Introducing BODY HAIR WEEK, something that I decided to create on a whim last week having realised there are lots of hairy maclary things I’ve been meaning to blog about for ages. Over the course of this week I’ll be blogging about everything from brows to bits to taches to ingrowns, but I want to start with a post that has been a long time in the making – years in the making in fact – and that’s an updated review on professional laser hair removal.
When I started getting it done the main question people had was “does IPL work?” and annoyingly it’s not quite as simple as a yes or no answer, but now that’s it’s been nearly two years since I finished my IPL course I feel like I’m in the best position possible to properly comment on my experience.
As a side note, I should point out in case it isn’t obvious that salon-based IPL machines are significantly stronger than the ‘home devices’ you can buy for a few hundred quid from Boots. I will be blogging about home IPL tomorrow, but do bear in mind that this post is about salon-based treatment.
Let’s start with some basic facts about IPL hair removal…
IPL hair removal (often bandied around as ‘laser hair removal’ though IPL and laser technologies are not the same) is promoted as providing 80-90% ‘permanent hair reduction’ (reduction is the key word, we’ll come onto that later) to suitable candidates that complete a full course of IPL treatments. A full course is typically 6-12 sessions spaced 4-6 weeks apart, so you should expect treatment to take more than a year.
IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light and during a treatment you are basically being ‘shot’ with flashes of said intense pulsed light. The light is absorbed by the pigment in the hair, quickly turning to heat which then kills the growing cells that make the hair. For this process to work, you need to have hair for the IPL to ‘target’, i.e you can’t wax between treatments as waxing completely removes hair from the roots. Because of the way the light is attracted to dark pigment, IPL works best on those with dark hair and fair skin, but different machines have different capabilities and individual salons would (should!) assess you for suitability before starting any courses.
Treatment time will vary widely depending on the size of the area, but as a guide it used to take around 90 minutes to do my full leg and Hollywood sessions. They say it doesn’t hurt and that it just feels hot or like being ‘flicked with a rubber band’, but my experience was that it is of course uncomfortable at times around your lady area. After all, most women don’t regularly choose to get flicked down there with red hot rubber bands. I found my knees and ankles the worst though, presumably because they’re the least fleshy. None of it’s remotely close to unbearable, but to say it’s pain-free is misleading.
The cost is slightly staggering and it’s argued that “the money you’ll save on waxing will pay for itself” and all that, but you can expect to pay thousands of pounds if you want a decent sized area (i.e legs) done. There are often offers like ‘buy five treatments get one free’ which help with the cost, but be wary of Groupon deals and so on where you may be going to cheaper salons with outdated equipment. IPL machines will vary from salon to salon and you want to go somewhere reputable when you’re spending that much money as, after all, you want this boring process to actually ruddy work.
As a rough guide, my waxing salon of choice charges £440 for six underarm treatments and £1940 for six full leg treatments…and six is the minimum number of sessions you should expect to have. (Adjust accordingly perhaps as these are Fulham prices, but I don’t think this is massively far from standard for a decent salon).
Once you’ve completed a course, it’s worth noting that annual maintenance sessions are recommended to keep the results tip-top. It’s not as simple as splashing £3k and never looking back.
SO! With that all being said, let’s bring this back to my experience…
I originally had a six session course full leg and Hollywood package but as I wasn’t happy a few months after finishing my sixth session, I had a further three treatments. All in all it was nine treatment sessions over the course of around 18 months. The bit which might make you hate me? I didn’t pay for this. I had all of my treatments at Ministry of Waxing in Covent Garden and they very kindly gifted the treatments as WIWT was working with them at the time. The fact I didn’t pay for this does not affect my review, as a) I really was saving up to start the treatment anyway and b) I can’t think of anything worse than encouraging someone to drop thousands of pounds on something that doesn’t work.
If you follow me on Twitter and are aware of my over sharing, you’ll know I still get waxed…so that kind of answers the “did it work?” question. But it’s not quite as cut-and-dried as that.
During my treatments, I was pretty convinced it was the best thing ever. You don’t have to let your hair grow as you do with waxing (gag) and you actually have to be clean shaven for the treatment to work, so that’s a bonus…especially in summer. The process was surreal, as the hair would grow after the treatment then magically fall out. You could see it happening. Without wanting to be too graphic and disgusting, it was actually quite rewarding to find shed hair in my knickers. (Sorry, but it WAS). I was SO smooth everywhere and it was truly fantastic. The results came quicker than I expected and it wasn’t until I was completely finished that I felt like the hairs that had apparently been ‘killed forever’ were growing back.
At first I was massively disappointed when I realised that the ‘in between treatments’ baldness wasn’t going to stick around, but now that’s it’s been nearly two years I can be more level headed about it.
Let’s start with the long-term results on my legs…
I’ve always suffered from dark, thick hair on my legs and before I started IPL I was one of those people where even if I’d *just* shaved you could still see the dark hair follicles under the skin. The Gillette ads infuriated me as a teenager because I couldn’t fathom clean shaven legs looking like anything other than a sea of black dots. My legs always felt rough and stubbly, despite using shaving gel and expensive blades, and I was pretty self-concious about it.
But I don’t have leg hair like that any more. (YEY!)
I have large patches on my legs which are completely hair-free now and where I do have hair it’s definitely considerably finer. Even if I don’t shave my legs for weeks at a time (and I often don’t now) any hair that’s there is lighter and very soft to touch, so I never have to worry about accidentally grating someone who happens to have the pleasure of making skin-to-skin contact with my shin. Before IPL it was typical for me to shave my legs twice a day during the summer, now I have to remember to pack a razor at all if I’m going away for a fortnight. The results really have been that incredible.
Whilst prissy me thinks the last thing you’ll want to look at is a hairy leg, ‘research me’ who was looking into IPL before I started treatment was desperate for real pictures of women who had completed their course.
So, without further ado, here are my “I haven’t shaved for a month” legs!
As you can hopefully tell, there are some ridiculously long hairs but other patches are completely bald. If I hadn’t had IPL then – no word of a lie – after TWO DAYS I would have looked like Patty and/or Selma.
So, all in all, yes I am pretty happy with how my legs have turned out. I shave my legs when I can be bothered and have clear seemingly follicle-free skin to show for it. My legs aren’t bald but as they are SO much better than pre-IPL days, I really don’t think I’d be disappointed had I paid for it. And the results would no doubt be better if I went for a maintenance session (which I’ve never done since completing IPL in May 2013).
I’m a happy customer.
This is where I am disappointed, I have ‘hair down there’. I have plenty of hair down there. And I spend £50 a month getting it waxed away. If I had paid the thousand plus pounds to have IPL and still been in the position I am now where I’m paying £50 a month for waxes then I would be LIVID.
I think the simple fact is that pubes are strong, to put it bluntly. They want to be there and they don’t care what’s en vogue when it comes to bush trends, they’ll keep on growing back.
The first time I went for a wax post-IPL was the most horrifically painful hair removal sesh I’ve ever had – I was nearly sick – but now I’m in a decent routine and never miss a monthly appointment, so it’s pretty painless now.
The hair that grows back is thinner and lighter than it was pre-IPL, but that could so easily be from having a regular waxing schedule as opposed to being something the laser can take credit for.
And don’t worry, I won’t post a picture.
The final verdict?
All in all, I’d say as long as you go into IPL with your eyes wide open (not literally, you have to wear protective goggles as it is) then you won’t be disappointed. If you want hair reduction, you’ll be pleased. If you want permanent hair removal, you won’t be. I was told that various things like medication can affect the results further down the line and that hormonal life events like pregnancy and the menopause can completely undo everything in some women, so at the end of the day you just have to appreciate that if your body wants to grow hair – it will probably find a way.
If your body hair truly bothers you or makes you unhappy (as my legs did) then you’ll probably be pleased to just make any sort of dent in it. And I think that’s what you need to weigh up when it’s such a pricey procedure. The difference in my legs has been worth it, but for some the improvement wouldn’t be enough to justify the cost.
I should point out in case it isn’t obvious that everyone’s experience is different, but if you’re looking for reviews from women who have had salon-based IPL just make sure they completed their course. I would love to hear from any women who have gone down the salon route in the comments!
In tomorrow’s post I’ll be talking about home-based IPL devices which aren’t too shabby these days either, so look out for that if you’re tempted to try this route. It could be a good compromise to see how well your skin/hair responds before investing in pricey salon treatments.
Happy body hair week!