Is laser hair removal really as terrifying as it sounds?
Thanks to ’70s sci-fi, lasers have an image problem. Capable of slicing a man in two and even – as evidenced by Star Wars – destroying a planet, few of us would jump at the chance to thrust our doughy bodies into their merciless path, unless there was some sort of reward involved (a ride in the Millennium Falcon, say).
Zapping the life out of follicles since 1997, hair removal company Silkor provides cosmetic laser treatments for the hairy masses, and the treatment is surprisingly swift – the sort of thing you could do in your lunch hour and still have time to gobble a sizeable sandwich. This is all down to efficient equipment, which works on a patch of hair in a single shot, rather than the follicle-by-follicle slog of electrolysis.
T-shirt whipped off, I’m asked to lie face-down on the table and relax. First, the areas to be treated (in this case my fluffy shoulders and neckline) are given a quick dry shave, before being smeared with a cooling gel.
I’m told anaesthetic cream is an option but, in the interest of research, I decline with false bravado. Next, the moment of truth. I’m handed a foam stress ball to hold (‘some people find it helps’, the laser lady explains) as a device reminiscent of a hand-held bar code scanner is pressed onto my skin. Teeth clenched, I brace myself for agony as the gun begins to glide across my chest. Surprisingly, the pain is minimal, causing me to audibly yelp on only a couple of occasions. The discomfort comes in the form of a short, sharp prick once every second or so, which is more intense as it frazzled coarser follicles. Unless your pain threshold is particularly low, chances are you’ll handle the ordeal without so much as a wince. Far more disconcerting for me is the smell of burning hair that fills the room as the treatment is carried out, transporting my mind to some sort of barbecue gone wrong.
It’s crucial to note that this is no one-shot cure. While most hairs in the treated area will fall out a week after treatment (as mine did), most sessions require a follow-up appointment to deal with persistent strands, usually booked in 10 days after the original treatment. Even then, it typically takes up to five treatments (generally spaced six to eight weeks apart) to put those pesky follicles to bed for good. Given the expense this entails, I’d probably stay the course for the sake of being permanently silky smooth. But with the beach season upon us, it’s a great way to ensure you don’t rock up looking like an unkempt Wookiee.
Pain free, long-lasting hair removal at home just seems too good to be true, but that’s what the new product No! No! claims to offer. We put it to the test…
The No! No! is a tiny product that claims to do big things. Using a heat technology called Thermicon, it sends a heat signal down the hair follicle; if this is done repeatedly, the heat will apparently damage the follicle, inhibiting growth of unwanted hair. Basically, it uses a similar technology to laser removal, but without the intense light and the pain, and this also means it works on fine hair (unlike traditional lasers).
The device needs to be plugged in to a power socket, so we position ourselves on a towel in our living room and get started. There are two different blades: one designed to eliminate stubble, the other long hair. We soon find the stubble-blade has little effect (even on recently shaved legs), so we stick to the long-hair blade.
For safety reasons, the No! No! doesn’t switch on until it’s rolling on the skin correctly – a green light indicating that it’s working properly – and we admit this confuses us (we spend five minutes looking for an ‘on’ button). But once we get it going, we’re surprised to find it’s 100 per cent painless, if a little hot. The only alarming element is the faint whiff of scorched follicles, which is not pleasant. The hair removal process takes a lot longer than shaving, and we find ourselves covering a patch of skin five to six times before seeing results.
Five days later, about three quarters of the hairs in the area are growing back – although the No! No! only promises to remove hair permanently over time as the follicle gets further damaged. In fact, a clinical study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology found that in 12 weeks, 48 per cent of the leg hair of 12 women had disappeared. We like those odds.