My Laser Hair Removal Journey: Part 1 — Understanding the concept and finding a location

Just a heads up, this is where the TMI begins:

Why get laser hair removal:

I’ve always had issues with my body hair. As a western woman, it really isn’t socially acceptable to have hairy legs or hairy armpits… the natural way your body comes. It’s not something the public apparently wants to see… Suprise! A shame, I know! And this social requirement can be quite painful and a huge pain the ass! I’ve spent 10 years removing my body hair. For 10 years I’ve tried shaving, hair removal creams, waxing, and threading, some of which work better than others.

One of my major problems with shaving (the most efficient method, and the most cost-effective method to remove hair), is that my skin is so sensitive! The skin gets highly irritated when I shave over my thighs, my bikini area, and my armpits. I get itchy razor burn all over and then come the ingrown hairs! So I tried Nair… nope, not much better and now it smells terrible! Plus, Nair made my skin itch just like shaving did. So I went back to shaving again and tried a myriad of different razors. If you check out my blog on “how to avoid razor bumps,” you can see the different shaving methods I used in order to avoid those nasty itchy spots. The problem was, I never really fully got rid of the razor bumps or the ingrown hairs. So I needed another solution.

When I was 18, I waxed for the first time! It was so scary and I had no idea what to expect. I went with my best friend to a place in downtown Ottawa, Canada. It was very painful, but not unbearable… again… more on waxing if you click on this blog post! This was the first time that I realized I wasn’t getting those itchy spots and I didn’t have as many ingrown hairs. Finally! Something was working…. well kinda. They were still there, just not as many, and I had to wait 3-4 weeks before I could wax again (meaning the hair had fully grown back). So that’s at least a week or two without wearing shorts in the summer. Not to mention, the cost of waxing every 3-4 weeks was $$$$. If you’re interested in what an average wax will cost you: Check out this blog post!

Waxing was becoming tedious, shaving was annoying and itchy, and chemically burning off my hair with expensive cream wasn’t worth my time, money or scent. So I finally bit the bullet and decided to opt for laser hair removal!

What is Laser Hair Removal?

Laser hair removal is the procedure where highly concentrated light which kills hair follicles. Essentially, when the follicles absorb the light at such high concentration, it will destroy the follicle and fail to grow hair anymore. The only time when this hair follicle may start hosting more hair is if your hormones change. This is why if you ever go to a medical spa where laser hair removal is performed, they shouldn’t tell you it is 100% guaranteed hair loss. Therefore, things like pregnancy, menopause or your environment changing drastically, can cause the hair to grow back.

The pain of laser hair removal kinda depends on the person and the type of equipment being used. Some people claim the procedure is extremely painful, others say it is less painful than a Brazilian (which is good news for anyone who has had a Brazilian wax)! I personally have heard both. Also, the more sessions you do, the less painful it is.

Are you a good candidate?

After you understand the process, it’s best to understand your own body and if you should get it done. The best candidates for laser hair removal are fair-skinned people with dark hair. This is because light is attracted to darker objects. If you have fair skin, the light will be much more concentrated on your dark hairs and avoid being deflected onto your skin. I’ve noticed that everyone who is olive skin toned or darker tend to have a more painful experience than those who are lighter skinned. Now, this doesn’t mean if you’re dark skinned you shouldn’t get it done, but I would definitely recommend going in for a consultation before buying any package deal or jumping right into a procedure!

Deciding what you want done?

Deciding what you want done can be a very difficult and an almost obsessive decision. The reason I say this is because normally you go in knowing exactly what you want to remove… there is usually a problem area. But once you see the list of things they offer, you tend to get excited and want to remove everything! I would personally recommend choosing the areas you want done the most. So here are some of my tips:

First, I chose my legs because I always get razor burn and/or my legs look like prickly cactuses only after 48 hours of shaving (my hair grows quickly)! If I was tight on cash, I would choose the thigh area because that is where I tend to get the most amount of ingrown hair.

Second, I chose the Brazilian. Now this is just a preference of mine! I get ingrown hairs here all the time when waxing, so for me it’s more comfortable to just remove all the hair. Keep in mind that you can always ask them to keep a landing strip (or whatever your preference is for pubic hair style). A Brazilian (if not specifically requested by you) will remove all hair around the butt pad area, all the hair around your lady bits, and the front pubic bone area.

Third, I chose my underarms. My underarms also tend to get ingrown hairs and my hair grows quickly there as well, so I basically have to shave every other day, which as a result can irritate the skin. It’s a vicious cycle! Anyways, this area is a very popular one! In fact, if you’re strapped for cash, I would start with this one.

Lastly, I chose my sideburns (which I haven’t yet decided to fully remove or shorten). Keep reading through my journey to find out if I went ahead and got rid of them!

Now I am thinking about doing my hairline, getting rid of all those random wispy hairs in the back (but I haven’t yet decided). Whatever you decide to choose, they’ll probably be able to get rid of it. There really isn’t a spot on the body that can’t have laser hair removal done. The only spot that I’ve heard of is below the eyebrows.

Oh, let’s talk about the eyebrows! I was thinking about getting this part done, but I decided that eyebrow style changes every decade and they’re easy enough to tweeze, wax or thread, so I was going to keep these hairs on my face to play with as the styles change.

Who to go to? What you should be looking for in a provider?

Choosing the right provider can be very nerve-wracking cause you don’t want to go spend a ton of money for a poorly done procedure. Therefore the first thing I did was consider Google reviews and Yelp reviews. If you’re finding a place with 20+ reviews and they’re all 4.8 or up, that should be your starting point.

From there, find out how close they are to you, find out prices and then gather a list of questions to ask them. Here are some great questions to ask:

  • How much are the procedures for these areas? Single session? Multiple sessions? (most people have to do 5-9 sessions, sometimes more)
  • How long does a normal leg/face/Brazilian session last? (Leg sessions should be around 30-40 min)
  • How painful is it? (See what their answer is)
  • Are there package discounts when buying more than one area?
  • When are you open for sessions? During the day? After work? (This will depend on your needs)
  • Is there a consultation? (There should be!)
  • Is the consultation free? (It should be!)

After you ask around to a few different places, see which one you felt the most comfortable with and choose that location for a consultation. Remember once you go in for a consultation, you don’t need to pick them right away. It’s a lot of money and it’s a medical procedure, so take your time choosing what type of place you want to go to. Dermatologists tend to be more expensive, medical spas tend to be a nice medium, salons are little less reputable and tend to have lasers with less strength (hence why they’re cheaper!)

Before I chose the medical spa I was going to go to, I first talked to a few friends who had gotten the procedure done before. This helped me gauge what I was looking for and who was offering the best deals.

Who I chose:

I’m in DC, so I chose my location based off of reviews, price, when they were able to have patients come in (I needed to work around my busy schedule), how close they were to my house, their atmosphere and their guaranteed! I was actually torn between Izalia Spa in Old Town and DermApproach in Reston, Virginia. DermApproach had great reviews and was cheaper, but they were much farther away and they didn’t have the lifetime guaranteed that Izalia Spa had. Essentially, Izalia Spa in Old Town said that after 8 treatments, if your hair came back at any point in time, they would remove it for free. This was a huge relief because my biggest concern was, what if I had kids and my hair came back? Turns out, they will laser it off again for free!! Touch-ups are also super easy and usually don’t require multiple rounds of treatment — just one.

Cost?

Yikes, the cost is a doozy! For all the things I was getting (full legs, Brazilian, underarms, sideburns), it cost me $4,900 for 5 sessions… and let’s be honest, I’m probably going to need 6-8 sessions. The reason why they put 5 sessions in a package is that most people need at least 5 sessions before they see hair completely gone. Now let’s say I need 6-8, at that point, they start discounting the sessions by 40% – 50% because there is far less hair they need to remove.

How to prep yourself for your first session?

Once you’ve committed and booked your first session, there are 6 steps you need to take before you go in to ensure you have a successful and comfortable session…

  • Make sure you shave EVERYTHING before you go in! That means that when you decide what you want done, you shave every single strand of hair in those areas. If your hair is hiding away, exfoliate exfoliate exfoliate! This will make sure that the light of the laser is getting into the follicle and not refracting. The smell of burnt hair isn’t nice and neither is pain… making sure you’re fully shaved will help to make this experience less smelly and less painful.
  • Do not wax or pluck the area… only shave. There needs to be a dark follicle at the bulb, nothing should be pulled out.
  • Make sure you shave within a 24-hour window so there isn’t any stubble.
  • Make sure that before you go to the appointment you don’t put any ointment, cream or makeup on the areas that you want done. Doing so will ensure that the light isn’t refracting off the surface of your skin causing more pain.
  • Don’t have a tan when you arrive, make sure your skin is it’s normal shade and definitely don’t fake tan during this process
  • Don’t exercise strenuously (so going to the gym or out for a run) within 12 hours of the appointment. Doing so will cause your skin to get hot, and that could cause complications with the laser. You don’t want your skin to get extra hot when the light from the laser hits, causing burn marks. Even though you may think you’ve cooled down after a few hours, your skin may not have… so make sure you follow that 12-hour rule.

Now that you’ve followed all these steps, you’re ready for your first appointment! Make sure to click on the next step of laser hair removal journey!

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The Smithsonian Zoo — Tips & Tricks

The Smithsonian Zoo is a really cool part of DC to check out. If you’ve got time to make it up to Adam’s Morgan, you’ll really enjoy what this place has to offer. That being said, there are a few things you’ll want to know before going so you can make your experience as painless as possible!

When to go

You’ll want to check to see how long it is going to take you to get from your place to the zoo. There are two entrances to the zoo so one might be closer to the other. The first entrance is on Connecticut Drive, this is the major entrance that most people enter through (it can be very crowded in the summer). The next entrance (or exit) is near Beach Drive. You should check google maps and decide which entries will be easier for you. To give you an idea, it takes about 1 hour to get from Alexandria, Virginia to the Zoo entrance on Connecticut Drive if you’re taking the metro.

You should make sure to leave in the morning, earlier the better. We went around 1pm, and most of the animals were nowhere to be found. A lot of them will go to sleep in the mid-afternoon, so early morning, right after their breakfast is the best time to see them moving around (or so we’ve been told).

In terms of the time of year when you should visit the zoo… summer is always great because the walk around the park is much more enjoyable and more of the animals are out, but in the winter the panda’s come out to play in the snow so… that’s pretty adorable!

Getting There

I would recommend the metro, but I always recommend taking the metro! It’s just so much easier to hop on, hop off and not have to worry about driving amongst some pretty aggressive drivers. Plus, if you survive the drive, you then have to find parking in DC… and if you know anything about DC, good luck and $$$$$.

There is one metro stop that will get you close to the zoo — Woodley Park, it’s off of the red line and will get you close to both entrances. Head up Connecticut Avenue to go to the main entrance or head south along Connecticut, take a left down Calvert, then take another left on Beach. Keep taking Beach all the way to National Zoo Drive. This is a bit longer of a route, but you avoid the crowds at the front entrance. I love avoiding crowds — who doesn’t?!

What to do before you get there

When you come out of the metro at Woodley, you’ll see a Starbucks and a few restaurants… I would recommend getting something to eat outside the park … lines are less crazy and it’s cheaper to buy food and drinks. But, if you like food trucks, there are some great food trucks at the park!

Let’s say you decided to drive. It is probably easier to park outside of the park and walk in, rather than try to find parking at the Smithsonian. But there are parking lots at the Smithsonian if needed. If you’re looking for parking outside of the park, type “parking” into google maps around that area and it should show you a bunch of options around the Woodley metro stop and just north of the zoo.

What to see

Going on their site will show you a bunch of options, and it really depends on what animals you’re interested in. The Asia exhibit is really cool… cause Pandas! Unfortunately, when we were there this summer, we didn’t get to see any of the different Panda species, but that’s why I said to go in the morning when it’s a bit cooler.

The elephant exhibit is pretty awesome too. When they’re inside or at the watering holes, you can see them up close! Otherwise, they wander around their section and you can see them eating, sunbathing or trying to get a sneak peek at you!

The Ape exhibit was at the top of my list! Again, a lot of the primates weren’t visible when I went, but I did get to see an Orangutang, which was amazing!!

The reptile section was very crowded, but if lizards are your thing, you’d love the selection of species they have. They also have a pretty cool Amazonian exhibit. I didn’t fully check it out, but next time I try to go see the panda’s I’m going to discover how many exotic fish I can find!

My favorite section was the “Big Cats.” They had 2 Tigers and 2 lions, and they were absolutely beautiful! A lot of the times these creatures are sleeping or basking in the sun, but I’ve never been so excited for a cat to get up and walk around than I was when the tiger rolled over, stood up and majestically found a shaded patch of grass.

What to do afterward?

Once you’re done walking around the zoo, I would recommend checking out Adams Morgan. Leave the park via the South entrance (the one I mentioned was a little quieter). You’ll be walking towards it once you pass by the “Big Cats”, the “farm”, and the “Amazonian exhibit.” Wander your way through the neighborhood and walk down the bustling 18th street to find some great restaurants! Check out my the blog post “Places to Eat in Adam’s Morgan” to find some great restaurants!

To be honest, I prefer to see animals in the wild, but the Smithsonian takes very good care of their animals… animals which normally wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild on their own anyway. But if you really want to see Lions and Elephants… ethical safaris in Africa seem like a better, more natural, option.

Have you guys ever been to the Smithsonian Zoo? How many animals did you get to see? Did anyone get the opportunity to see the Panda’s playing in the snow?

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