appointments and a couple of times I waited 45+ minutes for the technician to show up), but they did seem to mostly employ nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants (I know there is a difference, just can’t remember which ones were there) and they seemed knowledgeable and would ask if I’d had sun exposure, taken antibiotics, etc. I think the place has gone out of business, though.

      • Anon for this :

        I thought the sun exposure issue was after. Are you not supposed to have sun exposure before too? I just got back from vacation.

        • Sun exposure should be minimized before treatment. The reason is the energy of the laser is attracted to the pigment in the hair, but if your skin is darkened from a tan, more of the lasers energy will be absorbed by the skin. This absorption of energy into the skin causes discomfort, so it’s best avoided. As to minimize the chances of burning the skin, a highly trained provider will likely have to reduce the energy from the laser, as to not burn your skin. All in all, please avoid the sun before treatment!

          Sincerely,
          Evan Frangos
          Ideal Image
          1-800-BE-IDEAL

      • Wow, thanks! That sounds a-mazing. The red dots are so dreadful because no matter how well I shave or moisturizer, there they are. And yes to the Richard Nixon shadow. You may have just swayed me.

  13. Oh man, I think about doing this all the time. Does anybody have a place they would recommend in Los Angeles, preferably on the westside (Santa Monica, Culver City, etc.)?

    • westsideaesthetics.com – ask for an appt with Stephanie.

    • Dr. Tattoff on Wilshire at La Cienega! Can’t say enough good things about this place. (Even sent my brother there to take care of some back hair he was self-conscious about..we come from hairy stock.) All of the technicians are registered nurses, it’s absolutely clean and comfortable, and their lasers are state of the art and relatively painless. Their packages come with free touch ups for six months after you complete your sessions.

      Totally worth the money.

      • Anonymous :

        Good point about technicians being nurses – be careful that who you choose are properly licensed and medically supervised to do the procedure.

    • Thank you for these suggestions!!

  14. Lorelai Gilmore :

    I am theoretically a good candidate (dark hair, pale skin) but Tria has been completely useless for me, both on legs and facial hair. Huge waste of money.

  15. Permanent hair removal sounds tempting, but I’m a wimp and would never volunteer for pain for a cosmetic reason. So I’ll probably be stuck shaving the rest of my life.

  16. First I tried Silk’n’s Flash N Go at home tool. A friend uses it and loves the results – but her hair is a bit finer than mine. It is uncomfortable, but isn’t painful, but I don’t have the guts to turn it up past level 2 (there are 3 levels).

    I ultimately decided to get it professionally done at a cosmetic surgeon’s med spa. They are one of the few places in So. Cal. with the Soprano laser. Which is PAINLESS. Unlike the IPL which uses a single “flash” (which feels like a rubber band being snapped against you – I’ve tried that too), the Soprano is constantly “flickering” and is always in motion – like being “rubbed” on your skin. It creates a “prickly,” but not painful sensation. The first treatment eliminated about 98% of hair – it literally just all fell out. I’ve signed up for 6 treatments (to get all of the “batches”) of hair then anticipate going for semi-annual touchups. I’ve also heard that the Silk’n tool is good for at home touchups.

  17. Mommy Monster :

    I’ll play: Indian, with medium complexion/dark hair – more similar to Freida Pinto than Mindy Kaling. I had/have coarse, dark hair, and did two separate bouts of hair removal: first on my face/underarms/bikini line a few years ago (Candela GentleLase, maybe), and then in the last year on my full legs (using the YAG).

    From the first round, it took a lot more than 6 sessions to get rid of my “sideburns” and other facial hair, but it’s mostly gone or finer now, except from a few pregnancy stragglers. I can pluck or thread them off myself now and am generally happy with the results. It didn’t really work on my upper lip, which I now thread myself every other week. The best results were on my underarms, though, where I saw major results after the second session. No more ingrown hairs from waxing!

    This latest bout for my legs was a 6-session Groupon “large-area” package for about $300-400. Again, not perfect, but a major improvement. I can shave once a week and wear skirts/dresses whenever I want now, whereas before I couldn’t unless I shaved that morning. Also the roots show less through the translucent layer of my skin, which used to make it look like I hadn’t shaved when I actually had. I will note that they raised the intensity of the laser each session, so while it didn’t hurt much the first time, by session 3 or 4 I could definitely feel each zap. For the price (equivalent to half a year’s worth of full-leg waxes) and the convenience of getting to wear what I want whenever, I’m really happy with the results.

    The next time this place has a sale (the fall) I’m going to buy a package to do my full arms, too.

  18. LondonLeisureYear :

    I got laser done while in Palo Alto, CA. I had 7 sessions done, but was bad and did like 4 and then stopped for months and then did 3 more. I had lower leg, arm pits, and full Brazilian. I don’t think I will ever be able to totally give up shaving however, I can go 2 weeks with the arm pits without carrying, a good week and a half on the bottom legs, etc. I used to have to shave daily and the moment I got goose bumps a good shave was just ruined. I also got horrible. horrible infected ingrown hairs. I found my experience really varied with which person was working on me. Some would be super careful to do each spot, some would throw in extra treatments of areas, some would up the level a bit more (which I think is more effective), etc. I had a woman I LOVED at for the first 3 treatments, she ended up moving, so got a person I hated which is why I stopped for a few months, then I went back and for the last 2 treatments found someone I liked again. I want to go back and do my upper leg, big toes, and do touch ups.

  19. I’m surprised that people are doing this on their arms. Is there a cultural expectation in some places that arms be hair-free? I live in the southern US, and it has never occurred to me to worry about the hair on my arms. I fair, and the hair on my arms isn’t invisible, but it doesn’t seem to dark or heavy to me (unlike the hair pretty much everywhere else, which is dark, stiff, and fast-growing – I can relate to 5 o’clock leg shadow).

    Wondering if people are side-eyeing my arms all the time and I’m clueless…

  20. Student4life :

    I recently finished 6 sessions of laser hair removal for my underarms. I paid $1,000 (a discount of $200 for purchasing a 6- session package) and had it done by an ARNP at a local dermatology practice in South FL. I did some research and while many laser spa’s in this area offered Groupons and other deals at 1/3 or less cost, I felt it was worth the extra money to have it done in a clinical environment by a master’s level nurse. They used a Candela Gentle Max Laser which is the latest and greatest in laser hair removal. It does hurt a little more than I expected, but the pain is short-lived, especially when treating a small area. I also didn’t love the fact that it took 6 months to finish the treatments, but it’s the only way to get all the hair zapped in the various growth cycles. Make sure you schedule your treatments every 4-5 weeks, no less and no more for best results. I’m super happy with my results-smooth, hairless underarms, yay! I am fair skinned with brown hair and was told I was a perfect candidate, though the Candela Gentle Max laser machine can be adjusted for different skin and hair tones. I’m thinking of doing my bikini line next.

  21. Chi-town Lawyer :

    I have light skin with dark hair and elected to go the Tria route. Between a demanding job and having a little one at home, I decided I wanted to try hair removal on my time.

    I have tried Tria on my underarms, bikini line and legs. Does it hurt? Yes. But it’s not awful. The higher the intensity, the better the result so I have learned to suck it up a bit. Does it work? Yes, but the process is slow. The directions suggest lasering an area every other week for best results. I have tried to keep to that schedule and I have noticed significantly less hair growth (and lighter, less coarse hair) since I have been using my Tria. Before the Tria, I was the person who shaved in the morning before work and halfway through the day, I already had stubble. The Tria has reduced this significantly — especially in the underarm area which I especially appreciate in the summer. I have noticed, however, that if I skip a session or two, the hair starts to come in darker again so I have really had to push myself to keep up with the every other week treatments.

    I think if I had more time, I would have had laser hair removal done by a professional but still purchased the Tria for at-home touch ups.

  22. I’ve had three sessions so far for my full legs, bikini area, and under arms (I plan to complete a minimum of six sessions total and see what kind of results I receive at that point). I’m not sure about exact pricing and I didn’t have to research it, as it was a generous graduation gift from my MIL who had hers done about 8 years ago by the same RN.

    I do know they use a Vectus diode laser, which is apparently an improvement upon their previous machine as it is way faster (they say only 30mins for a full body?) and hurts less, but my MIL only shaves her legs about twice per month to pick up straggler hairs and shaves her underarms about once a month – something I’m very much looking forward to! She says she didn’t have permanent results with her bikini line, but the hair is thinner overall and she doesn’t have to shave as frequently as she would otherwise.

    I find that the pain varies for me depending on the session (at best, I don’t feel it at all and at worst, it’s like a rubber band snapping on a tender area) – the RN said it likely has to do with where I’m at in my hair growth cycle, but they have this cooling roller thingy(?) that they roll over your skin before and after which greatly reduces discomfort IMO. I’ve been going every 4-8 weeks per their recommendation as that is generally long enough to complete each hair growth cycle (I believe she said there are 3 growth cycles and it is best to zap each one multiple times for lasting results). About a week or two after each treatment, the hair has completely fallen out (I believe it’s the end of that cycle when this happens?) and my hair is much thinner now on my legs and underarms (tbd for bikini area still), so if those serve as my ‘preview,’ I am so excited to see the more permanent results because it’s a huge time saver!

    Oh, I have medium skin (tans in summer, but not uber pale in winter) with medium-brown hair and dark-colored body hair.

  23. When you factor in the cost of razors plus the time you spend shaving or waxing, laser hair removal is absolutely the best way to go!

  24. I know this thread is old but I’m commenting here in case anyone else uses it for reference like I did now when trying to make my decision.

    I’m in Washington DC. I asked my dermatologist for a recommendation. DC is unregulated for laser hair removal (which is why you can get the cheap Groupon deals) so she recommended Melda Isaacs, MD. There is a dermatologist there in case anything goes wrong, but a technician did my procedure. I went in for a free consultation before deciding to book the appointments. I am paying $1,000 for 6 sessions 4 weeks apart for underarms. The numbing cream takes 20 minutes (you can read a book while waiting) but then the actual laser part is one minute per underarm. You wear safety glasses which were rose-colored and I wanted to keep them ;) It felt exactly like snapping rubber bands to me–not that I’ve even snapped a rubber band recently, but it totally felt like that. No pain really since I had the numbing cream. There was a very slight burning hair smell but it didn’t bother me at all. I’ve only been for 1 of 6 treatments but it was a fantastic experience. I can’t believe I waited this long! If you know you want to do it, go for it!

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