On Thursday, August 4, after the art walk in Mukilteo, I had my beard zapped by my good friend Dr. Warren Magnus at his new clinic Maia Skin. The laser he used was a Candela GentleLase.
I have always had trouble with my beard. Whenever I shave it close, even with an electric razor, I always get "shaving bumps" (ingrown hairs). The worst of these can take months to subside. For this reason I shave clean only on special occasions. Most of the rest of the time I use the trimmer on my electric razor to give myself a fashionable stubble. And even that sometimes results in ingrown hairs.
I hate shaving with a passion. For years I've been saying that if there was a pill that would make all my hair fall out permanently, I'd take it just to never have to shave again, even if it meant losing every single hair on my body as collateral damage.
Laser hair removal is not for everyone, but I am nearly an ideal candidate: I have light skin and dark hair. This means the hair can absorb the energy from the laser, but the skin reflects the light -- so a fairly high-energy setting can be used to zap the hair without burning my skin. People with darker skin have to use lower laser settings to avoid burning the skin, and that means hair removal requires more treatments. Laser hair removal will not work if your beard is light or, in most cases, red, despite what some clinics claim. I have a few gray hairs in my beard and the laser will never get them; I'll have to keep pulling them or, if they become too annoying, possibly have electrolysis on them.
The laser only kills follicles that are actively growing hair at the time of treatment. (Hair growth does not happen continuously; at any given time, some follicles are "resting.") For this reason, it is necessary to have multiple treatments -- probably four or five in my case. My next one will be in early September.
There is some discomfort to the treatment, but it is certainly not intolerable. I was given no anesthetic or pain reliever and really needed none. The discomfort was worst along the jawline, which is one of the more sensitive areas. The GentleLase squirts you with a cool liquid before zapping you, and this seems to help. It took less than a hundred individual laser pulses to treat my entire beard area. (I elected to leave my mustache area untreated.)
Afterward, I had some redness that lasted for about a day. It felt like a sunburn. There is also a distinct scent of singed hair -- I shaved the next day to help get rid of some of that. The smell is not noticeable to others unless they are right next to your face, but you will notice it occasionally for the first few days.
Hair continues to grow out after the treatment -- even out of the dead follicles. About a week after the treatment, however, the singed hair gets completely pushed out and begins falling out or coming loose with gentle tugging. At this point, the follicles that have been successfully zapped will not regrow hair ever again.
I seem to be one of the few straight men having laser hair removal on my beard. Most people who have the treatment are male transsexuals wanting to lose this secondary sexual characteristic, or post-menopausal women who have developed unwanted facial hair. So I thought I'd post my experiences to illustrate how regular guys can benefit from this procedure too. If you hate shaving, check it out. I'll let everyone know how the second and subsequent sessions go.
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