Concerning the (Permanent?) Removal of Hair
Following on from the earlier post on the subject, we turn our attention now to that elusive dream of permanent, or at least some reasonable facsimile thereof, hair removal.
I presume most readers will be aware that there are not a few websites that play host to hundreds, if not thousands, of fictional stories concerning often fantastical transformations from one gender to another, the overwhelming majority male-to-female. Many pretty lame, some actually pretty well written. One of the fantastical elements that always got my attention was the appearance of some highly advanced, or magical, lotion or cream or rinse or whatever that just made body hair stop growing. Slather on the magic stuff for a bit and no more beard, easy-squeeey.
Sadly, in the real world no such magic lotion exists. In our world, there’s only one truly permanent hair removal technique – and that’s electrolysis. I assume I need not go into too much detail about this method for most of you, but if I pushed that assumption too hard I’d be writing about something else, right? Electrolysis, quite simply, involves using an electric needle (or alternately, tweezers) to send an electrical current to the base of each individual hair follicle, one hair at a time, and zap it to “kill” it so that it doesn’t produce hair anymore. Yes, it’s every bit as painful as it sounds.
The average human beard (to say nothing of body hair elsewhere) is reported to feature about 30,000 hairs. To remove it means 30,000 or so separate electrical shocks to your face. Fun! Think about it – if each zap took 3 seconds from insertion to removal, and you and the tech could hold out to do it 40 hours a week, time for breaks, and the potty and such like, you’d have to do that for almost six months. Not only is it painful, it’s relatively expensive, and it’s slow tedious work, compounded by the fact that you can only take so much at one setting. The icing on the cake is that you have to actually let the hair grow out a bit for the machine to have something to work with, which a full time trans woman is obviously very reluctant to do. (the counter argument there being you only need grow that bit that is scheduled to be zapped in the upcoming session, not the whole beard.
The other major option is not, technically, considered “permanent” but many women testify to essentially permanent results. I speak, of course, of laser hair removal. Unlike electrolysis, the FDA has not endorsed laser treatments as being a “permanent” solution, but practically speaking, every hair follicle laser kills is one that electrolysis won’t be needed for, so it can at a minimum serve as a broad coverage first step which reduces the time pain and expense to be incurred via electrolysis (not that laser itself doesn’t involve notable pain and a not inconsiderable expense). Moreover, for some trans people, it’s enough either because the hair in place to begin with is sparse, or because the subject is content to simply reduce the hair population to a more manageable level, rather than zero it out.
The most fundamental thing to know about laser is that it requires a marked level of contrast between skin tone and hair color. Blonde? No laser for you. Same with gray/silver/white hair (some gray peppered into your beard and you can count on either living with it or following the laser with electro). Some shades of red are problematic. Likewise, you don’t want to have a deep impressive tan when you go for electro. In one sense early spring might be the best time for some of us because we have maximized the paleness of our skin over the winter. But if you are African American, you dare not. Hispanic skin tone and some Asian can be too dark. Native American complexions have the same issue.
One other important consideration is to do your homework on the KIND of laser machine the provider you are considering uses, some come more highly recommended than others. Space prevents me from going into any detail on that subject. There are home hair removal systems such as Tria and NoNo, some of these more highly regarded than others – they all have their fans and their detractors, but again, if your needs are relatively limited, you may find that home systems are sufficient. The key, as always, is to be well informed first.
Image curtsey of Vancouver Laser & Skincare Centre