I signed up for a regime of five laser treatments. It was a promotion of buy three, get two free. But in the end, I received six treatments, because it wasn't nearly as effective as I'd hoped, and the technician decided to switch lasers for the final treatment.
Because of my complexion, my practitioner at Face and Body Day Spa in Brentwood, Mo., recommended a diode laser to begin with because it has been FDA-approved for all complexions. The technical explanation is complicated, but this laser has a better chance of distinguishing flesh from hair in darker skin.
What it was like - The diode laser was quick and painful. It took less than five minutes per underarm. She started by shaving the region and then applied a lubricant to help cool the skin and allow the tip of the laser to glide smoothly. She applied the roughly quarter-inch square laser tip to small regions and pressed a trigger. It felt exactly like you'd imagine the initial burst of sticking your fingernail in an electrical socket. It took about 10 to 15 zaps per underarm. The IPL laser was much less painful, but not painless. It was a sharp sting like a bee, instead of an electric jolt. And it seemed to produce the same results.
Results - I still shave my underarms at the same frequency that I did before my treatments, which ran from September 2006 to August 2007, but it seems like there's less hair there. There are three things you should know: 1. Pain is fleeting. The laser was the kind of pain I remember abstractly, but it doesn't give me nightmares. I also bought a topical lotion that numbed the laser minutely. 2. Lasers only work on hair in the active growth phase, so that means roughly a third or so of your visible hairs at a time. It's generally recommended to have three to six treatments. Treatments can be spaced out from four to eight weeks or more depending on the area, so if you pay up front make sure it's an operation that will be around in a year or so. 3. Nothing is 100 percent permanent according to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. But lasers are said to have the most long-lasting results and in select cases people boast of being hairless in treated areas. However, I asked seven women who tried laser hair removal, including three who sit within shouting distance of my desk, and all seven said that it didn't have satisfying results.
Cost - About $120 to $250 a treatment depending on the area targeted. Package deals of four to six treatments usually offer a better price that can lower costs from $85 to $125 a treatment.
Would I do it again? - Yes. I can't tell if I'm a masochist or an optimist, but if I discovered a newer generation of laser with better results for my complexion, I'd do it. And apparently, I'm not alone, the ASAPS reports that laser hair removal is the second most popular nonsurgical cosmetic procedure responsible for 1.28 million appointments in 2008.
Cherice Jones, 21, Lifestyle intern
I am a naturally curvy woman, and all the exercise in the world couldn't get rid of the fat around my thighs. After trying various diets, exercise and diet pills, I lost weight everywhere but my outer thighs. I decided that I had to find a way to fight what I inherited honestly from my mother. After researching various methods, I decided to get Vaser Lipo on my outer thighs at the Lifestyle Center in Clayton, Mo.
The process was easy, and unlike traditional liposuction, it was very quick. I had to attend two extensive consultations. Dr. Richard Moore and his assistant evaluated my trouble areas, told me about the procedure, set my expectations and showed me dozens of real-life people who had Vaser Lipo done. He explained that it is an outpatient procedure and that I would not have to be put to sleep.
What it was like - On the day of the procedure, I took the medication that Moore prescribed. One pill was an antibiotic to fight possible infections and other was to ease my anxiety.
The nurse gave me undergarments to put on. They took before pictures and did a full body scan. Afterward, I was escorted to the operating room. I was asked to lie on the bed and relax. I received an injection to numb the areas to be treated. From here, Moore cut two slits at the top and bottom of both of my thighs that were no bigger than my pinky nail. He inserted a probe that uses pulse ultrasonic energy at the top of my thigh that liquefies fat. He inserted a tube at the bottom of my thigh that allowed the fat to drain. This entire procedure took about 90 minutes. I didn't feel any pain at this point.
The aftermath of Vaser Lipo is not as glamorous. I bled at the incision points for about four days and had to keep bandages on. Also, I was supposed to wear a not-so-fashionable garment for six weeks. I only wore the garment for two weeks though. I was in excruciating pain for about two weeks. My thighs were huge and swollen. I found that Extra Strength Tylenol and massages on the treated areas really helped. The Vicodin pain pills that they prescribed for me were too strong; I was delusional after taking just one. After two weeks, my swelling subsided, and I was able to return to my normal routines.
Results - It has been about one and a half months since my procedure, and I absolutely love the results. I can tell a difference in the way all of my pants fit. I continue to eat healthy and exercise.
A few things I would suggest for others to consider before they get Vaser Lipo is to really evaluate your body. The procedure will take the fat away, but it is up to you to make your body look different. If you rely solely on the Vaser Lipo, your skin could be loose. You have to tone your body and continue a healthy lifestyle after the procedure to gain desired results. Because I paid almost $2,500 for this procedure, it became my motivation to make the rest of my body look good. I'm obsessed.
Cost - The procedure starts at about $1,995, and there are additional costs for the medication and garments. Your body mass index can also affect the price.
Would I do it again? - Yes, I would definitely do it again. You shouldn't rely only on this to lose weight, but the Vaser Lipo produces great results if you do your part.
PROFACTIONAL LASER PEEL
Aisha Sultan, 35, home and family editor
The Truth About Cosmetic Procedures
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.