It was a warm Texas day in December when I found myself having a breakdown in my car. The breakdown had been brought on by a combination of things: physical pain, a sense of worthlessness, a hatred of hair, and this tiny voice in the back of my head asking me what I was doing.
I guess some context might be helpful.
In case you’ve forgotten, I’ve written about manscaping before. At the time, I used waxing as my hair removal method of choice over shaving and depilatory creams. A few months later, I found myself getting tired of the frequent appointments I was making at the Woodhouse Day Spa. My birthday was also coming up, so I thought I should do something special just for myself. Then I began to research laser hair removal.
I had always dismissed laser hair removal as too expensive or too dangerous. Several years ago, I met a woman (a hair stylist among other things) who claimed she could do laser hair removal in the back room of her boutique. However, after taking one step into what amounted to little more than a closet, I made up a reason to leave and fled before she could stop me. I hadn’t thought about laser since. I live in a small town, but apparently laser hair removal is big here. At least, there’s four different places you could get it done.
I sort of picked one at random after reading their description of the service on the website. They used something called a “cooling device.” Seeing the lack of this product on the other sites, I decided to make an appointment. That’s when I started researching costs and trying to figure out what to expect. I’m a hirsute person and have been for about half of my life at this point, so I knew I might need a longer session, or to pay more for a larger area, and etc. I was trying to get rid of the hair on my back, which has been a huge problem for me.
I met with the esthetician, a very nice lady, and she told me the not-very nice price of the laser hair removal: $2,000. Yikes. Turns out, laser hair removal is not like waxing. They make you buy sets of treatments all at once. I thought about it and she mentioned the various financing options. Normally, I scare easy when it comes to purchases like this, especially if it requires opening up new lines of credit. But I was already there and I thought I could finally be happy with myself, free of my body hair.
I had my first “treatment” that day, and it was not what I expected.
I thought because I had done waxing for so long that the pain wouldn’t be a big deal, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The kind of pain entailed in laser hair removal is so different than waxing. With waxing, there’s one jolt of pain as the hair is ripped off, then you get a break before the next patch of hair is removed. The laser felt like there were dozen of tiny needles digging into my skin. And the very nice lady didn’t pause between one patch and the next. I had no way to catch my breath or adjust to the pain. Basically, the laser burns away hair follicles and the more hair follicles there are in an area, the more effective the laser is. And the more effective the laser, the more painful it is.
It was a little startling, but I thought I could get used to it. That first night, though, I panicked. Yes, I was happy with the results (my back was very red, but also very hairless), but I was not happy with the money I spent. I thought about all of the different ways I might try to get a refund or what other costs I might cut. Then I went to bed. I felt a little bit better about it in the morning and decided I would see it through to the end. I had paid for six treatments and so that came down to about $330 per treatment. I scheduled treatments about every six weeks.
The intensity of the pain increased with almost every treatment.The very nice lady was determined for me to see results. She had an odd habit, though. As I lay on the table, grimacing every time she activated the laser, she would ask me if I was doing okay. One time, I asked her to use a lower setting. She reluctantly agreed, informing me the results may not be as great at a lower setting. It was this habit that led, in part, to my breakdown on a warm December day.
During my most recent treatment, she used a setting that I couldn’t tolerate. For whatever reason, the “needles” were too strong or my skin was too sensitive. I asked her to use a lower setting, but it was my second-to-last treatment and she insisted that this higher setting be used. She then placed ice packs on my skin in between shots of the laser. This helped a little bit, but I asked myself a lot of questions before the session was over.
They were questions that I had asked before: What was I really doing here? Why was I doing this to myself? What part of myself did I hate so much that I would subject myself to this? Would I be happy after this?
The answer to that last question was a resounding no as I almost ran out of the “health spa” and cried in my car for ten minutes. I felt like I’d been assaulted, but all she’d done was what I paid her to do. There was nothing that had happened in the previous hour that I couldn’t have prevented very easily. Did I really hate my body hair so much that I would subject myself to one more treatment? It felt silly to phrase it like that, as if my hair is separate from me, as if my body is not me. I was punishing my body for something it couldn’t help.
I have one last treatment scheduled in February, but I probably won’t go. I thought I’d be happier after this whole process, after taking care of the problem of my hair. But I’ve realized that my hair isn’t the problem. It never was. I’m the problem. I’m not sure how I’m going to fix myself, but something tells me that lasers are not the answer.