Laser Hair Removal: The Decision And The Process

My mother put it perfectly: “When someone invites you to the beach, you don’t want your first thought to be about shaving.”
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My mother put it perfectly: “When someone invites you to the beach, you don’t want your first thought to be about shaving.”

I started getting laser hair removal long before I ever worked in health or thought about anything holistic in my life. 

I started getting laser hair removal long before I ever worked in health or thought about anything holistic in my life. 

This may seem obvious, but lasers are not seen as holistic, but neither are any forms of hair removal, really.

The term "holistic" comes from the Greek word for "whole" and we’re not whole without our body hair. But holistic health also has to do with connecting the mind with the body with other aspects of life to make you healthier and happier.

To me, laser hair removal is more body modification than hair removal. If modifying my body to have less hair makes me happier in my body then that, in turn, will make me healthier. Perhaps some don’t believe my approach is entirely healthy from a holistic standpoint, but I don’t believe in subscribing to any dogma that eliminates personal choice. Only you can decide what will be right for you and your body.

Growing up, my parents always remarked that I was the worst combination of a Jewish American Princess and a Southern Belle. I don’t identify with either of these stereotypes except when it comes to one thing: body hair.

Body hair, to me, comes down not only to your hair type but to your skin type, too. I was born of Eastern European descent on my mother’s side, and no matter how fair my paternal Southern Belle side is, my maternal genes are dominant as all hell when it comes to coarse, black hair.

In my teens, I had long hairs that elegantly wrapped around my arms, cowlicks on my knees, facial hair that rivaled a pubescent boy's, and of course a full '70s-style bush. This was all on top of my paternally endowed pale skin that is overly sensitive and dermatographic, meaning that scratches, cuts, and scars last much longer on me.

I’m pretty sure that by now, I am one of the most lasered people on the planet. Body hair truly has very little--actually nothing--to do with a person’s beauty. In retrospect, I didn’t mind any of my naturally inherited “hairstyles” visually so much as how I felt physically.

Unfortunately, all conventional hair-removal techniques were hell on my skin. Razor burn and ingrown hairs took over my skin, waxing would make me break out overnight, I was too intimidated to try electrolysis, and it seemed there wasn’t enough Jolene in the world to keep my moustache blonde. My body hair was a nuisance and hair removal was an even bigger nuisance. My mother put it perfectly saying, “When someone invites you to the beach, you don’t want your first thought to be about shaving.”

I decided to let lasers into my life. Laser hair removal uses a pulse of amplified light to destroy the hair follicle. After going a few times to a plastic surgeon with a really archaic painful laser, I did some research and started going to Beam Laser Spa in NYC.

Beam is run by sisters, Andréa and Liza Young, who found their love of lasering when Andréa experienced dramatic results with laser hair removal following years spent getting almost her entire body waxed to control her unwanted hair.

Beam's super-chic waiting room. 

Beam's super-chic waiting room. 

Beam has a beautiful, sleek office overlooking the Southwest entrance to Central Park. Their warm and welcoming staff of technicians are always dressed in chic attire and are full of valuable information, not only about lasers, but about skincare, too. I always like to pick their brains for tips while I’m getting zapped.

A white eye pencil is used to graph the area being treated so the technician doesn’t miss any spots.

A white eye pencil is used to graph the area being treated so the technician doesn’t miss any spots.

I am such a baby when it comes to pain, and I’m extremely ticklish, so I cannot lie: the process was initially very difficult for me. Everybody responds differently, and I must say I find Beam’s laser much less painful than the earlier models because it is very fast and uses a blast of cryogen to cool the burning follicle immediately. It feels like a rubber band snapping on your skin, but repeat that feeling over your entire body for two hours and you can start to feel like you’re going a little crazy. Luckily, the treatments are spaced out a lot; I initially treated an area every 6 weeks and now it’s more like 6 months.

In the early days of lasers, you needed to have very light skin and very dark hair, which made me a good candidate to begin with. Nowadays, with the miraculous power of technology, all skin tones can be treated with lasers! Beam uses the GentleMax which houses two lasers: the Alexandrite for lighter skin tones and the Yag for darker skin tones.

Lasers on lasers on lasers at Beam. 

Lasers on lasers on lasers at Beam. 

The texture of your hair greatly influences the effectiveness of the laser. In order to be treated, your body hair needs to be coarse and pigmented. If you have fine blonde hairs on your body, please relax, you look amazing. For the rest of us, six treatments can reduce hair growth 80% and the 20% you’re left with is super-fine and light. Mostly everyone responds really well on the bikini and underarm areas that are also known as the “gateway body parts” because once you see the results there, you’re hungry for more.

Other areas of the body with less coarse hairs take a bit longer. I had about 10 treatments on my legs before I felt finished however the last three or four treatments have been stretched over more than two years, and I never felt the need to shave in between.

Another big factor on how many treatments you’ll need is hormones. If you start as a teenager, you’ll most likely grow in some new hair as your hormones shift throughout adulthood and then again during menopause. I still go in regularly every few months to get my chin lasered because that’s where my hormonal hairs tend to crop up. But since I’m on a maintenance plan at Beam, this costs me less than waxing would without any of the waxing side effects.

Beam encourages the use of natural products for afer-laser care. 

Beam encourages the use of natural products for afer-laser care. 

Beam is extremely diligent with their safety standards, documenting my progress, encouraging me to wear SPF50+ at all times, and keeping me on a schedule that’s spaced in sync with my gradually slowing hair growth. They only encourage the use of natural products like arnica and witch hazel for after-laser care. The place, the people, and the laser can make all the difference in this type of treatment, and their high standards are why my treatments have been so successful.

I bought a large package upfront from Beam that included underarms, arms, legs, bikini, chin, and lip and this has ended up saving me a ton of money because I knew then and there that I wanted to be very hairless in all of these places. Beam offers wonderful discounts to long term customers, too, which means that maintaining these areas every so often has become cheaper than even shaving would be.

The perks of my laser hair removal are that I never have to shave my legs or bikini line if I want to spontaneously go swimming one day. I don’t sweat under my arms anymore, and I never have razor burn or ingrown hairs. Also, not having a moustache is cool.

My husband is a naturally hairless freak with no hair on his back, chest, arms, or thighs and less facial hair than a young Johnny Depp. I’ve tricked him into thinking that I’m naturally hairless, too, because I never shave, wax, or pluck but he’s going to be very surprised when our kids are born with unibrows... and moustaches.

Try and guess which one is my husband.
 

Try and guess which one is my husband.  

Laser hair removal may seem like the ultimate high-maintenance beauty treatment for a Jewish American Princess/Southern Belle, but the reality is that it has allowed me to become a super-low-maintenance person and embrace my hippie holistic side without all the hair that comes with it.