Adventures in Laser Hair Removal

laser hair removal

There’s no business like hair business. And I’m not talking about the fabulously overblown business of creating pretty, shiny tresses  la Jonathan Antin. I’m referring instead to the bucktoothed stepsister that no one talks about but everyone wants at their party. The business of hair removal. The permanent kind.

According to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, laser hair removal was among the top three non-surgical cosmetic procedures performed in 2006. Reported to be relatively quick and painless, the process can banish unwanted hair on the face, neck, chest, underarms, back, legs and bikini line (yes, even the whole shebang). The laser works by emitting an intense pulse of light just hot enough to render the unsuspecting hair follicles incapable of fulfilling their hair-producing destiny.

But is it worth the hefty price tag? The national cost per treatment runs about $350 depending on the area of the body treated and the process takes on average, five treatments. Translation: the same cost as that fierce, buttery soft leather hobo bag from Dolce & Gabbana’s fall collection. And maybe more importantly for the squeamish like myself (I fully admit that I pop an ibuprofen before a bikini wax), does it hurt?

I visited one of the Valley’s several Radiance MedSpa locations to find out. My mission is to undergo a laser hair removal treatment on my sensitive underarms.

  • 12:58 p.m.  Arrive for my 1:00 appointment oblivious to the fact that a four-page medical history form awaits.
  • 1:05 p.m.  Finish my forms (only lied once about the amount of alcohol I drink per week but what does that really have to do with my underarms?). Take in the facility, which consists of a reception and retail area, five treatment rooms and a comfortable waiting space stocked with plenty of slick cosmetic procedure literature and magazines to peruse. Like many medi spas, Radiance is tucked into an upscale strip mall and I’m surprised by how spacious it is.
  • 1:06 p.m.  Owner Reyes Topete, M.D. escorts me to one of the treatment rooms. The space feels rather sterile, like a doctor’s office. Give me a candle, something. And of course, should I get bored, more procedure and product literature lines the walls. But in their defense, I did spy a rather cozy massage therapy room at the end of the hall.
  • 1:17 p.m.  The doc applies a lubricating lotion under each arm while he explains that each laser session gets about 20 percent of the hair. He futzes with an attachment on the pulsed light contraption.
  • 1:18 p.m.  Palms are sweating. The doc dons some snazzy futuristic glasses while I get the less glamorous eye goggles. On goes the machine. “Here goes. A little rubber band snap,” warns the doc.
  • 1:18:05 p.m.  “IS THAT IT?” I ask. I’m stunned. I barely felt a thing. As Dr. Topete moves toward the center of my arm, I feel slightly more of the snap. But honestly, I haven’t been snapped by a rubber band since third grade but I recall it hurting much worse than this.
  • 1:19 p.m.  One arm done, one arm to go.
  • 1:22 p.m.  Literally 20 minutes since I arrived and I’m back in the reception area chatting with the doc and the reception staff (who, by the way, are all very friendly and have gorgeous skin).

Dr. Topete explains that because hair grows in cycles, I would need another four or so treatments to keep the hair at bay and possibly several random follow-ups to zap away any rogue hairs. Each session runs $150 per treatment at Radiance, and they offer discounted packages if you pre-buy a series (like most med spas). For the time it took and the surprising absence of discomfort, the thought of being hair-free is extremely tempting. But alas, that leather hobo bag is calling my name and I will return to the love-hate relationship with my razor. For now.

What is your experience with laser hair removal? Glad you did it?

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