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If, like me, you’re a thirty something trans woman capable of growing a beard to rival that of Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, and needing to shave on a daily basis in order to prevent that, then laser hair removal is something you’ve likely been looking into. Here’s what I’ve learnt so far from my experience.


Start early

It can take time to see the effects of laser hair removal and even longer to get the results you desire. Generally, people say anything from around 10 – 16 sessions are required on the face to achieve smooth results, and with each session approximately 6 weeks apart this is no quick fix!

This method of hair removal works by using a concentrated beam of lig… wait, we don’t need to go there. Odds are you’ve done your research, maybe even booked your sessions already. You don’t need to know how it works, just whether it does and how much it’s going to hurt. That’s where I come in.


It hurts

People often tell you the pain of Laser Hair Removal is similar to that of someone pinging an elastic band against your skin. Unfortunately, in my experience this is not true. Or at least would be true if the elastic band in question was made of acid-soaked electrified razor blades, that also happen to be on fire. To say it hurts a lot would be putting it mildly. For reference, I consider myself to have quite a high pain threshold, I’m covered in tattoos and have seen the extended editions of all of the Lord of the Rings movies. Laser is nothing like either.


It’s quick

The process is however super fast, which means that by the time you’ve heard the ‘pop’ yelped at the sensation as your top lip has been zapped to within an inch of its life and you have reached out to break the arm of the kind laser operator who did this to you, it’s over.

Simple as that. Odds are it took you longer to travel to the place than it did for the treatment. In fact, one technician I saw recently told me she deliberately slows herself down just to draw out the appointment as it makes customers feel like they’re getting more value for money – but it’s not necessary. Getting laser hair removal is wonderfully fast.


The aftermath

Leaving the clinic you may well feel like nothing much has happened. You might be a little sore or red (though this hasn’t always been my experience) but that tends to pass within an hour or two.
Over the next few days you’ll probably not notice anything immediately different. You’re advised not to shave for a little while and to just ‘go easy on your skin’. Please take this advice. When you do decide to shave again is when you’ll notice the first difference, and for me this has been the worst part of getting laser hair removal treatment.

Your hair will be… strange. A little frazzled maybe? Coarser perhaps? You’ll probably find it quite difficult to shave as close as you did before, and may find stubble more visible when you do.  Don’t panic. This is normal and a direct result of the zapping. It will gradually lessen over the next two weeks as the hair falls out. You probably won’t notice this happen either. You might find one or two hairs on your pillow in the morning, but don’t be worried if you don’t.

Around two weeks later is when you’ll most likely see the start of why you’re putting yourself through all this. Queue three horrific photos of me to illustrate:

What you’re seeing here is a single session of laser hair removal and two days growth. When I first noticed the patchiness I was staggered by the results.


Now it’s worth noting a couple of things:


  1. Your results may vary. Don’t be disheartened.
  2. You may not see the same dramatic reduction after the second session (as I didn’t). Again, don’t be disheartened.
  3. Your chin will always look worse in photos shot from below. Do not be disheartened.


It’s worth it.

I’m only a handful of sessions in so far, and whilst there’s a long way still to go before my chin is as smooth as the proverbial baby’s bum, the difference it’s made to my day to day life is immense. Do I still shave daily? Yes. Can I still cosplay as Mr. DiCaprio at a moment’s notice? No, not anymore.

Shaving no longer takes me an hour and four razor blades each morning, and some days I don’t bother at all. My skin feels amazing, and my reflection has finally started showing me signs of what I want to see: Progress –  real, visible progress.

When so much around transition is a waiting game, it’s things like this that keep me motivated and moving forward in a positive way. I know that every five or six weeks, for just a few minutes of wincing, I’m steadily getting closer to where I want to be.

So if you’re thinking about laser hair removal or you know you’re going to want it at some point down the line, my advice would be to jump on it. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  It may take a long time to reach the end, but virtually no time to see the path to the finish line.
Keep your expectations low, and your head held high – and I’ll see you on the podium for some champers.


Semi-pro tips.

Prior to your laser session, shave as closely as you possibly can. The longer the stubble going in, the more you’re going to feel each zap (and the smell of burning hair isn’t pleasant). Ideally, try not to shave for a day or two before, then give yourself a nice close shave on the morning of your appointment, avoiding any razor burn or irritation.

Set your expectations to low. Then dial them back even further. I’m almost certain you won’t be disappointed by the results, but don’t expect to have a baby-soft complexion the very next day.
Look for deals! Laser hair removal can be very expensive, especially if you’re paying per session. Keep an eye out for package deals and offers – they’re out there and will save you a lot of money getting started.

Do your research! Know what you’re getting. There are several different types of laser hair removal including IPL and electrolysis, each with varying levels of effectiveness, depending on your circumstances. Always make sure you know exactly what you’re getting and that it is suitable for your needs.

Get a scarf. It’s great for sneaking a red face out of the laser place after a session. Failing that, I’ve found a newspaper with two holes cut into the middle works just as well. 🙂

I’ve heard taking painkillers half an hour before the session can ease some of the pain, and there are other medications available to help with this too. I’ve not tried them myself, so can’t comment on their effectiveness. If you have, I’d love to know how you got on in the comments below.


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Victoria divides her time between the Pathway and Communications teams at GenderGP. A trans woman, and patient of GenderGP herself, Victoria has a huge degree of first hand experience of the challenges navigating the healthcare system in the UK, she brings this insight to her day to day role.