We often approach pre-wedding beauty prep from the neck up. With facials to book and hair and makeup trials to schedule, it's easy to neglect the rest of your body. But, if you're invested in making your underarms, legs, and bikini area as smooth and bump-free as possible, there are options (beyond shaving and waxing!) out there. Laser hair removal, the buzzy beauty trend that offers head-to-toe hair elimination, is revolutionizing the way brides achieve smooth skin.
Hair-removal lasers work by zapping the pigment within the hair follicle and using heat to destroy it. Sound intense? That's because it is. Laser hair removal is a procedure that should be left to the pros, which is why we tapped a laser specialist and a dermatologist for their insight, tips, and tricks for success. The good news is, if you approach treatment the right way, you'll be stubble-free long after your big day. Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about laser hair removal.
You need to start early.
Unlike waxing or shaving, you won't see the full effects of laser hair removal until months after your first treatment. The reason? "[Laser hair removal] can only effectively kill off hairs that are in the growth phase. Not all hairs are actively growing at the same time. Therefore, you need to repeat the treatment every four to six weeks to make sure you eventually hit all of the hairs during their growth phase," explained Dr. Whitney Bowe, a New York City-based dermatologist and author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin. To ensure that you get every last hair, book your first session six to eight months before the wedding.
Expect a little bit of pain.
But not too much! "For someone who deals with the pain of waxing, laser will be a breeze for you!" said Kristen Rogers, Laser Specialist at Spruce & Bond. "It's more of a quick pinch, something you may be not used to, so it's slightly uncomfortable. However, it happens so fast that it's over before you realize you're feeling any discomfort." Of course, pain levels differ from person to person and change depending on which part of your body you're zapping. "For me personally, my underarms are my most uncomfortable spot to get lasered," said Rogers. "For others, the bikini area definitely has some nerve endings in it that make it less pleasant."
Not all lasers were created equal.
If you're going to willingly put yourself under a laser, you need to know that the machinery is safe. Keep an eye out for Alexandrite and Yag lasers, said Rogers. "Intense pulsed light (IPL) machines can also remove hair, but only on light skin, and the quality of those machines can vary," she continued. You definitely want top quality machines, or you run the risk of "burning or causing discoloration to the surrounding skin," explained Bowe.
The results aren't entirely permanent.
Rogers told us that the more accurate way to describe laser hair removal is actually "permanent hair reduction." "You will begin to see results about two weeks after your first treatment. That is when your hair starts to fall out and you can see the follicles disappearing," said Rogers. "But you'll need to come back every four to six weeks to maintain these results. It usually takes a series of five treatments to achieve maximum results." There's still a chance you'll be able to toss your razor for good, though. "[The technique] dramatically reduces the regrowth of the hair in the areas treated, so much so that you will likely not need to shave those areas anymore if the procedure is done properly," said Bowe.