The body hair question is a personal matter and only you can decide if and where you want to remove your unwanted body hair. One popular method of permanent reduction or removal of body hair is to go for laser hair removal. There are at-home devices, either IPL or diode laser, and there are salon options, all of which have their upsides and downsides (read here about IPL vs laser). For those with ultra-sensitive skin, one downside can be pain or discomfort. Some people find the thought of zapping their skin with lasers intimidating and may wonder if that's painful. The good news is that with advancements in technology and some helpful tips, you can have a relatively pain-free experience while navigating the discomfort during laser hair removal. Let's explore.
What is diode laser hair removal in a nutshell?
I've written extensively about my journey with Tria's 4X hair removal laser here. This journey spans from February to October, essentially nine months of my journey from starting out to the results after the treatment and top-ups ended.
For me, I found the laser zaps to be painless on my legs, arms, face, and stomach. It felt a little "hotter" on my underarms and more delicate areas, but Tria has a Calm Soothing Gel that can relieve the sensation and the zaps are so quick that it's over in no time. Tria's laser is cordless, so you can use it anywhere without being attached to the wall, and there are no dodgy goggles to wear either because the laser's light absorbs directly into your skin rather than spilling out the sides and risking eye injury.
Laser energy is absorbed by the hair follicle and it inhibits future hair growth. When the hair is in the growth stage of the cycle (which is when you’ll want to zap it), then there may be more discomfort. As your hair follicles thin and reduce, the discomfort gets less and less.
Will it make my skin sore?
Advances in lasers mean that there have been advancements in technology. With the Tria laser, the discomfort is minimal. Some salon treatments have more discomfort and many people describe the sensation as snapping a rubber band against the skin. However, all laser hair removal is a fairly quick process so any "painful" or "uncomfortable" sensations are minimal.
Can I use numbing creams and gels?
If you find the sensation of the at-home laser (or salon laser) too uncomfortable, you can purchase numbing creams or gels to minimise discomfort. You can apply numbing cream to the treatment area half an hour before your session, or, if you are using the Tria 4X laser, you can apply a thin layer of their Calm Soothing Gel, which is enriched with anti-inflammatory plant extracts. Topical anaesthetics temporarily numb the skin, making the laser hair removal much more bearable for those who find the zaps too painful; however, Tria recommends not using anything that will risk leaving residue on your skin and clogging up the laser's intelligent lens (but many people say they can't feel any discomfort from the Tria at-home laser).
What should I know about hydration and avoiding caffeine?
Interestingly and perhaps confusingly, hydration actually plays a vital role in how your body perceives pain. Studies show that if you are dehydrated, it reduces blood flow to the brain which increases our perception of pain. If you drink plenty of water before your salon or at-home treatment, it might make your procedure feel more comfortable. Even though many of us need that fourth cup of coffee to feel awake in the morning, since caffeine is a diuretic and impacts hydration levels, it's best to avoid caffeine as that can make you more sensitive to pain.
When is the right time to have laser hair removal?
Any time of year is a good time to remove your hair; however, autumn and winter are the best seasons to start treatments because you'll be hair-free by summer and these months have lower sun rays.
Should I use pain relief when having laser hair removal?
You may use pain relief meds to help ease any discomfort from laser hair removals such as paracetamol or ibuprofen but as overuse of painkillers can have adverse side effects, talk to your pharmacist or doctor before taking them too often. Anti-inflammatory medications may help make treatment more comfortable, however.
Are some areas more painful to treat than others?
You can usually remove hair from your legs, arms, underarms, bikini line, face (avoiding the eye and eyebrow area), fingers, toes, back and tummy – so that's most places. Some areas like the upper lip, only take two minutes to treat per session with the Tria devices and other areas, like a lower leg, take around 25 minutes each time. Some more sensitive areas can be more painful to treat than others, but it varies from person to person; however, you could treat these areas on a lower intensity setting. Incidentally, the Tria 4X has five intensity levels and the Tria Precision has three.
How can I prepare my mind for laser hair removal?
Some people find distraction and relaxation techniques helpful when managing discomfort. You may watch television, listen to an audiobook, music, or your favourite podcast during your salon session or at-home treatment. Focusing on something other than the laser can help minimise discomfort. Some people love a Headspace app guided meditation or calming music too!
We all perceive pain differently and even those who aren't as receptive to pain may feel pain when they are dehydrated or at "the wrong" time of the month, so it's best to use these tips and tricks to minimise any discomfort when using your at-home laser or going for salon treatment. Either way, you may just find that laser hair removal is one of the best choices you've made all year.