So where are all the laser bros?
September 5, 2013 7:46 AM   Subscribe

Every passing year I hate shaving more and more and I ponder getting laser hair removal for my beard. Now that it's starting to grey - which as a lighter color is supposedly less responsive to the laser - I feel some time pressure if I'm going to do it. But trying to find success stories and pertinent local recommendations - not to mention pricing ideas - is proving near impossible because I find no sign of average Joes getting it done. What's up with that?

The only people I personally know with mismatched chromosomes who have had it done are trans women (and they have not had stellar recs for their shops). Anything online discusses back hair removal when it talks about men at all. Pricing about faces is for less extensive work on women who have some chin and/or upper lip work to do. I find some very passing mention of it for black men who want to get out from under repeated ingrown hair removal but it's slight.

Is this because men simply don't do it? Or is it some sort of shame thing where the ones who do don't say so publicly? There's varying levels of success I'd be okay with, so my trans friends who have not found it extensive or lasting have different acceptance levels for results than I might. So I'd love to be able to hear from someone about how it worked out in their typical dude life.

If the stories are out there they're buried under tons of SEO driving me to laser hair removal shops. Help me metafilter - are the reviews for what I want out there? Should I keep investigating?
posted by phearlez to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A friend had his neck lasered. I don't know why just the neck and not the rest of the beard-growing areas of his face--just the areas below the jawline.

It looked like a really bad sunburn, and he said it hurt like one, too. I think he went for two sessions--whether that was enough, or he just didn't want to continue, I don't know.

Can't you just call the local laser emporia to see what they recommend--i.e., their laser may not be recommended for thick beard hair on tender face-skin, but might do better with more wispy lady-stache?

But no, I don't think a lot of guys do this; we're wimps about grooming, and shaving isn't a big enough hassle for most. Plus, beards are in!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:56 AM on September 5, 2013

Response by poster: Not to thread-sit, but to be clear: I specifically am hoping for consumer-based input because I am sure that anyone in the business of selling this service will tell me it's going to be wonderful and worth exactly what they're charging. Perhaps "asking the laser tech if you need a shave" is the 21st century "asking the barber if you need a haircut."
posted by phearlez at 8:03 AM on September 5, 2013

Well, contra Admiral Haddock, there are a lot of guys who do get laser treatments, though I am not one of them. However, there are a lot of businesses in New York City, such as this one, which cater to guys, primarily who are gay, who want laser treatments.

Perhaps you can contact them and ask them what their recommendation is?
posted by dfriedman at 8:08 AM on September 5, 2013

I work for a plastic surgeon, and plenty of men come in to our office for laser hair removal (and I'm in a small city). Just my two cents, but make sure you trust the person holding that laser. Don't go to just anyone! Good luck.
posted by fresh-rn at 8:14 AM on September 5, 2013

Can you be a little more clear about what level of hair reduction you would find acceptable? For example, would you be happy with an uneven, patchy growth with finer hairs that took less effort to shave? How willing are you to have maintenance sessions? How acceptable would it be for you to have, say, 80% hair reduction for a year, and then see all of it grow back? What's your idea of a "success story" for an "average Joe"?

I think you will probably always come across businesses that will gloss over the drawbacks and weaknesses of laser as a hair reduction method, but when I went in to speak to my local esthetician about it, she was very clear that it wasn't a permanent removal method, and would require regular maintenance. If you've had clear feedback from your trans* friends that it's not a great way of removing facial hair, I'm not sure why you would imagine it should be different for anyone else, but again, you haven't been super clear about what results you're actually hoping to achieve with it. If you're looking for permanent hair removal, my understanding is that electrolysis is the only route.
posted by catch as catch can at 8:28 AM on September 5, 2013

Most m2f transgendered folks I know didn't use laser, they use electrolysis. I used laser on my underarms and lower legs and for the first year I loved it! It was great! The second year I was still really happy even though I got a bit of regrowth. By year three and four there was a lot of regrowth, though there was still a noticable reduction in my overall hair quantity.

I'm doing electrolysis now (which is slower and more labor-intensive and will probably end up being more expensive in the long run) but is a a permanent hair reduction way to go.

And both of my electrologysts frequently work on men working on their beard area. Mr. Arnicae plans to go to them to work on some patches on his face once he can find a pain solution (it is pretty painful to get electrolysis on your beard area for most guys, but most guys can tolerate it with topical lidocaine).
posted by arnicae at 8:58 AM on September 5, 2013

Oh yes and since doing laser I've started to meet people with skin that was scarred or damaged through laser. Eek! If you go with laser, do a bunch of research on the kind of laser you use (As a caucasian female with a good ratio between skin color and hair color, I went with an alexandrite laser, the Candela Gentlelase) and make sure the person performing the treatments knows their shit since it is your face...
posted by arnicae at 9:00 AM on September 5, 2013

I know you're going into this wanting a clean-shaven look, but if you haven't had a beard recently I'd definitely try that before I tried laser depilation. It's a lot less permanent, and you might really dig the look. If you don't like shaving, just stop!
posted by Scientist at 9:05 AM on September 5, 2013

Trans woman here -- I know lots of other trans women who have had laser and electrolysis, or a combination of both. I've had about a dozen laser sessions on my face and am hair-free except for a few stragglers.

When I was doing the research myself, I found the Hairtell forums to be useful. I specifically recall people posting pictures and diaries on those forums which may satisfy your "average Joe" requirement.

IME, in major metro areas (I live in DC), pricing has drastically changed over the past few years due to the proliferation of laser boutiques promoting themselves on Groupon, Living Social and the like. I've gone to about four different shops (through the deal sites) and found the Yelp reviews to be generally useful and broadly consistent with my experiences, although like any online reviews some of the axe-grindy stuff needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

For trans women looking for total clearance, I think the general advice I've heard (and have given) has been to try laser and see if it works for the particular hair type, since if it does work it'll be cheaper and faster than electrolysis (with major YMMV caveats). And then go to the electrolysis for the grey beard hairs or other "cleanup".

I think the biggest YMMV on the results is factoring in all of the variables -- different types of hair, different types of lasers, different settings on the lasers. The Hairtell forums do a really good job of helping to navigate through that all. I was fortunate enough that my own hairs seemed to react fairly well to pretty much all of the shops I went to.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 9:22 AM on September 5, 2013

Response by poster: Growing it out isn't an acceptable solution for a variety of reasons; it doesn't meet certain comfort conditions and the expanding grey bums me out as well as being weirdly patchy.

First up - Quantum, I'm in Arlington so I'd be very interested in any specific places/technologies you could cite/rec. The only positive review I got from one trans friend was in a very inconvenient Dupont location and it wasn't exactly glowing.

Second, re: criteria/success/etc

Can you be a little more clear about what level of hair reduction you would find acceptable? For example, would you be happy with an uneven, patchy growth with finer hairs that took less effort to shave? How willing are you to have maintenance sessions? How acceptable would it be for you to have, say, 80% hair reduction for a year, and then see all of it grow back? What's your idea of a "success story" for an "average Joe"?

I am pale and have dark hair, so all my adult life I've had the Homer Simpson look. I can shave against the grain in every direction and will still look a bit shadowed. And doing so means my somewhat sensitive skin feels crappy for a while unless I've used a brand-new razor and worked it very carefully.

So for me, depending on the price, a lighter and/or slower growth that eventually sped back up some would be acceptable in a way that wouldn't be to my trans contacts. I'm not interested in spending $2,000 and having every treatment involve an hour in the car for that result, but I am accepting of some need for future refreshing.

I say 'average joe' just because for my trans contacts it's not okay to still have some visible or light growth persist, and to the best of my knowledge they're also combining makeup/coverup strategies which I will not. So "this place is awful" is still useful feedback but "only this laser type will do because anything else is less than 100%" - when perhaps the other laser types are more convenient/cheaper - is less so.

So trans input is wonderful but we don't have exact same goals, thus why I mentioned it. I'd like to shave less. I am okay with some patchiness, depending; scattered lighter growth is cool, having the same level of shadow-look in a leopard print would not be so great. Some future return of growth is acceptable, depending on quantity/speed/price/discomfort.

I have a pretty high pain threshold - tattooing and blood donating doesn't bother me much - so short term discomfort for long term payoff is fine.
posted by phearlez at 9:50 AM on September 5, 2013

I sent you MeMail with the names of the four places I've been to.

I think "only this laser type will do because anything else is less than 100%" type concerns don't fully account for all of the variables that might be present. Results vary depending on hair type and the type of laser used and the settings used. So your results with a blond-ish beard turning grey might be totally different than with someone with really dark hair and the "right" complexion.

Regarding patchiness -- that's to be expected short-term (especially after the first few sesisons if you have heavy beard growth that reacts well to the laser). It's supposed to even out after the followup sessions.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 10:05 AM on September 5, 2013

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