Summer is here, which means it's time for legs, underarms, and bikini lines to finally have their time in the sun. If banishing unwanted hair with laser hair removal has crossed your mind, here's what you should know before ditching the razor.

By Allison Maze Vancura

Though commercials make shaving look like a sexy beauty ritual, the reality isn't so glamorous–like when you step out of the shower, shiver, and lose all that hard-earned silky-smoothness (bad), or when you rush the process and give yourself razor burn (worse).

If you're tired of the upkeep of shaving, shelling out for regular waxes, enduring folliculitis (infected hair follicles), or going through great lengths to disguise unwanted hair, a more permanent hair removal solution like laser hair removal may be a good option for you. But you probably have a lot of questions, like how much does laser hair removal cost, how does laser hair removal work, and how long does it take to see laser hair removal results?

My decision to seek out laser hair removal was twofold: I was tired of combatting painful ingrown hairs and itchy red bumps (which take some real Houdini work to disguise if you're dark-haired and fair-skinned like me). I was also tired of shaving every single day. So I took a deep breath, booked a consultation, and started laser hair removal treatments the following week. Here are six lessons I learned from going through the process, plus a few expert insights to answer your laser hair removal questions and concerns.

two women near pool with mixed drinks
Credit: Rebekah Photography

1. Shop Around for a Reputable Clinic (It's Important!)

Before you commit to a laser hair removal clinic, do your homework by talking to friends and asking for recommendations, reading reviews, and shopping around to find a fit that's right for you. Treat the process just like finding a new doctor or dentist. The place that treats you should have a board-certified dermatologist at the head of the team, says Anna Guanche, M.D., celebrity beauty expert. It should also be clean, comfortable, and have trained professionals administering treatments.

2. Some People Will Have Better Results than Others

The laser has an easier job of detecting hair when there's a contrast between the color of your hair and the color of your skin. "Patients with light skin and dark hair respond more successfully to laser hair removal, but that’s not to say that others won’t see results," says Dr. Rhonda Klein, M.D., MPH, FAAD Partner, Modern Dermatology. "The areas of the body with the thickest, coarsest hair will respond quickest and will usually require fewer treatments than areas with finer hair," she says, which is why the bikini area, legs, and underarms are such good candidates for laser hair removal. You can expect to see significant results within six to eight treatments.

3. Laser Hair Removal Isn't Painless

Does laser hair removal hurt? Yes, but it's bearable. "The process of laser hair removal involves passing laser energy over the skin," Klein explains. "The energy targets the pigment (melanin) deep within the hair follicle and heats it up, damaging it and eventually after repeat treatment completely destroying it so it can no longer grow." Each pass feels a bit like a rubber band being snapped against your skin, but it's also quick; each of my underarm treatments took about 10 minutes from start to finish.

Some patients (like me) find it helpful to take a couple of ibuprofen before appointments or squeeze a stress ball during treatment sessions. Afterward, the skin included in your treatments area(s) will temporarily be red and splotchy; applying a bit of aloe can soothe irritation and lessen the redness.

4. It's Not a One-and-Done Situation

Sure, you'll start to lose hair and notice less regrowth after a couple of treatments, but the process takes time. Expect to return to the clinic for a treatment every few weeks for several months. "The reason the treatments are spaced four to six weeks apart is that all of your hair follicles aren't at the same stage of the growth cycle, so we have to repeatedly target the follicles to eliminate them," Klein says.

After completing regular treatments (about six), it's common to go in for a touch-up appointment once or twice a year for maintenance. "Lower facial hair and pubic hair growth is more hormonally driven than other areas (although all are hormonally driven) and therefore can be more stubborn to remove, and more likely to grow back," Guanche says. When you're selecting a clinic, you may want to consider one that offers a lifetime guarantee. That way, should you notice regrowth after your regular treatments conclude, you can manage it without incurring additional costs.

5. Treatments Can Be Pricey

It's normal to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for professionally administered laser hair removal. Guanche says each treatment costs roughly $100 to $1,000 depending on the area. It's a big chunk of change, though if you're one to regularly get waxes (and tip!) you may break even or save some dough over the course of a lifetime. But even if your current at-home hair removal routine is easy on your wallet, consider the benefits of laser hair removal: No more embarrassing razor burn, painful ingrown hair, or routine upkeep.

One important thing to note: Insurance won't typically cover the cost of laser hair removal. By and large, it's considered a cosmetic procedure.

6. Fall and Winter Are Ideal Start Times

And it's not just about being beach-ready by the time your treatments wrap; avoiding pigment changes to treatment areas is essential. "It is important for patients to avoid sun exposure at least two weeks prior to each treatment and two weeks following, so it's a great procedure to begin in the fall when that is a more reasonable expectation," Klein says. 

Laser hair removal was a positive experience for me, and though yes, it was certainly pricier than a lifetime supply of disposable razors and shave gel, I'm a happier person because of it. If you're also looking to shave off some time from your get-ready routine and can get on board with the cost, laser hair removal can go a long way in boosting your self-confidence and comfort. Besides, not having to think twice before reaching for a tank top will bring you so much joy.


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