Cruising for a Bruising - Times Fifteen!

Lying on the couch I felt what a corpse might feel when it is hit with a defribulator, albeit on the face rather than on the heart. November 30th marked the 15th occasion Inésita visited the dermatologist, Dr. Kadar Laszlo, to undergo treatment for facial hair removal, a necessity for all male-to-female transgenders and most cross-dressers. The process works by using a so-called diode laser and intense pulsed light (IPL) which penetrates the follicle to ‘fry’ the root of the hair. Make no mistake, it’s a painful process and one that leaves you first swollen and flushed, and within a few days blistered and spotted. One colleague had the audacity to ask: ‘Have you got AIDS?' Another claimed I resembled a cadaver! It takes about two weeks to a full month before the bruising (and let's be frank, demoralising remarks) wear off, by which time facial hair falls out and the skin is left relatively soft and free of 'beard shadow.' But within 6-8 weeks it's back – which means a return to the skin doctor.

At Euro 200 a pop it’s not cheap, while one of the toughest parts of the process – around treatment 4 or 5 – is the realization this is not a one-off procedure but a series. Ultimately it takes 10-12 trips before hair growth is sufficiently weakened and you are left with soft wispy fluff that can be plucked with tweezers! Sounds ideal, and while the trips to the doctor become less frequent, the intensity of the laser still quadruples and the number of ‘shots’ roughly doubles! A single session lasts about 15 minutes and includes well over 500 zaps, an experience which feels something like an elastic band pinged at high-velocity or being manacled at the face by a staple gun!

There are risks too. Grey or fair hair is not ‘visible’ to the laser, while the skin may sear where too intense light travels down the hair and burns the root. In my case it twice left diminutive scars – a consequence of trying too hard to eradicate the stubborn hair growth on my chin. These gradually disappear with time and it's now almost three years since Inésita began the process in February 2007. People thinking about undergoing similar treatment should be wary though of specialists who advertise ‘permanent hair removal,’ as there is no real end-point. Hair will always grow back, just more thinly.

Despite the mental stamina required, it’s generally worth it. By now I have baby soft skin largely devoid of hair, which makes you look years younger and at the same time means no more shaving! The process becomes even more bearable when you have a friendly doctor and assistant ready to serve up a good cup of tea after treatment to help settle your nerves! (Dec. 2010)