I'm not a particularly hairy guy. Some here to trim, some there to shave, but over all, I'm pretty standard in the hair department. Except for one area: the back of my neck. It's basically full bush seven days post-haircut. I know you guys can feel me on this. Luckily, being Men's Fitness' Style and Grooming Editor means I'm inundated with information about the newest and coolest grooming innovations.
So, I have tried seemingly every method there is to tame my neck hair from shaving to waxing, and even depilatory cream. Up until recently, I thought anything more serious would require time, pain, and a lot cash. But when I heard about the newest incarnation of laser hair removal, I had to try it myself, tackling my neck-bush with a little more gusto than I have in the past.
I met with the renowned Dr. Tina West of the West Institute outside Washington D.C. to explore my hair removal options. First and foremost, I learned that it is not actually hair removal, it is reduction. It's not a cure-all for any excess hair I may have. I will never be able to just forget I have neck hair. But, I would see a huge improvement, I was told. I might even be able to avoid special neck-hair-only shaves at the barber.
So it was time to get to it. I assumed there would be numbing creams and robes and a lot of discomfort. Not so. Dr. West used the brand new LightSheer Duet for the procedure. The LightSheer Duet is a state of the art laser used for hair reduction. It allows for large treatment spot size and it's up to five times the speed of earlier laser hair reduction technology.
“Men are oftentimes seeking lunchtime treatments that are now possible with more efficient laser hair reduction that is fast and painless, without the extra time previously required for numbing creams,” says Dr. West. “The big advantage of laser hair reduction compared to other methods of hair removal is that the laser is the only technology that changes the way the hair grows back, causing it to grow back finer and more slowly.”
First, Dr. West took a look at my neck to determine how good of a candidate I would be. Turns out, laser hair treatments work best on fair skin and dark hair. That's because the less melanin and the more pigment in your skin, the better the laser will work. Does that mean it's not worth trying if you have a summer glow? No, but it does mean it may be best to wait until the cooler months so you can get a few treatments done before swimsuit season circles back. This also means you should tackle this while in your younger years as gray or white hair does not respond to the laser. I am fair skinned with light brown hair (and maybe a few grays, I'm not embarrassed), meaning I should be a good candidate.
So there I sat, patiently waiting what I was expecting to take at least an hour, maybe two. Where was the robe I was to change into? When do I get a towel to bite down on while they shoot laser beams into my neck? Should I expect a a week of recovery time? More!? Well in reality, it was so quick. From start to finish (aside from me being extra inquisitive due to the fact that I was going to be writing this up) it was 20 minutes. Assume about 45 minutes to an hour for the entire back. (I will talk a little later how much easier that will be soon!)
The pain was minimal. It just felt like a slightly warm shock. It was more of a nuisance than actual pain, though it was uncomfortable for a couple days afterwards. The closest thing I can relate it to is a sunburn. Two days of using the sample Dr. West gave me of Eau Thermal Avene Cicalfate POST-PROCEDURE and making sure to use a LOT of sunscreen (which is a no-brainer) I was pretty much good-to-go.
So, I was done! One treatment is it, right? Nope. Not at all. Traditional laser hair treatments typically take six or so treatments to achieve the desired results, with the occasional follow-up treatments following when desired. This is because not all your hair grows in at once. Some hairs are in the growth phase, while others are in the dormant phase. Hairs in the dormant phase, much like white hairs, will not respond to the treatment. So, you have to head back, ideally in about six weeks, to hit those guys once they have started growing. The new LightSheer is actually more powerful than it's predecessors and can cut the number of times required for expected results in half. So, that's three sessions instead of six.
Now, like I mentioned earlier, the future of laser-assisted hair reduction for men is advancing, and fast. Lumenis (the company that created LightSheer) is introducing the LightSheer Infinity which has a larger spot size for even faster treatment. That means, those of you with hairy backs can rejoice—it will be even easier to deal with areas that big.
Growth in the hair removal market has relatively stabilized in women, but men are predicted to continue to be a growth segment due to advancing technologies and increased consumer awareness. As of 2013 it was the second-most popular minimally-invasive procedure behind Botox. Personally, I'm shocked more guys are getting Botox than laser hair removal.
So to wrap up, if you've never considered laser hair reduction an option, it may be time to think again. Stop fighting back the tears while Helga rips out your hair with antiquated wax and strips. Laser hair reduction, especially with the new, high powered LightSheer laser, is the way to go. You'll probably need about three treatments and then you're good to go. Head to the West Institute website to see approved locations and schedule a consultation to see is laser hair reduction is a good option for you. The cost isn't cheap, I won't lie. But if I were to add up the number of times I have gone to the barber simply to deal with my neck and neck alone, I have probably already paid for most of the procedure. Prices range from $315 for a single session neck treatment, to $715 for a single session back treatment, with a single chest treatment falling nicely inbetween at $515 for a single treatment. These are comparable to other LightSheer prices and Dr. West offers 10 percent off a package of four sessions. So weigh the pros and cons, but I have a strong feeling that if you are up for it, you will go for the gold, and think pretty seriously about the laser hair removal of the future. Until then, keep checking in with Men's Fitness and mensfitness.com to see the alternatives we endorse to hold you off!