Picture this. You are feeling ever so pretty, wearing your favorite summer dress — only to realize that you forgot to shave as you raise your arm.
Having that five o’clock shadow under your arm is not something you ever want to publicly admit, but we all have experienced it at some point. For me, though, embarrassing underarm shadows are a thing of the past. So are ingrowns from waxing, nicks in the skin from shaving, and rashes from depilatories.
My savior has been laser hair removal. Of all the different lasers I've tried on my skin, this one has made the biggest impact on my quality of life. It has given me a permanent solution to an issue that has bothered me for as long as I can remember.
Let’s dig into the science behind how it works: the laser gives off a high energy light that seeks out the pigment in the root of the hair and destroys the follicle. You need a few sessions, because one session can partially destroy the follicle, but it doesn’t get rid of it completely. I had six sessions, spaced about a month apart. In the end, I barely have any hair at all. (When I say it is life changing, I am not exaggerating.)
If you are thinking about ditching your razor in favor of laser hair removal, here are some other ground rules you should know.
1. Don’t get laser hair removal if you have a tan — and if your complexion is naturally deeper, do your research. Fortunately for me, I have light skin and dark hair. I say fortunately because hair removal lasers work best on this combination. My husband tells me that if you have a deeper complexion, the melanin in your skin could confuse the laser and distract it from the hair because it is attracted to the other pigment.
The laser he used on me is the Lightsheer Duet from Lumenis, which when set at lower energy levels, can be used on people with darker skin types. He says he has successfully treated South Asian Indian and light-skinned African-American patients, it just took more treatment sessions. If you have deeper skin, call multiple dermatologists before booking your laser hair removal appointment to ensure their practice has the right technology for your needs.
2. Don't wax, pluck, or thread. You need the root of the hair intact for the laser to work. The good news is you can shave as much as you want between sessions. (That’s especially important for people getting treatments in areas like the face or bikini, where you want to keep up the grooming). The hair gets thinner after each session, and soon enough, you won't ever have to worry about it again. However, individual results may vary.
3. Choose a reputable provider. The old adage is accurate: you get what you pay for, meaning that deal on Groupon may be too good to be true. I have had friends who got burns from laser hair removal and developed light spots that took months to go away. Make sure your doctor is experienced to avoid side effects like those. I recommend looking for a board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon. If you are going to a medispa, make sure the doctor is actually there to supervise.
4. Numbing cream is an option (and I have used it!), but I can’t say it helps that much during your laser hair removal appointments. The treatment feels like a big rubber band is being snapped onto your skin. Though the discomfort is intense, it is short-lived, with the entire session taking less than 10 minutes. After the treatment, the area treated will sting for an hour and look red, but overall, there isn’t much downtime at all. The first few sessions are more intense than the later once because there is more hair when you start.
5. You may need a touch up in the future. I had most of my treatments before I got pregnant. After two kids and pregnancy hormones, I did sprout new hairs that were not there before and had to get touched up. (Essentially, just an extra session that zapped them away.) Since the hairs were so thin, just one treatment was enough to get rid of them completely. Now, every day my underarms look freshly waxed, without any worry of that 5 o’clock shadow.
Unfortunately, lasering definitely costs more than getting waxed or shaving, as each treatment generally ranges in price from $150 to $500 (depending on your practitioner, geographic location, and other factors). However, consider it an investment: you may never have to think about your underarms (or upper lip, or bikini line...) again. And with all that time saved on hair removal, you’ll have more time to spend on your skincare routine. So that's why I say underarm laser hair removal is approved by the DermWife™.
DermWife™ is a trademark of Cori Zeichner.