BODY | How to prepare for laser hair removal

laser hair removal

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 do, however, shape my eyebrows and remove the hair on my upper lip. It’s a makeup thing, and it’s a confidence thing. I’d rather not have hair on my upper lip, and that’s really all there is to it.

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!

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  • Sophie ♥

    This is good to know. I actually went to Off Wax to get my brows done earlier in the year and they told me that retinol based skincare/AHA’s etc can lift the skin around where wax is applied which I never knew before. In saying that the last time I went to Benefit they mentioned the same thing so it is good to know.

    • I’ve never got my brows done at Benefit – would you recommend them?

      • Sophie ♥

        I would-although sometimes the job they do after, concealing, filling in etc can be hit and miss so I usually say no and just carry my own brow pencil to touch up.

  • They’re so good and thorough! I love them. Laser is so much less painful than IPL too.

    • That’s so good to hear, I was not a fan of IPL lol

  • pretaporterp

    I recommend laser. It is not 100% permanent. My lower legs I have the best results. I did it last year and ended treatment early this year. I have regrowth in patches, but what does grow is a lot lighter and finer than before. And it pretty much removed the “black dots” (ingrowns) that used to show through my skin. Half way through my arms and underarms my aesthetician got a new laser (less “painful”) but don’t feel it was as effective. The hair on my arms and underarms (most disappointed about that) has grown back. Still lighter than it was before. I’ve also tried out the laser on my bikini line, I’m considering do the full and my underarms again if a good groupon comes up. Since I have brown (“medium/dark” in makeup land) skin, I’ve used the YAG laser.
    Do you know if the Candela Gentlemax can be used on all skin types? I know Candela makes a separate Gentle YAG, which is the new machine my lady used. But wondering if just the Gentlemax is also effective for darker skin?
    Also one tip I can give you is get a Numbing cream. I recommend Numb Master but you can google numbing creams for laser/tattoos. I don’t go crazy with seran wrapping myself, I just put it on (like a lotion) before I make the 20 minute drive. My lady is always shocked because I can see and smell my skin blistering and burning but I don’t feel a thing. Some people describe the pain of laser as rubber band snapping, but I would say it feels more like some nicking you with a fresh blade, it’s just a 2 second stabbing of pain. But definitely get the numbing cream.

    • From what I recall, they said that the machine can be effective on darker skin but is most effective at a higher contrast (pale skin, dark hair). I imagine the official Candela website might be useful for more information in that area?

      Thanks for the advice about the numbing cream! I think my technician will apply a numbing cream anyway (I haven’t had my first session yet) but I do also have a wee tube of it myself from when I got my nose pierced.

    • Tiny

      I’ve been looking for a place that has a Gentle Yag laser in Wellington. Where did you go?

      • I went to OFF & ON on Panama Street!

  • Emma Lauren

    I’ll simply share my Laser Hair Removal Treatment experience with you all.
    I did laser hair removal on my legs and under arms. Ugh! I HATE shaving. I dislike the razor bumps I get after shaving so I decided to do laser hair removal. This was about 3 years ago and my experience was great. Women who are light skinned and have light hair will not see very good results. I am light skinned and have dark and thick hair therefore was considered a perfect candidate for the laser treatment. I found it to be permanent & soothing treatment.

    I would recommend to you one of the better Beauty Med Spas in Houston, Blair Med Spa. They are awesome as i’m a living prove of that. They give you a full consultation before touching a thing and tell you exactly how much it is going to cost before you begin. It costed me minimal. You can also check out…. https://uploads.disquscdn.c

    Hope this helps.