Andrea’s Tips For Laser Hair Removal… as a Patient

It is probably at least a year since I finished my facial laser hair removal sessions with the UK NHS at Ulster Hospital in Belfast, so I thought I’d offer these tips to any women out there (transsexual or otherwise) with facial hair issues contemplating or currently undergoing this treatment… especially as a very good friend has just started this treatment:

  • It’s advisable to try and get an appointment on a Friday morning, as your face is likely to take all weekend to recover, and I really don’t recommend you shave or apply makeup until it has done so.
  • Prior to the day of treatment make sure you firstly have enough petrol to get you to the hospital and back, and some to spare – you don’t want to be stopping at a petrol station without make up on, and especially after the session with a red and puffy face, unless it is one of those pay-at-pump ones. Secondly, stock up on those little containers of Vaseline! Thirdly, as per the first point, you’ll likely want to spend the weekend after treatment at home, so stock up on food and goodies!
  • Make sure every tiny scrap of make-up has been removed from your face from last wearing it; I left a tiny bit of foundation next to my ears once, and my skin burnt a bit. Ideally use cleanser after a facial wipe to ensure your face is totally clean.
  • Shave the morning of the treatment. It is best for the hair to be as short as possible – it makes little difference to the effectiveness of the treatment (the nurse tells me), but what it does do is make the treatment less painful.
  • Take chocolate (or your favourite savoury treat if you don’t have a sweet tooth like me) so that once you come out of the treatment you will have a consolation treat. Also ensure you have a container of Vaseline.
  • Allow plenty of time to get to the hospital, park, get to administration, and go the to Ladies before getting to the Laser suite; drive below the speed limit and, if in traffic, don’t lane hop, the aim is to NOT get there already feeling stressed… cos you’ll likely be pretty strung out once the treatment is over!
  • I was prescribed Emla cream to help with pain relief on the face during the treatment, though I could never figure out how much it worked. One would apply this at half-hourly intervals from 90 minutes before treatment. Paracetamol beforehand might also help.
  • During treatment, take deep slow breaths in and out all the way through; if you know body-relaxation exercises, that’ll help too. If you smell burning, don’t worry, that’s only your face! Well, the hairs on it anyway, don’t worry, that’s normal… AND it means that the treatment is working!
  • I found the pulsing laser blasts pretty sore!! Maybe you’ll be luckier. My operator was very efficient, and moved around the face quite rapidly up and down; each zap is a bit like being the snap of being hit with an elastic band.
  • During the lasering, an assistant directed a blast of cold air at the area just being treated. Also, once a section of face had been treated then a pad of aloe vera was applied for a short while.
  • At the end of the laser treatment session, when I got up off the bed I was a trembling wreck! But a glass of water and a bit of chat with the nurse settled me down. Maybe that’ll work for you too. I generally found all of the staff at the NHS laser department very nice, especially my regular laser-operator.
  • Before leaving hospital, apply Vaseline to all of the areas that have been treated.
  • For the first hour or two after treatment your face, especially where the hair is more dense (typically above and below the lips) will likely feel the same as a severe sunburn; for this reason, stay out of the sun!!! Not only avoid the sun, use the sun visors in the car if the weather is sunny, have a window or two in the car open a bit, and once out of the car stay away from any heat source. Exposure to the sun after treatment may result in permanent spots of skin discoloration!
  • Pamper or treat yourself to keep your spirits up until the soreness dies down.
  • Make sure there is a constant coating of Vaseline on the skin, and do not be attempted to use anything else such as aloe vera or moisturiser.
  • As the day progresses to evening you may find some of the hairs that have hopped out of their follicles will come off your face, for example when applying Vaseline. You can use a dry fluffy towel or flannel to very gently try and brush hairs away if you want.
  • I do not recommend shaving for at least 48 hours after the laser sessions!! For the first few days after the treatment your skin will be very sensitive, I wet-shaved 48 hours after my first treatment and my face erupted into a catastrophic minefield of white heads! This was probably also exacerbated by me not using enough Vaseline, or mixing it with aloe vera. Anyway, that was NOT a good look. After the treatment I would hope that like me hair growth will slow a lot, try and shave electric for a while as that will irritate the skin less than a wet shave.
  • If you have a white head eruption, all you can do is apply foundation over it to hide the worst of the look… although your skin will look a bit like the surface of the moon. To get rid of the ‘eruption’ buy a good quality antibacterial wash, preferably from a good chemist, and DON’T pick or pop the white heads, however awful they look; in a couple of days it’ll look tons better!
  • Further to the above two points, 3-4 sessions my skin got used to the treatment and the pinkness had pretty much gone overnight.
  • After about four sessions, during which hair growth may seem to reduce, there may be a return of growth – this is normal, the hair tries to fight back, but further sessions convince it that this is just not on!
  • As the sessions continue the intensity of the laser increases, but as the amount of hair reduces then the pain does not proportionately increase.
  • 10 sessions is regarded as the optimum for effectiveness – fewer may not be enough, but to have more than that may also start to reverse the process and actually encourage growth again.
  • After the face’s skin has settled back to normality once the battery of sessions is over, it may become apparent that the odd coloured/dark hair has been missed… but experience to-date doesn’t indicate any resurgence of growth.

Laser works best on brown/black/dark hair – it will not work at all on grey/silvery hairs and is very unlikely to work on blonde hair either. Anything that can’t be removed via laser can be attempted using electrolysis…

NOTE – the above is all based on my experience, you may well experience less pain, be less sensitive to the affect of the treatment, and be less stressed by the whole thing!

12 thoughts on “Andrea’s Tips For Laser Hair Removal… as a Patient

  1. Some really useful insights, Andrea. If I may offer some reassurance – especially to those who are flipping terrified – my experience has been rather different. I’m coming to the end of my treatment – admittedly at a SK:N clinic rather than directly with the NHS, and whilst it’s far from a pleasant and painless procedure, the technician I usually see always does her best to make things as bearable as possible – for example delivering the zaps in short bursts of twos and threes, rather than a sustained volley (a stand-in technician used this latter technique in one session and I refused to let her treat me again). I was also pleasantly surprised that my skin recovered pretty much overnight, rather than the several days I’d been given to expect (and their soothing balm of choice actually is aloe vera!). The treatment has been wonderfully effective too.

    I think the reality is that the everyone’s skin and hair growth patterns are different, but the clinic should be able to recognise that and tailor treatment accordingly. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, plus it sounds like you’ve not had a great experience at all, and I’m really sorry about that. I suspect the reality for most will lie somewhere between those two extremes.

    I’m sure we’d both agree though that the end result justifies the means!

    • Ruth was it IPL or medical grade laser that you received from SK:N? I had patch tests for both on my face and while the IPL was painful the medical grade laser was pure agony

      • Medical grade laser. I was advised against IPL by several people on the basis it’s not as effective. There’s a bit on SK:N’s website that’s worth a look. PM me if you want any more gory details or if I can put your mind at rest.

      • BTW, I had IPL of course before my laser sessions, but while it was of some benefit in the less-dense areas of hair (and also on my back), in the denser areas above/below my mouth it was useless. Also Kirsty, I don’t recall the pain being significantly different between IPL and Laser.

    • Thanks for the reply… I liked the phrase “sustained volley”, lol 🙂 I’ve added a disclaimer at the end to say those are only my experiences 😮 Your reply also jogged my memory and put a few more points in… because after 2-3 sessions the post-effects were less severe.

  2. Few thoughts. It is good to understand the pattern of hair growth, then you will understand that not all follicles are active at the same time so it is important to continue a regular course of treatment so as not to miss some new growth.

    I had IPL and it was very effective on the dark hairs, cripes what a lot of grey hairs remained!

    Hair removal takes time and for many a lot of money too. Start as soon as you can if you thoughts about transition then you reduce any time being a hairy girl and will be more confident facing the world.

    I was terrified of pain before I started and even more terrified that I would not manage to loose the hedge I had hidden behind for so long. After flinching a few times I realised that it was best to face the inevitable pain, eventually it was interesting to compare the differences in each ZAP.

    After my sessions I had a half mile walk through a Botanical garden to where my car was parked, it was a joy to watch people’s reactions to the blotchy face, this bit is not for everyone…

    • Thanks for replying. Botanical garden walk, well, if you had to do it you had to do it, and perhaps in a sense it was relaxing… but I am not one to seek attention and so avoided public exposure as far as possible!

  3. Lots of good advice there Andrea.
    I’d also suggest adding take a couple of painkillers before the session as I found that helped, although in my case it just felt like someone was snapping an elastic band against my face.
    Did the person doing your laser use a cold air blast to cool the skin. I found that helped as well when I had mine done.
    I was also lucky in that I didn’t need to leave it a few days before shaving, my skin had recovered by the next day. I was also lucky that I was able to put make-up on straight afterwards, powder rather than liquid but it was possible to do. I think things like shaving and applying make-up will be down to individual experience, if you can manage it great, if not then you’ll need to leave the skin to settle.

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