Having a mixed ethnicity (half European, half Middle Eastern, all Mediterranean) has been a blessing and a curse. Sure I have naturally olive skin (I never sunburn, huzzah!), big lips, thick flowing locks, and a butt that won’t quit (oh, don’t give me that look), but mother nature decided to give my Mediterranean-beauty-powers one major Kryptonite: hirsuteness.
That’s right, I said it. I have facial hair. And so do you. Don’t try to deny it. All women have some form of facial hair, and according to research done by BristolMyers, approximately 20 million American women remove facial hair at least once a week. Female facial hair therefore isn’t such the abnormality we tend to see it as. Guess what? You’re human. Stop equating your facial hair to a circus act a la the bearded lady. It’s perfectly natural. That being said, not all of us have the Frida Kahlo-like chutzpah to walk around proudly displaying our mustaches and uni-brows. Wanting to be sexually attractive to potential partners usually means not looking like their fathers.
I’ve been hiding and removing my facial hair ever since I hit puberty, so I’m well attuned to the popular methods women enjoy, and can usually spot them instantly. A quick glance at other ladies on the subway reveals who likes to bleach, who likes to use depilatory creams, who waxes, who plucks, and who (unfortunately) shaves.
I have tried all of these methods in the past, and they all have their benefits and drawbacks. Bleaching is great for fine hairs but not for the thicker ones, as thick blonde hair is just as noticeable as unsightly as dark hair. Depilatory creams make you look absolutely flawless, but left on for even a minute longer than recommended results in skin burns, irritation, and the hair grows back in a couple days anyway. Waxing (and threading) has a longer lasting effect than depilatory creams, but this idea that the hair grows in “finer” is disingenuous. Removing hair from the root doesn’t actually affect the root of the hair. In addition, we all know waxing can be painful, and like depilatory creams, can result in burns, blotching, irritation, and redness.
So when the option of laser hair removal suddenly became available, with promises to permanently remove the hair after only six treatments, I was sold. Removing the waxing, depilatory, and bleaching routine from my beauty regime was not only desirable, but convenient and time-saving. I travel a lot and sometimes access to a microwave to heat up the wax isn’t always available, and finding the space in my rucksack for all the creams, bleaches and strips proves troublesome.
So I signed up and lasered my face my face within an inch of its life.
That was 18 months ago.
I’m still going in for treatments like a chump. And I’m still hairy.
When I signed up for my first treatment, the technician gave me a fact sheet and tips for preparation. I wasn’t allowed to pluck or wax between treatments, as the laser is attracted to the dark pigment of the hair and requires its presence in order to attack it. That’s why women with blonde hair are not ideal candidates for laser hair removal. I could shave the hair off or use a depilatory cream before the laser treatment (because that doesn’t actually remove the hair, just cuts it off at the skin’s surface), but if I left the hair on my face, it could cause a slight burn when the laser zapped it. Sounds pretty reasonable.
The fact sheet went on to say that most women only require six treatments to remove the hair, but it also stated (in much finer print, no less) that like all the other tools of the trade, it wasn’t 100% permanent. Laser hair removal at this stage in the game is still a temporary treatment. My technician told me that in some cases, the laser has actually stimulated hair growth for some women. Um. What?
So my first treatment went like this – I lay down, the technician covered my eyes with goggles to protect me from the bright laser burst, slathered a cooling analgesic cream on my face, positioned the laser head to my skin, and zapped.
Sweet Jesus, someone hand me the jaws of life. Painful!
Yes, the pain is momentary and it subsides almost immediately after the treatment, but DAYUM. It felt like someone was pressing the surface of a scalding hot toaster up against my cheeks over and over again. The worst bits are along the jawline as it hits the bone, or the upper lip as there’s less flesh and muscle there to absorb the pain. I can say, without hyperbole: Laser hair removal hurts like a mo-fo.
After the treatment, the technician cleaned me up, slathered lots of aloe vera and a little cortico-steroid on my face, and charged me $113 including tax for the privilege.
Shopping around, I discovered $113 is actually a bit of a bargain. Some spas, salons, and aestheticians can charge $250-$300 a pop. And believe me, women will pay..
I scheduled my next treatment 6-8 weeks later and noticed, as promised, the hair took almost that full amount of time to grow back. That’s probably the best benefit I’ve experienced for laser hair removal. For 6-8 weeks, I can walk into my favourite café without worrying whether the cute hipster dude at the next table will notice my lil’ ‘stache. I can also travel for long periods of time without having to bring my wax kits or bleaches. Last name Win, first name Epic.
I did everything the technician told me to do. I didn’t wax or pluck in between treatments. However, when the hair finally did grow back in, I had to walk around sporting all that fuzzy stuff without the option of bleaching or removing it. I kept my ponytail down and wore a lot of hats that week.
I subsequently had my second treatment. Then my third. My sixth treatment came and went. Then my tenth. Then my fifteenth.
The hair still grows back in. In some sections of my face, it has indeed been removed. There are areas that are bald, some with just fine hair, and spotty and patchy at best. In other areas, it grows back as thick and as dark as it did before.
I keep going back for maintenance and up-keep. Maintenance is the biggest drawback to other forms of hair removal and something I thought was behind me with the six-treatment-guarantee. No dice. I keep forking over my moolah, and there’s no end in sight.
In the end, it turns out that laser hair removal isn’t the be-all-and-end-all solution for female facial hair. Like waxing, plucking, bleaching, and depilatory creams, maintenance is required, albeit at much longer intervals. And after almost two years of treatments, it hasn’t proven to be cost effective either. Wax strips cost about $10 per box, but you have to keep doing it. Laser hair removal costs $113, but you have to keep doing it. Over time, I’m beginning to see the benefits of its sporadic-maintenance in a much different light. Just because I only have to do it every 6-8 weeks doesn’t make it worth ending up in the poor house.
If I could go back and never go down the laser hair removal road, I’d gladly do it. I’d instead focus on liking myself for who I am, flaws and all, and learn to love my little mustache. I could even start a club for similar women. We could call ourselves the Hirsute Hotties.
That’s sexy, right?