Are you a good candidate for laser hair removal?

Laser hair removal promises to reduces or eliminate unwanted hair, lessening our need for shaving, waxing and plucking, but it’s not right for everyone. Having just experienced my first round of laser hair removal, I decided it was time to share some things I wish I had known before my consultation.

Your Complexion Matters

I am a pale white girl. Not as pale as my friend Dawn, who is sometimes called ScaryWhiteGirl, not because she is scary, but because she is so scarily white. Dawn jokes that she is so pale she is translucent.

I’m not that pale. But I do burn after 10 minutes in the sun, have had a tan once in my entire life and wear sunscreen any time I’m going to be outdoors because I know I’m at a high risk for skin cancer.

At my consultation, for the first time in my life, I learned that being pale is a good thing. It seems the way the laser works is that it tracks across your skin looking for something dark to zap. The paler your skin, the more visible the hairs are to the laser.

Your Hair Matters

Despite my pale complexion, I have hair that is almost black. According to my dermatologist, that made me a perfect candidate for laser hair removal.

Soft, thin and blonde hairs are hard for the laser to find. Thick, coarse and dark hair is the easiest for the laser to target. In fact, most laser hair removal facilities will tell you that the laser cannot target lighter hair. Turning up the laser high enough to guarantee that it burns the hair follicle in light-colored hair increases the risk of burns to the skin. Laser hair removal providers attempt to keep the laser setting as low as possible to prevent injuries.

No guarantees

Although laser hair removal has been extensively tested and used, there are no guarantees that it will work for you. Providers include the warning in all their literature that it does not work for everyone. Most people will need annual touch-ups. Hair must be in a growth phase for the laser to work, so no waxing or plucking for 8 weeks before the first treatment.

It’s expensive

In southern Illinois where I live, laser hair removal starts at about $75 per session per location. Need hair removed from your chin and upper lip? That’s two locations and you’ll be paying twice. In addition, my dermatologist recommends that patients have a series of five treatments as all hair follicles do not grow at the same rate at the same time. For facial hair, treatments can be done once a month. For hair below the neck, treatments are done approximately every three months. Some dermatologists offer discounts if you are having multiple locations done or if you pay for all five treatments at once.