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A Hairy Girl's Guide to Laser Hair Removal

I’m not pointing fingers, mamis, but let’s just say that between you and me, we both know surplus body hair is part of the Latina experience. From our foreheads to our big toes, body hair seems to invade like weeds once we hit puberty, and only gets worse when we become pregnant. (Gracias, hormones.)

If you’re anything like me, you’ve tried all of the usual hair-removal techniques (shaving, hair removal creams, plucking and so on) with limited success. Case in point: If I shave my legs in the morning, by the evening I will already have a bit of stubble on the surface of my skin. My güera friends never have this problem. Not fair!

There are plenty of women out there who don’t care about their body hair, and I think that is fantastic. I, however, don’t have the confidence to rock spiky black leg hair and hairy armpits. So recently, when I saw a Groupon for laser hair removal, I jumped at the chance to be hair-free.

Now that I’ve gone through the entire experience of laser hair removal, I wanted to share my tips with you so you can better decide if this might the right decision for you, too.

1. Dark-skinned Latinas may not be able to use laser treatment.

Skin color plays a role in whether or not laser hair removal might work for you. Generally, light-skinned women with dark body hair are the best candidates. Some olive tones may also have success, but if you have darker skin, the laser may not be able to detect the hair follicle and destroy it. However, newer lasers have different settings and strengths and may be able to work for you.

2. If using sites like Groupon, you’ll have to purchase one area, based on size.

The discounted Groupon-like deals are only available to new customers, and for only a single area, based on sizes ranging from small (like your upper lip) to extra large (like full legs). It can be difficult to pick the area you most want to be hair-free, but once you're there, you can inquire about additional deals for other areas of the body.

3. You have to shave before each of your appointments.

No hair-removal creams, no plucking, no waxing, either. The nurse who performed my laser treatment explained that shaving keeps the root intact, which is needed for the laser to detect and destroy it. The other options dissolve or pull-out the root, meaning the laser will not work. You have to be clean-shaven when you come to your appointment. I made the mistake of shaving the day before, and had stubble when I came to my appointment. To my embarrassment, the nurse dry-shaved me right on the table in one area, then reprimanded me to do a better job the next time.

4. Be prepared to bare all.

This is sort of obvious, but if you’re like me, you may wonder if you’ll be able to cover up a bit. If you’re getting any of your lady regions lasered, the answer is “No.” You will be completely nude from the waist down, and you will have to bend your legs in awkward positions so the person using the laser can reach every hairy place imaginable.

5. Yes, it will hurt.

Pain depends on the area you’re getting lasered and you. I can say with complete confidence that the inner thighs don’t hurt as much as the area directly below your waistband. My friend told me that her armpits hurt less than her feet, and another friend said that her bottom hurt worse than any area. Thankfully, the pain is short-lived. It feels like a zap, and once the laser moves, the pain disappears. There are numbing creams the technician will try to sell you ahead of time to increase your comfort. Ice packs are also wonderful to numb the area before and after. There may be some redness or swelling after, but usually that fades within a few hours.

6. Be prepared to return.

Although the packages on discount coupon sites are usually for six treatments, they will tell you that you usually need 8-10 visits spaced out every four to six weeks to have the best results. Also, the hair can and often does grow back over time. While laser treatment is often marketed as a “permanent hair removal” procedure, it is actually a permanent reduction of hair follicles. You may need to return every year for touch-ups.

So amigas, now you can be armed with the knowledge you need before deciding whether or not to try laser hair removal. As for me? I love it. Beauty is pain, but only for a moment.

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