I have a complex relationship with hair removal, which is something I think I say every time I talk about it. I’ve made a conscious effort not to talk about body hair removal (legs, armpits, pubic hair etc) on Hyacinth Girl anymore. I don’t care about having a hairy body and I don’t want to make other people feel like it matters.
I usually wax or use one of those tiny razors, but I was recently invited to Wellington’s new OFF & ON to try their laser hair removal service. I decided to try it on my upper lip—but when I went in for my consultation, I discovered I hadn’t properly prepared! With that in mind, I wanted to write some guidelines for how to prepare for laser hair removal.
Research the provider
Laser hair removal is serious business—it’s basically a medical procedure—and not all laser machines and technicians are equal. Laser done wrong can cause pain, blistering, and even scarring, so it’s important to make sure your provider knows what they’re doing. Laser is a bit of a Wild West (did you know you can buy used cosmetic lasers?) but there are certifications available.
At OFF & ON, their technicians are certified Level 3 Advanced Laser Technicians (the highest in the country) and they use the Candela GentleMax Pro, which is pretty much the top end in comfortable and effective hair removal. But wherever you choose to go, you want to make sure they know what they’re doing.
Avoid the sun
I didn’t realise quite how significant this was until Chantelle at OFF & ON talked me through how laser works. It’s kiiind of like IPL, in the sense that it uses a beam of light on the individual hair follicle, but that’s where the similarity ends.
Laser hair removal sends a very concentrated and powerful laser down the hair follicle, conducted via melanin (which is why it’s only effective when the hair is darker than the skin), and destroys it. Because it’s heat-based, sun damage interferes with the procedure significantly.
You mustn’t have any natural or false tan in the areas being treated, and are advised to stay out of the sun in the six weeks preceding your first treatment, and entirely throughout the course of treatment. That means that summer is the worst time to get laser hair removal—unless you wear a very high SPF sunscreen at all times and pretty much never go outdoors.
Shave, don’t wax
Laser needs some hair to travel down, so you’ve got to quit waxing or plucking your hair six weeks before your treatment. Shave the area 12–24 hours before your appointment, so the hair is flush with the skin. Your provider won’t shave the area for you!
Don’t use active skincare
When I was filling out the (comprehensive, five page) pre-treatment form, I discovered you’re not meant to use active skincare or have any cosmetic treatments before your course of laser. This includes microdermabrasion and peels but also extends to at-home use of skincare with ingredients like AHAs and retinol.
Given I use both of these in my regular skincare routine, I wasn’t able to have my test patch of laser treatment during that appointment. This is a bit annoying if you’re paying for your consultation, but it’s also massively reassuring. Chantelle could have said “You know what, it’ll probably be ok, don’t worry about it,” but she didn’t. That shows how seriously OFF & ON treat the procedure. I’m booked to go back in February, so that most of my laser course won’t be during the summer.
There are more things to consider, but these were the big ones that I wasn’t aware of. Of course, a good provider will do a full consultation with you before beginning laser hair removal anyway.
Did you know about this? Have you had laser hair removal before? I’m excited to start the treatment next year!