Is laser hair removal worth the hype? This editor put it to the test for one year
Readers, I’m going to be frank - there is absolutely no way of discussing hair removal in a way that leaves me intact with much of my dignity; but, in the name of fearless journalism, I will endure.
Let’s start at the top: over a year ago, the kind folks at the Laser & Skin Clinic asked me if I wanted to undergo a trial of laser hair removal for review and I jumped at the chance. I’ve been long plagued by ingrown hairs and I can’t over overstate just how lazy I am with my beauty regimen. I had also interviewed Anna Gunning, the aesthetic nurse and clinical director, on a number of occasions previous, so I knew I was in good hands.
After years of shaving, waxing or ignoring both during the cold winter months, I knew it was time to buckle down and decide which path I would pursue for my future hair maintenance. And so, I opted for seven sessions (the standard package is six) for my underarms and bikini line.
For your first consultation, you arrive, unshaven, to meet one of the aesthetic therapists to discuss how much you want removed and to set up your appointments, which run at six to eight week intervals. Before each appointment, you shave exactly what you want removed - and where - as a sort of guiding light for the laser and it's really as simple as that.
The Cynosure Elite Medical Grade Laser Hair Removal targets excess and ingrown hairs and is available to both men and women at the clinic. It works by sending pulses of energy through the skin into the hair follicle stopping the possibility of growth (it also works best on those who have fair skin and dark hair).
I should warn you: it burns, a lot, and on some occasions, it can feel like it hurts more than others, depending on a myriad factors like your hormones, hunger or general mood, but you can prepare in some ways to minimise the pain.
For example, try booking for the week after your period as you’re less tender and in generally better form, and also, don’t be afraid of taking some painkillers beforehand. I say it's painful to be honest, but don't let it deter you: treat it with the same anticipation of a wax, however, the treatment lasts, depending on the size of the area you are working with (i.e. just underarms of both of your legs), a bit longer. I liken it to snapping an elastic on your skin, only that skin is the root of your hair follicle. On average, for me, a combination of bikini and underarms took around 15 to 20 minutes, most of which I would force conversation on one of the ever-patient therapists in order to distract myself. Afterwards, you’re given a cold compress to help the redness and voila!, you’re done.
Without sounding too gushing, I cannot emphasise enough how much this has changed my life. No more shaving, no more ingrown hairs, no more unsightly red bumps that I would always feel embarrassed about in summer. The confidence this gives you come swimwear season is absolutely momentous- it certainly was for me - and I have encouraged every woman in my life to sign up for the same.
As the treatments continue, your hair will become much finer and grow slower and you’re only allowed to shave in between, but after three sessions, there are no more bumps to dissuade you from using a razor.
There are a few caveats to bear in mind: you can’t have even a modicum of fake tan on, or have just returned from the sun where you have a natural tan as it can cause a reaction combined with the laser, but I did the majority of my courses in the colder months so I could cover up my pale skin with jumpers.
Six sessions, including the free consultation, costs €480 for the combination I got. Which, in comparison to the days of yore, where similar treatments came in at €800+, it's a steal. And depending on what type of wax you get and how frequently you get it, it’s not unreasonable to assume you’re already spending a bit under that on the same. Once it’s paid, you’re done. You don’t need to spend €400 a year on waxes for the rest of your life, you can enjoy a hair-free existence forever (some people, like myself, require top-ups annually).
They’ll also work with you on a payment plan so you’re not forking over a month’s rent in one go.
I still need one or two more top-ups, because my 23andMe test didn’t show the hidden Yetti that clearly hides within my DNA, but now that I know the results, I am happy to endure a little bit of pain for the kind of confidence that money can buy.