From razors to lasers! A deep dive into everything hair removal.
I work in genetics, I completed my education in chemistry, and I like to know the how and why of…well…everything. So today I want to take a deep dive into everything hair removal. I’ll be sharing my journey, and what I finally settled on and am THRILLED with! I’ll give you a hint, it’s not Brazillian waxing!
Method: Use of a sharp blade to cut hair down to the level of the skin. The hair follicle is unaffected. Simple, quick, clean. However, it can result in cuts and irritation and with hair being cut to a blunt end, it comes back feeling thick and coarse.
Personal experience: Having incredibly sensitive skin basically means I live in a constant state of razor burn and/or ingrowns. While my legs and underarms tolerate a razor fairly well, my bikini area most definitely does not.
Cost and Results: Minimal costs $1-$7. Lasts 1-3 days, unless you go out in the cold.
Method: Depilitories (ex. Nair) uses potassium thioglycolate to break the disulfide bonds between keratin proteins within the shaft of the hair. Calcium hydroxide is often used in these products to accelerate the reaction of the thioglycolates with the disulfide bonds to help dissolve the hair at the root. Calcium hydroxide, also known as lime, is corrosive and can be really irritating to the skin as it does the same thing to proteins in your skin as it does to proteins within your hair. The hair follicle is left intact so, hair regrowth is slower but inevitable.
Personal Experience: I tend to have less irritation with these products, especially for my bikini area, which make it appealing. However, these creams smell terrible and leave you awkwardly waiting around as the chemicals dissolve the hair. Also, I have experienced minor chemical burns from leaving the product on too long which are very uncomfortable.
Cost and Results: Minimal cost $3-6. Usually requires some touch up razoring for any hair that doesn’t dissolve. Smoothness lasts 3-6 days.
Method: Utilizes a medium to surround hair and a cloth or paper strip, to adhere to said medium, to remove wax with the trapped hair by pulling it out of the skin. There are soft and hard waxes, and even sugar waxes which boast various benefits but the method is essential the same, like tweezing hundreds of hairs at once. While quick and effective and leaves you smooth for 1-3 weeks, it requires that you have hair that’s at least 0.25in in length, and it’s intimidating to say the least. Consistent waxing does weaken the hair follicle so hair may grow back in finer.
Personal Experience: I had some friends raving about waxing and how, though painful, made all the difference for them. They claimed it was convenient, worth the expense, and would slow hair growth/lead to finer regrowth. I had a beach vacation coming up so, I researched it, learned tips and tricks for avoiding ingrowns, compared salons, searched out blogs and reviews to find out exactly what to expect, and then I booked my appointment for a brazillian wax. The process itself definitely left me feeling a bit exposed and it wasn’t pleasant having hair aggressively ripped around my lady bits, but I was hopeful the results would be worth it. Long story short, 1 week into my vacation my skin became red, irritated, and itched more than I can even explain! Nothing is worse than having a constant and overwhelming NEED to scratch your lady bits. My skin was so incredibly irritated! It took weeks before it was back to a reasonable state and I had to apply hydrocortisone cream twice daily. Needless to say, I won’t be trying that again. Lastly, I paid $45 for one visit, I’d rather spend that money on something more fun than skin irritation.
Cost and Results: Moderate cost $15-$90 depending on area. Lasts 1-3 weeks but may bring on some rough side effects.
Method: A laser is guided over the skin and a specific wavelength of light is used in order to target pigment. Each laser pulse targets areas of pigmentation, skin/hair, and the light energy is absorbed and converted to heat energy, heating hair follicles to the point of destruction. Immediately following the laser pulse, bursts of air cool the skin and dissipate the heat. The damaged hair follicle is then unable to produce a new hair resulting in permanent hair removal. Because the laser targets pigment, the more pigment present in the skin, the less effective the treatment as energy is being absorbed by the skin rather than the hair. Targeting pigment also means laser hair removal cannot be used for more highly pigmented skin as it can result in the skin being burned by the laser.
Additionally, only hair follicles in the active growth phase will be eliminated by the laser. Hair that is in a resting phase will be unaffected. Only about 10% of your hair follicles are in their growth phase at any given time, which is why multiple treatments are required. Everyone’s hair grows at different rates, so 4-10 treatments are recommended spaced 4-10 weeks apart.
A few things to keep in mind if you go the laser route, you have to stay out of the sun and you can only shave, no tweezing, waxing, chemicals, etc. as they throw off growth cycles. Also, this one is huge! DO NOT get a spray tan or apply fake tanner around your appointment time. The pigment from the tanner will cause the laser to target that pigment and can result in skin burns. You basically want to be as pale as possible around appointment times.
Experience: I have had an amazing experience so far with laser hair removal! I booked my first appointment with the Form Spa after a brief consultation to make sure I was a good candidate. It turns out I’m a great candidate - dark hair + paaaaale skin makes it easy for the laser to target my hair! Before any lasering took place, they categorized my skin based on the “Fitzpatrick scale” to determine how they expect your skin to react to the laser. I’m a 2-3 which means super pale, but dark hair/eyes, minimal burn risk.
They took me back into the treatment room and we went over exactly what areas we planned to treat, for me, that was everything from below my belly button to my toes. From there, I changed into a robe and protective eyewear and we started the treatment! The aesthetician used a white eyeliner pencil to mark out sections on my skin to ensure no areas would be missed. She then started pulsing and moving the laser little by little over my skin and watching how my skin reacted to adjust the laser settings accordingly. Ideally, you want to have the skin showing some redness and mild welts, that indicate the settings are appropriate for your skin type.
I’ve heard the sensation of the laser pulse described so many times as a rubber band snap, but I didn’t think it felt that way at all. You feel the heat almost like a quick mini sunburn sensation, and then the air burst quickly cools the area. I found, and my aesthetician confirmed, my skin was more irritated by the air burst than the laser itself. The process really isn’t painful at all except in couple more sensitive places around the bikini area, and even those only hurt enough for you to clench your fits for a moment before you’re on to the next less painful part. I was so surprised by how mild the treatment was! I did put on some hydrocortisone cream to calm my skin immediately after my treatment, however, by the end of the day my skin looks and feels normal.
With how many treatments are required, I was sure it would be several visits and months before I saw any real results. However, to my surprise, I noticed hair falling out the next day, and not just a little! I saw a significant reduction in hair and I didn’t even feel the need to shave again until a week or so had gone by. By the time I went in for my second treatment, my hair was noticeably thinner and there was less of it overall. It’s been two weeks since my second treatment and I just shaved again for the first time yesterday, as the hair I do still have, is so thin I don’t notice it as much.
Because you’re only allowed to shave during the time you’re doing treatments, I noticed something else amazing! Even after just that one treatment I found that shaving hardly irritated my skin at all. Areas that usually always ended up with razor bumps were totally fine! I’m already thrilled with my results and am planning on at least 4 more treatments to fully eliminate all the hair.
Cost and results: The cost of laser treatments vary depending on where you go and what you’re having treated. At the Form Spa, where I’m doing all my treatments, the costs are as follows:
XL Area (full arms, chest+abs, full back, full legs) 1 treatment- $200
Large Area (half arms, chest, half back, half legs, brazillian, buttocks) 1 treatment - $100
Medium Area (abdomen, full face, front of neck, hands, feet, bikini, shoulders, underarms, lower back) 1 treatment - $75
Small Area (areola, navel strip, fingers, side burns, back of neck) 1 treatment - $50
Extra small area (upper lip, chin, ears, toes, nose) 1 treatment - $40
They also offer laser hair removal packages that may make it more affordable depending on what you want done.
I had looked at costs for laser treatments years ago and found it totally unaffordable, but now, I think it’s much more reasonable! AND! It’s not an on going thing! Laser hair removal is permanent! My aesthetician did let me know that even with 8-10 treatments you’ll likely have a handful of hairs that don’t get destroyed, however, plucking 8-10 hairs every month or so sounds like a joy compared to getting a Brazilian wax.
Some might say we should just give up and rebel against socially imposed beauty ideals, but I just have no intention of ceasing to shave my armpits, legs, and heaven forbid, bikini line. Socially imposed or not, I have to admit I just like being smooth even if that smoothness only lasts two minutes I get before the razor burn sets in. For so long hair removal felt 100% like a pick your poison sort of situation but since I started going to the Form Spa, I don’t feel like I’m trapped anymore. If you’ve been thinking about getting lasered, DO IT! I highly recommend you go to the Form Spa too if you’re in Utah. My treatments have been so insanely effective and their team makes the whole process so comfortable, even if you have to bare it all! Go do this for yourself, you won’t regret it! It really is the ONLY way to go!
Book your appointment with the Form Spa here!