Ask The Beauty Editor: Does Laser Hair Removal Hurt?

By Ashleigh Cometti
Collage / Julia Gessler

Dear Beauty Editor,

With spring on the horizon, I’m starting to daydream of summer dresses and flowy skirts. But with shorter hemlines come bare legs and I’d prefer mine to be hair-free!

I’m tempted to try laser hair removal or IPL, but I’m scared it’ll hurt! How does it work,

Please help!

Legs Eleven

Dear Legs Eleven,

Winter is an excellent time to book in for a course of laser hair removal, says Julie Buchan, Off & On’s national trainer, adding that reduced exposure to the sun or the elements, along with cooler temperatures which reduce skin sensitivity gives your treatment the best chance of success.

“By the time spring and summer arrive, you’ll be well on your way to revealing smoother, hair-reduced skin, setting the stage for a confident and carefree summer,” she says.

But with so many clinics offering laser hair removal, where should you begin? Julie says it pays to do your research before you commit, especially considering laser hair removal is unregulated in New Zealand — meaning anyone can operate a laser machine.

“Check the laser technician is qualified, and the machines are regularly serviced by a professional,” she says.

In layman’s terms, laser hair removal works by delivering a concentrated beam of light that is attracted to and absorbed by the melanin (or pigment) in the hair, Julie explains. Using a small handpiece for added precision, this light is absorbed and converted to heat, which is then absorbed by the hair follicle — destroying the root and cutting off its blood supply. And all without impacting the integrity of the skin.

By contrast, IPL (or Intense Pulsed Light) treatment disperses light over a much broader area, meaning more sessions are needed to achieve the best results. It’s geared towards fairer skin types, but its efficacy is comparatively lower, Julie explains.

Julie Buchan, beauty parlor Off & On’s national trainer. Photo / Supplied
Julie Buchan, beauty parlor Off & On’s national trainer. Photo / Supplied

While it sounds invasive, there’s minimal pain involved with laser hair removal, Julie says. “Our treatment procedure incorporates an advanced cooling system, releasing a stream of cool air on to the treated area. This innovative cooling mechanism significantly enhances the comfort of the treatment,” she says. “Majority [of people] say it’s nothing compared to a wax!”

Generally, it takes a minimum of eight sessions to see results for the body, and up to 10 treatments on facial areas, Julie says. Following a course of treatments, clients can expect to see a 70 to 90 per cent hair reduction. Any hormonal changes, menopause and medications can boost hair growth which may mean you’ll need a maintenance session down the track.

Those with dark, coarse hair make the best candidates for hair removal, as Julie says those with blonde, grey, white and red hair don’t have enough pigment for the laser to effectively target the hair follicle.

“There is no pigment for the laser to attract to the follicle to do its job. However, individuals of all skin types can benefit from our GentleMax Pro laser machine,” she says.

Like any skin treatment, good preparation will ensure the best results. Julie’s top tips to give your laser hair removal a helping hand include shaving the treatment area 24 hours prior to your appointment, avoiding sun exposure two to three weeks beforehand, regularly applying SPF to protect skin, and keeping the treatment area clean and dry (without moisturiser or fake tan).



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