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Solutions to survive the pain of laser hair removal treatments please!
July 17, 2007 10:28 PM   Subscribe

What can I do to make laser hair removal treatments more tolerable?

I recently started laser hair removal treatments on my legs and bikini line. I prepaid for the treatments and am very interested in completing them...however, my first session was UNBEARABLE. I thought that I had a high pain threshold, but this was a whole different animal. Something about the way the lasers work...it was excruciating. I want to go through with the remaining treatments because I think the results will be worth it, but I'd like to hear about some pain management techniques or topical anesthetics that would be safe to try. My internet searching has been fruitless. Anybody been through this? How did you survive?
posted by iamkimiam to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've only done underarms and upper lip, but I bought the Numbing Cream that they sold at the laser center. It made it a little more bearable. The jar itself doesn't have a name, other than Numbing Cream, but it lists the ingredients: Benzocaine 20%, Lidocaine 6%, Tetracaine 5%
posted by gt2 at 10:34 PM on July 17, 2007


Ibuprofen is good for this (reduces inflammation and reduces pain! super bonus). Check with your doctor on the maximum recommended dose. The standard on the label is usually 2 pills @ 200 mg each. Take them a good 30-45 minutes before the procedure and you should be numbed a bit.

If you can, obtain a topical anesthetic from BMEShop like EMLA Cream (just ignore those nice references to body modification procedures. they're way more painful than electrolysis anyway). I have used EMLA cream topically for procedures that involved a scalpel actually penetrating my skin, and I can assure you that if it is applied properly it works like a charm. That said, IANAD, YMMV, and you should probably definitely ask a dermatologist or other physician about combining such a drug with electrolysis.
posted by bedhead at 10:41 PM on July 17, 2007


I'm sure you've been told this, but you should shave the area to be treated beforehand.

Also, if you have dark skin or light hair, the laser has to be cranked up pretty good to do anything, and that's just gonna hurt, sorry.
posted by kindall at 11:14 PM on July 17, 2007


My friends told me to make sure you slather on the numbing cream. One of them also recommended not to do it while you're premenstrual. All of those hormones racing around increases your sensitivity to pain. Make sure you don't do any tanning beforehand either.

Have fun.
posted by solongxenon at 11:19 PM on July 17, 2007


hormones= increase
posted by solongxenon at 11:19 PM on July 17, 2007


Oh yeah, if you're PMSing or have your period, forget it. Your pain tolerance goes WAY down during that time period.
posted by bedhead at 11:27 PM on July 17, 2007


Yep, I've been there. I tried everything, and eventually had it down to a science. Here's what worked for me, YMMV.

EMLA cream (which is just 2.5% lidocaine and 2.5% prilocaine) helped a little, but I found pure lidocaine in higher doses (4-5%) to be a bit more effective in numbing the pain.

Note that you're supposed to put it on about a half hour before your treatment. I would typically put it on before leaving for the laser center, and cover it with plastic wrap for the drive over there. It felt bizarre, but it worked.

I also found that the 2nd week of my cycle was the ideal time to get my treatments (assuming you count your period as the 4th week). Any closer to my period and I was too sensitive.

And during the treatment you can ask the nice lady with the powerful laser to experiment with pace. Some people prefer quick bursts, and others do better with a slower, more regular rhythm.

Just remember to breathe through it, bite your finger, and picture yourself lying on the beach without having to shave first.
posted by nadise at 11:47 PM on July 17, 2007


With my face I found, cutting out coffee and caffeine generally helped, no idea if that was just psychological.

Making sure I shaved the area longer enough before so the skin had time to recover, shaving right before really increased the pain, I normally shaved the night before for an appointment in the afternoon.

Make sure your operator is really cooling the skin down.

Also as more of the hairs are killed, it does get less painful.

If your google searches did not turn them up you may want to have a look at Hairtell and Hairfacts.
posted by Z303 at 6:46 AM on July 18, 2007


Kind of a wacky suggestion, but you might try looking for tips on sites geared towards folks who are transitioning from male to female. Hair removal is a pretty big part of a successful transition; I've had several friends who have done so and gone into detail on their blogs about how much it hurt, when the pain subsided and when/how much to use numbing cream. Because facial hair removal is in such a visible place, they've paid special attention to getting it done quickly and with the least amount of irritation.
posted by Madamina at 7:52 AM on July 18, 2007


I get to the clinic early and put on numbing cream. I also make sure I get a dose of antihistamine before I go - I use Benadryl so I get the antihistamine effect + am a little bit drowsy. Analgesics are a good idea. In my case, I'd take Aleve before the appointment.

I'm sure you've been told this, but you should shave the area to be treated beforehand.

There are places that don't do this for you as part of the treatment?
posted by caitlinb at 8:40 AM on July 18, 2007


Don't use plastic wrap over lidocaine lotion! It's caused at least a couple of fatal overdoses of women on their way to laser clinics. Here is one story.
posted by Scram at 8:49 AM on July 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


You can buy EMLA or ELAMax at the drugstore. You usually have to get it from the pharmacy counter but you don't need a prescription.
posted by radioamy at 10:40 AM on July 18, 2007


Um, may I tag on a question? I know that pain is very very subjective, but if I've had a tattoo, will laser hair removal seem painful, or as painful? I'm trying to imagine what kind of pain it is.
posted by loiseau at 12:22 PM on July 18, 2007


I've had over 30 hours of tattoo work (often 7+hour sittings) and this is NOTHING like it. I sat through those just fine. This is so different...and that's what I found to be completely shocking about the experience.

So, not only is pain subjective, but different types of pain application is highly subjective.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:26 PM on July 18, 2007


I guess, if I had to describe what it felt like...
imagine microscopic glass fibers being repeatedly cluster shot 1" deep into your body. On FIRE!
posted by iamkimiam at 12:28 PM on July 18, 2007


I passed on the EMLA because I've used it before on my face and it really doesn't do much, plus it's expense and some people are highly allergic to it. It only barely numbs the top surface layer of skin so that's doesn't really stop you from feeling the zap.

One trick that really helped was icing the area just before and right after. The lady who does mine brings in an ice pack and has me hold it against the area to be worked on for about 5-10 minutes before the procedure, and then has me put it right back on after. In my opinion the ice does more to numb than the EMLA, but really, it wasn't so bad even when I did it without the ice.

The whole thing is so fast, best advice I can give is just grin and bear it, which will be easier to do with some ice to help you along.
posted by RoseovSharon at 2:06 PM on July 18, 2007


I've had tattoo work all over my body and the laser is nowhere near as painful. Really, it doesn't hurt that bad but I guess everyone feels pain differently. Best way I can describe it is like the feeling of quickly snapping a rubber band against your skin. It's stings but it's quick and fast and over before you know it.
posted by RoseovSharon at 2:08 PM on July 18, 2007


Update: I tried the icing and BOY, that made a HUGE difference. I was actually completely relaxed during the treatment this time—no pain whatsoever.
ICE=HIGHLY UNDERRATED PRODUCT!!
(I think the Ibuprofen, the good cycle timing, the lack of caffeine, and good sleep also helped!)
posted by iamkimiam at 5:44 PM on August 9, 2007


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