Altruism. Pure altruism. That’s what it takes to tell honest stories about yourself that make you look like an idiot. Here’s the next one.
Ahem…What is that?
Burns. That is my leg a year and a half ago. Those burns go all around and up and down my legs. Doesn’t it look horrible (yes, I know it looks a bit pudgy, too)? I had to go to the homeschooling group’s YMCA swimming get-together with my legs looking like this. I was new to the group, and nobody asked questions at all. When I was a kid, I knew a woman who had been in a car wreck and the electrical wires fell on her car. She had to have skin grafts for terrible burns and had large scars on her legs. I was kind of hoping all the ladies in the group were feeling sorry for me and thinking of all the terrible things that could have caused my leg to be burned like that. What a mysterious newcomer! Did you see those burns on her legs? Awful! I wonder how she got those burns? A car accident?
Well, people, those burns were…umm…from…well, they were self-inflicted. Yes, yes. Well, kind of self-inflicted. Let me just say, “Don’t get burned in the name of vanity.”
Let’s start at the wonderful, blissful beginning. About 3-4 years ago in Sumter, South Carolina, an outpatient surgery nurse-friend of mine told me she also worked part time at a place called Colonial Aesthetics doing botox treatments. I like my smile and scowl lines for emphasis so I was just murmuring the typical Southernisms ,”Mmm-hmm” and “Is that right?”, every now and then, but when she mentioned that they also offered laser hair removal treatments, my ears perked up! She was a dark-haired beauty, and her legs were smooth as silk as we sat by the palm and azalea surrounded swimming pool. Lasik and laser hair removal. Two treatments I’d always wanted without the price or chance.
Within a week, I had called Nancyhunter at Colonial Aesthetics to schedule an appointment, all geared up to get that hair off my legs and bikini line. You see, I shaved every single day, and if it was a date night, I’d have to shave again before going out. I figured out that I spent at least two hours a month shaving my legs. Over the years, hours and hours of my life spent shaving. What a waste. Now, I know I could not shave, and that is an option. But that’s not an option. I am choosing to conform here. Hair is itchy. And hanging out the bikini top (which I don’t) is cool, and hanging out the bikini bottom (which I would do) is not.
Nancyhunter has to be the best laser hair technician anywhere. She looked at my legs that first visit and said, “No, ma’am. You’re too tan. Come back and see me in the fall.” Really? I can’t have it done? Even if I pay cash? Nope. Nope. Nope. I thought she was a bit conservative, but it didnt’ matter. I wasn’t going to get laser hair removal done that summer. “If I do it now, you’ll never be back.” I guess when you’re tanned, the laser setting has to be turned up, and the pain can be pretty intense. Plus, there’s a risk of hypopigmentation. And later, as a I found out, a higher chance of burning.
Well, treatments finally started in the fall and lasted throughout the winter until the next spring when it was sun time again; they resumed the next fall and winter. Never was there any problem. My face, bikini line, and legs responded well and hair growth was much, much less. I told my husband that I was happy that I lived in the age of laser hair removal. Sure, the initial treatments smarted like crazy because of my dark, abundant hair! When I walked out of the room my legs looked like a plucked chicken becasue of my “good response.” And happily, I was shaving about once every week or two.
A Change of Scenery
All good things come to an end. We moved across the country, and I wanted to keep my laser treatments up so I would have successful complete hair removal and not have to shave at all. I made an appointment with the only place in town, a plastic surgeon’s office, who provided laser hair removal. I didn’t ask for any references. I didn’t call around to ask any friends (since we had just moved, I didn’t really even have any friends). I didn’t ask how many clients they served or what area of the body they were most experienced with. I ignorantly assumed one laser place was as good as another, and, anyway, this one was associated with a plastic surgeon’s office!
The laser hair removal was performed in the doctor’s office. I waited with elderly patients having their basal cells removed. Not like Nancyhunter’s where I entered a spa-like, albeit small, entry area smartly decorated and wonderful smelling, only to be ushered into a soothing treatment room with dimmed lights and soft music. Here, I was in a cold sterile room on an examining table with crunchy paper. The woman who performed my treatment was actually a nurse practitioner (NP), so credential-wise, she outshone Nancyhunter for sure! Credentials? What do they mean if you don’t have experience or you’re just not good? They mean nothing. It was October, and although my tan was diminished, there was some. I kept asking her if my skin was too dark. I’d be more than happy to delay treatments if she thought I should. “No, no. It looks fine.”
We proceeded. I noticed the probe was much smaller. I noticed that ultrasound jelly had to be used on my skin. I noticed it took forever longer. What I did not notice, as I lay oblivious on that examining table, was that my legs were being fried. You would have thought I would have felt the difference, but I did not. It always smarts a little. The PA kept asking me if it hurt. She kept saying it was very red. She seemed a little concerned, but she didn’t stop. Nancyhunter always told me I got a “good response” when she did the laser treatments, so I wasn’t too concerned! I should have been. Especially when the PA told me she was leaving her current job as laser technician to take a job as a cardiac NP. Red flag! Should have got off the table right there.
Luckily after a leg and a half, we ran out of time. I told her I had to go pick up my kids and “We’ll finish later if my leg doesn’t fall off.” I was joking, still unaware that my legs really were burned. They still did not hurt. The technician looked horrified at my joke, but at the time, that’s all it was! I even made a follow-up appointment to finish the other leg! By the time I was driving home, my legs were burning like the worst sunburn I had ever felt–actually never felt, since I don’t burn much. I was nearly in tears when my pants rubbed my legs. At home, I changed immediately. My legs were burned. MY LEGS WERE BURNED! You could see the probe lines all up and down my legs. And the burning. Oh, the burning! I couldn’t even sleep at night because they burned so bad. It hurt for the sheet to even touch my legs.
I Got Burned
I promptly made an appointment with the plastic surgeon the NP operates under. He looked at it, hemming and hawing. Probably you were too tan. Bottom line, “It’s not third degree so there will be no scarring.” Well, scarring refers to raised skin. It in no way refers to just plain pigmentation changes that may occur from burns! My legs were going to look freakish because of my vanity. I didn’t even get my money back. I didn’t fuss much. It’s a known possible outcome of laser hair removal. I knew burns were a possibility. And I got a possible bad outcome.
“Well,” I said, “at least I won’t have any hair on that leg!”
“Actually,” he replied, “the laser energy went into your skin rather than the hair follicle it was supposed to go into. You will not get good effect.” Okay. Really now?
I requested some Biafine cream and left. The Biafine cream soothed my legs immensely. The Biafine really, really helped the burns feel better and heal more quickly. Thank you to my dear friend, Megan, for that recommendation. I wrapped my legs with ACE bandages to help with the pain, swelling, and so they wouldn’t rub on my capri pants. I kept my legs elevated to further keep the swelling down. I kept them out of the sun for a year, something I remembered from my burn rotation in medical school–to lessen scarring and pigment changes.
Today, you can still see faint lines. In the winter, the lines are paler than my other skin. In the summer, the melanocytes in the burned strips of skin go crazy, and I have streaks of darker skin running up and down my leg. Eventually, I’m pretty sure all the streaking will fade completely, but maybe not. Time will tell. I have no “true” scarring. Just freaky lines.
So that’s it. That’s my story on laser hair removal.
- Don’t go to any laser hair removal place unless you have a couple of people you know who have had successful treatments there on the area you want treated.
- Don’t have treatments done until tan lines have completely faded.
- Check out how busy the laser hair removal place is, maybe asking them how many legs, faces, etc they have done.
- Don’t rely on credentials to ensure good treatment! Experience counts. Happy customers count. Ask, “How long has your technician been doing this?” “Do you have any references I may call, please?”
Does laser hair removal hurt?
Yes and no. My first treatments in each area hurt more because there’s more hair. The sections of body with more hair will hurt more. Also, the darker the hair, the more the hurt. And if there’s a lot of dark hair (think bikini line and upper lip), it hurts much. It feels like a rubber band snapping you over and over, in some places smarting and stinging a lot, and in other places quite negligible. As less and less hair grows back with each laser treatment, the stinging gets less. In some ways, it feels no different from waxing, it’s just that waxing happens “all at once.” Now that I’ve had several treatments, it really doesn’t hurt much at all. When I asked Nancyhunter if she’d ever had anyone not be able to tolerate the pain from laser treatment, she said, “No, there are some things I can do to help, such as adjust the settings on the machine, and so I’ve never had anyone not be able to complete a treatment.”
Does the hair grow back?
Yes and no. Normal hair growth occurs in stages, and not all hair is in the same growth (or no-growth) stage at the same time. The laser best targets hair that is its active growing stage called anagen, and only about 1/5 of the hairs are in anagen at a time.
So for my legs, the first treatment will be able to destroy about 20% of the hair on my legs. I have to come back 1-2 months later to catch another 20%. And then again 1-2 months later to catch another 20%. Getting the idea? In all, the legs take about 6 treatments. Some people will take more treatments and some will take less. After the 6 or so treatments, the legs are pretty much smooth, except the laser has trouble penetrating into the fine, light-colored hair follicles, so there may be some soft, light hair left behind. Yearly touch-ups may be needed to keep stragglers or regenerated hair follicles at bay.
Each area of the body may take differing number of treatments and require different follow-up times. Sometimes anagen waves occur every month and other places in the body they occur every 6 weeks and in others 2 months. For my treatments, I’d clump the bikini line, legs, and face together, come back in a month for just my face, and in another month come back for all areas again.
I currently shave my legs once a month. My bikini line, due to the different hair color and texture, took to the laser treatments great, and I never have to shave the bikini line.
When is the best time to have laser hair done?
As my story suggests, plan ahead. Don’t think in May you’re going to get laser therapy for the summer. The best time to have it done is starting in the fall, so you have time to get in most of the needed treatments to have some successful hair removal before the summer months hit. Also, it is best to not have tanned skin. Once I get tanned, Nancyhunter wisely shakes her head and tells me to come back when the tan diminishes.
What’s the whole experience like?
Let’s talk about the good experience. ..well, I walk into Colonial Aesthetics, a small annex to Colonial Family Practice clinic. In many states, laser technicians must be affiliated with and supervised by a physician, as is Colonial Aesthetics. Although a small and compact place, the Colonial Aesthetics annex decor is tasteful and soothing. Like a spa. I am greeted by either Nancyhunter or another Colonial Aesthetic’s employee, and I await my appointment time in the receptionist’s room or in a small hallway, all beautifully decorated. When it’s my turn, Nancyhunter comes and greets me and shows me to the laser therapy room, another beautifully appointed room. Very spa like. I undress the areas to be treated, and then Nancyhunter comes back in. She marks the areas with a wax pencil so she has grid lines to make sure she doesn’t miss any spots. She makes sure I’m as comfortable as I can be as she “zaps” me about a thousand times with the laser probe. The probe is about the size of a quarter so doing the legs can take quite a bit of time. When I leave, some areas have little red splotches or little mosquito-bite like bumps that promptly resolve within an hour, and I still have grid lines to wash off. No pain after the treatment whatsoever. None.
Needless to say, I am a glutton for punishment. For the last two years, I have patiently waited for our trip back to South Carolina. Once there, I drive the two hour trip to Sumter for Nancyhunter to do laser therapy on my legs, face, and bikini line. Once a year is not optimal if you never got all the initial treatments done in a sequence, but it still treats a lot of the dark hair that plagues me, particularly my face as I am aging. And I’m too scared to go anywhere else. Once burned, twice shy. Choose your laser hair therapy administrator exceptionally well!
Nancyhunter at Colonial Aesthetics has to be one of the best at what she does. When Colonial Aesthetics began, apparently Nancyhunter tried out many, many machines on her own self. She told me I wouldn’t believe the number of machines that burned her skin as the sales rep sat there and talked the glories of each machine up to heaven. “Uh-uh. If it burns me, there’s no way I’m going to do that to somebody else.” I don’t remember what machine she finally ended up with, but I’d have to say, in her skillful hands, it works like a charm.
And that is the end of my story. I hope it helps somebody out and keeps them out of trouble.
http://www.realself.com/question/laser-hair-removal-burns Doctors answer questions about a patient who got burned.