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Should you opt for laser hair removal?

Some clinics advertise laser hair removal as the last word in depilation. This may not always be true. 

Know what you are getting into before opting for a laser treatment
Know what you are getting into before opting for a laser treatment (Pexels)

As I write this piece, I have a smattering of blisters along the bottom of my chin, the result of my last laser session. I am grateful that I no longer have hair there, of course, but I'm not sure if exchanging a beard for blisters has vastly improved my looks. 

Don't get me wrong--I am satisfied overall with my treatment--and I like the freedom from salons it has brought me. And, while friends told me that it would be painful, it hasn't been as bad as I thought-- it sure beats the slow agony of threading four times a month. However, before you decide to laser your face or legs or any other part of your body (the cosmetologist started by telling me to laser my bikini area; I refused)  do know what you're getting into. 

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What is it?

Laser hair removal is a relatively common cosmetic procedure, which involves the beaming of highly concentrated light into the hair follicles."During the treatment, the laser emits a light absorbed by the pigment (melanin) present in the hair," says Shilpi Behl, a Delhi-based cosmetologist & facial aesthetics specialist. This light energy is then converted to heat, which damages the hair follicles within the skin, stopping hair follicles from growing new hair. "In general, laser hair reduction treatment is considered safe and not known to cause any kind of health risks," she says, adding that one has to undergo a patch test before treatment (I did not) to see how their skin reacts to it. However, she also cautions that it is crucial to undergo the procedure by a trained professional under the guidance of an expert dermatologist /cosmetologist. "Like any other cosmetic treatment, it needs preparation and aftercare, she says. "It is not a DIY procedure that can be done at home by a rookie."

What does it entail? 

I started with a consultation with the doctor, which was followed up immediately by my first session. I hadn't threaded or waxed for six months--thanks to Covid--so that was easy, but if you have already, you may need to wait for a bit for the hair to grow back. Behl agrees. "If you are planning to opt for laser hair reduction treatment, you should avoid waxing and plucking of hair six weeks before the treatment. After that, however, you can shave the area for which you are planning to undergo the procedure," she says. 

The actual treatment took me around twenty minutes or so. First, my eyes were covered with dark glasses, a skin-numbingly cold cream was applied to my face, and then I was zapped. It isn't pleasant, sort of like a hot rubber band snapping against your hair, but it is over before you know it, so that is a good thing.  My aesthetician then slathered my face with some cream and sent me on my way, telling me to stay away from sunlight and avoid sweating for a day or two. 

Does it really work? 

The entire process took me eight months or so, monthly for the first three sessions and once every two months for the next three, and I'm relatively less hairy now than I used to be. Am I as smooth as a baby's bottom? No, I am not; I still need to run a razor across my face once or twice a month (no, shaving doesn't make your hair grow back thicker). "The results of the laser hair reduction treatment can vary from person to person," says Behl.  Several factors--hormones, skin and hair contrast, the skill of your technician--play a role here. Overall, it is safe and effective but, whatever people say, it isn't for everyone. If you're pregnant, have a hormonal condition, have very sensitive skin or have tattoos, this may not work for you. Also, you will have to follow up with maintenance sessions.  And yes, it isn't cheap, costing 2-3 000 per sitting and can lead to burns, scarring and blisters if done improperly. However, for the most part, it is relatively safe and effective, and except for the blisters, I don't have too many regrets. "Laser hair removal is a very effective and safe procedure for most people," agrees Behl. "However, it is advisable to thoroughly check the credentials of the doctor or technician performing the procedure." 

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