When I was offered the chance to try laser hair removal, I thought about my younger sister. The hair under her arms had grown long, an aesthetic choice she relishes. She isn’t wedded to the hair; she’s just chosen, at least for now, to leave it there. This is something she told me frankly is a “decision every woman should be able to evaluate and reevaluate at every stage of her life.”
And so, with her voice in mind, I was hesitant to pursue this most high-end form of hair removal, which unlike its alternative, is permanent.
As a feminist, my belief is unequivocally that women should do whatever they damn well please with their bodies and by extension, their body hair — and yet, I felt an odd kind of feminist guilt when I considered permanently beaming mine off with machines. I know that the very notion of hair removal is part of a patriarchal structure in which there are certain “givens” about how a woman should or should not look. I’d never want my decisions to in any way affirm these made-up rules, and yet…I also just don’t like shaving. I have sensitive, razor-burn and red bump-prone skin, and fast-growing, thick, dark hair.
Keeping one’s underarm hair is a much more public decision than most others. In my case, the stubble was dark and thick and I often forgot to shave it as frequently as I’d need to to keep its 5 ‘o’clock shadow at bay. It’s not like underarm stubble mortified me— it wasn’t something I even thought about, save for noticing I’d forgotten to shave when I’d already left the house in a tank top.
And so, ultimately, it was this very belief that my body is mine and mine alone to make decisions about that guided my decision to go for it as a woman, doing whatever she damn well pleased to do.
I’m in my mid-20s, and, to be honest, the only thing I knew about laser was that it’s a pricey endeavor. This was not something I’d have been in the market for if my job did not provide me the chance to try it at no cost (one of the perks of working in beauty). Given that armpits are really just small patches of skin that I intended to keep shaving anyways, I decided to give it a go. I’ve since become a vocal advocate.
If you’re going to do it, here’s what you need to know!
Beyond their presence in sci-fi movies, lasers offer a permanent solution to hair removal. If your skin is prone to ingrown hairs from shaving, or so sensitive it bleeds when you get a standard old bikini wax, laser might be just what you’ve been looking for — given you’ve considered its permanence. Unlike other methods of hair removal which can leave skin irritated and sometimes cause painful in-growns, lasering is a true example of an in-and-out beauty treatment. Christian Karavolas, owner of Romeo & Juliette Laser Hair Removal says, “After a series of treatments, the average person will see permanent hair reduction to the tune of 50 to 98 percent depending on areas treated.” When it’s done right, it’s a final stop — all hair removal efforts stop here. The treatment was approved by the FDA in 1995.
In January, I started with my underarms — I’ve since had two official appointments and two touch-ups (less intense, interim appointments that maintain results so you can go without shaving). At my first appointment, I was told I’m an ideal candidate given my lack of melanin, extremely fair skin, and dark, thick hair. The results are no joke. My armpits used to regenerate their stubble supply less than 24 hours after shaving. In the five months since starting my treatments, I’ve probably shaved less than half a dozen times. Even better, my armpits are smooth as a baby’s but — no really, just ask my mom who has been forced to touch them a handful of times already.
At Romeo & Juliette, there are 12 lasers, each of which is ideal for different skin tones and complexions. “We do not adjust the customer to our laser but we adjust our lasers to the customer’s needs based on hair type, hair density, ethnicity and areas treated,” Karavolas explains.
“We fine tune the treatments to the individual’s needs,” he explains. One laser can’t treat everyone, but in combination, the results are unparalleled because the plethora of choices means that the technicians at R&J can micro-treat different areas with different lasers.
What to Expect
If you can’t undergo another every-four-weeks waxing session but are intent on hair removal, laser might be a great solution for you (as it has been for me). While, of course, everyone is different, I’m someone who never “got used to” waxing and still cringed at each dreaded strip ripped off my body. Laser is not painful so much as it is uncomfortable. It’s less predictable than waxing, which is good when it means you feel almost nothing, and not-so-good when something hurts more than you’d anticipated. That said, the treatments are truly quick — you’re in-and-out in about 10 minutes for a smaller area like the underarms. If it hurts, any pain is short-lived and can be helped by asking to be slathered in aloe and/or hydrocortisone before leaving.
How It Works
Basically, over the course of sessions, which are spaced farther and farther apart, the heat of the laser damages the hair follicle (it sounds worse than it is!) disabling the hair’s ability to regrow.
The laser’s light travels through the hair shaft, disrupting and disabling the hair’s ability to grow back.
The Fine Print
If you’re on medications that trigger photosensitivity (like Accutane), extremely tan and peeling, or if your hair is super-light — you might not be eligible for laser. If you’re pregnant, you’ll need to talk with your doctor before beginning treatment, which is generally speaking, a good idea anyway if you have any doubts.
If you’re preparing for an occasion, like a wedding, make sure to start way in advance. Laser hair removal is a process and it takes time. At Romeo & Juliette, each package is customized after the initial consultation, because the treatment plan is based on hair type, skin tone and body part. Generally speaking, though, appointments occur about six to eight weeks apart. Touch-ups are two to three weeks after each actual treatment. This way, a client never needs to shave in between sessions. The typical client will need about six sessions (not including touch-ups), so that means it’s about a full year before you’re completely done and ridiculously soft and smooth.
More Hair Removal Stories:
- The 10 Biggest Hair-Removal Mistakes
- Allure’s Head-to-Toe Guide to Hair Removal
- Everything You Need to Know About Hair Removal If You Have Dark Skin