As an eleven-year-old girl who had just switched schools, I had a boy approach me, pinch at my arm hair and loudly call me a gorilla in the crowded cafeteria. See, I am very pale with incredibly thick, dark hair. This is fine for the top of my head, but rather unfortunate everywhere else. I was crushed by this comment. In response, my mother had my big brother come visit me at school and give the angry eye to that boy and his lackeys. It helped, with my brother’s natural resting alpha face.
Even if the comments weren’t repeated, I was self-conscious and refused to wear short sleeved shirts. I wanted to shave my arms. Thankfully my mother knew that was an awful idea. Not only was I already bad at shaving legs and would only have nicks all over my elbows, but she knew I could have itchy ingrown hairs and be stuck in the infinite loop of daily shaving if they were at all visible. So, the natural next step was to go see a very nice Greek woman at a salon for some waxing. She promised that the hair would be thinner and lighter after a few treatments. I don’t remember how many times we had my arms waxed, but after at least three treatments, things weren’t looking any better. My grandmother suggested electrolysis, but my mother settled on laser hair removal instead. This was late 2001, the very beginning of laser technology. Looking back at the laser technology it was very clunky and brutal. The laser was held far from the skin, treated in large squares while the laser searched for follicles. My unfortunate coloring turned out to be a boon since dark hair on pale skin is ideal, but the old lasers HURT. Even with a thick layer of ultrasound gel, the burning was agonizing and the snap on the hair felt more like a needle gun rather than the rubber band snap it is today. Regardless, little 11/12-year-old me sat through 12 treatments on my lower arms and underarms. My arms are still practically hair-free to this day. The pain was worthwhile. I was able to wear short sleeve shirts in Arizona without feeling insecure.
I had thought my experience with laser hair removal was over after that, but about eight years later, in a strange twist of fate, my own mother became an aesthetician with laser certifications. When she first started with Dr. Blume at the fledgling Blume Skin & Body, I was brought in to be the guinea pig for the sales rep of the new laser. The new laser Sciton Joule BBL was held directly on the skin with some ultrasound gel and felt like a snap rather than a stab, and the heat was noticeably improved. My mother decided to take on the project of de-hair-ing my legs. I was about to join the Air Force and she figured it would be great to not have to worry about leg hair. I resisted at first since my arms had been so time-consuming and painful, but relented after much convincing. And she was so right. At boot camp, 60 girls have a combined 10 minutes to shower in a room with about 10 shower heads. Shaving anything was out of the question. The one time we did get to shave was before we had our professional military portraits taken. My drill sergeant ironically said “I don’t want my flight of girls looking like gorillas” and gave us an entire afternoon to groom ourselves. The shower room looked like a Pomeranian had exploded. And there I was with no hair on my legs, able to take my precious shower time to actually properly wash my hair while the rest of the girls spent it awkwardly trying to shave everything they could in the space and time they had.
A few years later, I began to notice I was growing some unusual facial hair on my lower face and neck. Turns out I developed Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and once again my arch-nemesis of body hair was back to haunt me. I was on the other side of the country, so I couldn’t come crawling back to the Blume Skin & Body, so I settled for shaving. My mother, the now laser expert, was not having it. She found a place near me that used the same laser she knew and made me an appointment. Six treatments later and it was better, but not gone. Every time I visited home, it would include a clandestine afternoon on a Sunday at the Blume Skin Body with my perfectionist mother zapping every follicle she could find. But then they got a new laser Lumenis Light Sheer that was incredibly quick and the pain was very minimal. Just my luck that laser hair removal would become so sophisticated just as I start to finally not need it anymore. Though, with my history, I suppose I should say I don’t need it anymore… for now. Who knows what else my body will throw at me next, but it’s a relief to know that there is a mostly permanent and low-maintenance option.
Laser hair removal is often seen as a superfluous, vain treatment. However, as my scenarios have shown, it can be the best solution to what can be a long-term problem. My arm hair was affecting me emotionally with bullying. We could have continued to wax, but my skin is sensitive and reacts negatively, and waxing every six weeks or so for my entire adult life would have been less cost-effective than the higher up-front cost of the laser hair. With how much the technology has improved as well, I would never hesitate to recommend hair removal to someone looking for an alternate solution to daily shaving or monthly waxing. Six or twelve treatments now are nothing when you get to enjoy the benefits for a lifetime.