Everything You Need to Know About Laser Hair Removal
Summer is knocking on the door, ladies. Truth is, warmer days and bare-skin season will be here in a flash. If you’re in the middle of prepping your skin for bathing suit and shorts weather, consider adding hair removal to your process. Since sun exposure is a big no-no if you’re on a laser hair removal regimen, now’s the time to do it. Whether you’re zapping the fuzz at home or considering seeing a pro, there are some basics to keep in mind. Three hair removal experts break down everything that you should know to achieve head-to-toe smooth within the next few weeks.
1. Not all devices are created equal. “The main difference [between pro and at-home lasers] is that the robustness or the strength of the treatments vary greatly,” says Andréa and Liza Young, co-owners of Beam Laser Spa in New York City. It is unlikely that the FDA would allow at-home devices to pack as large a punch as professional lasers, for obvious safety reasons. At-home devices are a solid option if you’re looking to treat a smaller area like under arms, if you have more time to spend on treatments, or if you’re looking to save some money. Just keep in mind that DIY results may not last as long as professional.
2. Spot size is significant. A big discrepancy in treatment options is the spot size, the area the laser covers at every pulse. Pro lasers utilize the largest spot size in the industry currently, almost double the size of a quarter. “At-home devices have much smaller spot sizes, which would mean longer treatment times to cover the same area,” the Beam team explains. The downside to a lengthier process is that your hair removal may not be as complete or thorough by summer.
3. Doubling up doesn’t help. If you’re seeing a professional, you’d think that the convenience of at-home lasering in between office sessions would help speed up the fuzz-clearing process, but it’s not that simple. “It’s not about the number of sessions [that you do]. The at-home devices do not go up to the intensity that the professional lasers do and are a totally different technology than what we use in our salons,” explains Shobha Tummala, founder of her namesake hair removal studio with locations in MD, NY, New York City. So if you attempt to laser at home, while also seeing a professional for treatment, it won’t improve or give you your desired results any faster.
4. Mixing in other removal treatments may be counterproductive. If you are tempted to do a quick at-home waxing sesh or simple shave between pro laser visits, think again. The Youngs explain that if some of the hair follicles are temporarily gone, whether from waxing, threading, plucking or any other root-targeting method, the professional laser is not able to do its job to stop hair growth.
5. Cost is a consideration. Top of the line at-home devices typically ring in around the $500 range, while professional laser services can run you anywhere from $100 to $600 per session, depending on the size of the area being treated. Consider purchasing a package, which often comes with a bonus session that’ll save you a few hundred bucks. Also, since smaller treatment areas (like armpits and bikini line) cost less, you can start there and still have a significant impact on your summer beauty routine. If you’re treating yourself, a device like the HoMedics Duo Quartz ($330) is priced lower than other DIY devices and can give you results in as little as five weeks.
6. Labels are critical for your skintone. If you’re going to DIY your hair removal, make sure you have the right laser for your skintone.”The gold standard is to use an Alexandrite laser for lighter skin tones and a Yag laser for darker skin tones,” says Tummala. Look for specific verbiage on the device that indicates it is safe on all skin tones. No matter what it says, though, always do a small test patch to make sure that your skin can tolerate the treatment.
7. Timing is everything. If the goal is to be hair-free before summer, give yourself a few months. “We tell folks to start lasering in the fall to be hair-free for the summer,” says Tummala. For the face, you can go once a month, and depending on your skin tones and the way your body works, it’ll take anywhere from four to eight sessions. For the body, Tummala recommends getting lasered every two months for a total of four to six sessions so you can be fuzz-free within eight to twelve months.
8. Pre and post skincare matters. How you treat your skin both before and after a laser session will affect the results. “Make sure the area to be lasered has not been waxed, threaded, plucked, or any other method of hair removal that pulls out the root for at least eight weeks prior to the treatment,” says Young. Keep skin clear of any retinols, alpha, beta and glycolic acids, or topical acne medications for at least two weeks before and subsequently after the treatments. Sunblock use is also very important prior to and for the duration of the treatments. After each session you’ll want to be super gentle to your skin for the first 24 to 48 hours. Keep your skin moisturized to prevent dryness and stay away from glycolic acids, alph-hyrdroxy acids, the sun, and basically anything that can potentially irritate your skin. This is true regardless of whether you are booking an appointment or attempting the treatment yourself.
9. Research is a prerequisite. Go for a consultation before committing to any service, to make sure the business is a good fit. Ask if the lasers are purchased brand-new directly from the manufacturer or used (possibly from an unreliable source). Be wary of extremely pushy sales pitches and businesses that over-promise miraculous results. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Also be wary of extremely low pricing. Professional laser hair removal should never be on par with waxing prices.
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(Illustration via Brit + Co)