Looking to permanently rid yourself of unwanted hair? Laser hair removal might be for you. The pricey procedure — a favorite of celebrities including Kim Kardashian — may be worth the investment if you never want to shave or wax again. If you're new to the increasingly popular treatment, here's what you need to know before you get started:
Assess your skin
Light skin with dark, coarse hair responds best to treatment "no matter what anyone tells you," says Kristen Haines, esthetician and owner of Euphoria Spa in New York City.
Laser treatment is also best avoided when your skin is tan, according to Dr. Michelle Copeland, a New York-based plastic surgeon. “While you can have some skin irritation, it usually is only temporary. But the darker your skin, the more skin irritation you can get, so it’s best to do it when you don’t have a tan,” Copeland advises.
Be prepared for a long-term commitment
Since hair grows at different rates and cycles, treatments are spread out over a year, says Copeland. On average, you will need between eight and nine sessions on a single area before completely ridding yourself of the unwanted hair, Haines adds. The sessions should be done about six weeks apart, but you don’t have to forgo hair removal between treatments. You may continue to shave or use depilatories, she explains.
It doesn’t hurt ... much
According to Haines, the procedure hurts less than waxing, and feels “like a rubber band snapping on the skin.” She also points out that some parts of the body “with less fatty tissue hurt more than fleshy areas.”
Copeland agrees that the procedure “isn’t particularly painful,” as the “lasers have a ‘cool tip’ and chill the skin around the area.”
It doesn't come cheap
The cost of your procedure depends on the size of the area lasered and the type of the technology used, Haines says. She quotes a cost of between $1,000 and $1,500 for six to nine treatments of the underarms.
It is becoming more common for places to offer discounted sessions, but Haines says the discounts usually "bank on quantity of customers with a limited number of sessions," meaning the customer will need to purchase additional sessions above the deal price in order to complete treatment.
Overall, the factors that are priced into your treatment (the cost of the machine, insurance and staffing) aren't likely to change over time, Haines says.
You can do it at home
New devices like the Tria Hair Removal Laser allow you to laser away unwanted hair in the privacy of your home.
According to Tim Bunch, Tria’s Director of North America Marketing and Sales, the device "uses the same laser technology found in doctors’ offices," and "lets you break free from constant shaving and waxing with permanent hair reduction."
While the at-home options may be more convenient, experts don't necessarily recommend it.
“Doing it at home may be very dangerous as we tend to overdo things on ourselves," Haines says. “Imagine what pointing a laser at your own crotch could do in inexperienced hands?”
Copeland adds that the at-home devices are not as powerful or effective as professional lasers and require “many, many more treatments," than those done in a professional setting.