I find shaving my legs so annoying that sometimes I'll go months without ridding my gams of unwanted hairs. Mostly that only happens during the winter (when I can cover up my un-femme stems with pants) but not always. I get lazy and I just don't have the patience or the willpower to shave away the pricklies every few days, even in summer. Nor do I have the pain tolerance for waxing, or a stomach that can stand up to that Nair smell (ugh). So even though I do like having smooth, silky legs, I hadn't found a way to make that more of the norm, less of a rarity—until now.
I've tried laser hair removal before, using an at-home device, but it wasn't great. Again, I'm a big baby, and I found the elastic-snapping sensation of the laser totally intolerable. I couldn't even get through a single leg on the lowest power setting without heavily wincing and letting out a few audible squeaks.
Then, earlier this year, I heard about a new in-office laser that promises to be virtually painless: the LightSheer Desire Laser. Beyond the ouch-free factor, it also purports to be the most versatile and quickest laser currently on the market, targeting almost all hair colors and removing hair on most skin tones. (Earlier lasers didn't work on darker skin tones or lighter hair.) I was hesitant at first—could it really be as painless as it claims to be? And without numbing gels?—but I decided to give it a try nonetheless.
The new laser manages to treat the darker skin tones and lighter hair colors that it couldn't before because it works differently. "It spreads out the time that the energy is delivered into the skin, so you can trick the light to target the hair follicle without hurting the dark pigment of the skin," cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank clarified. Similarly, it's the first of its kind that can be used anywhere on the body, including the face. It's expensive, yes; for packages of five treatments (the recommended duration), prices range from $900 for the upper lip, $1,500 for the bikini area or underarms, $2,500 for the lower legs (which is what I chose), and $3,900 for the entire leg. But after five of those once-a-month treatments, 90 percent of your hair should completely and permanently vanish.
Before my first treatment with Dr. Frank, I was told (somewhat mistakenly) that I didn't have to do any preparatory work at all. That meant I strolled into Dr. Frank's office as my #iwokeuplikethis self, with two weeks worth of unshorn leg hair. Dr. Frank notified me immediately that next time it'd be best for me to have recently shaved the treatment area (think: the opposite of what you do for a waxing appointment), but said we could still proceed as usual without any complications. He placed the extra-wide mouth of the laser onto my ankle, pressed a button, and the laser flashed. "The actual stamp of the laser is five to ten times the size of other lasers, so it covers a much larger surface area, which makes it so fast," said Dr. Frank.
As the laser activated, it sucked in my skin. And much to my surprise, it didn't hurt one bit; it actually tickled! As he continued to zap the laser up and down my legs and it proceeded to slurp in my skin, I felt like someone was giving me dozens of hickies! It was a pretty cool sensation, really. "What really dramatically affects the pain is that it uses this vacuum-assisted device, so it spreads out the pigment cells in the skin to make them absorb less of the heat, which is what causes the pain," Dr. Frank explained. "This suction also confuses the nerve fibers so that it doesn't feel the heat as much. It's almost like stepping on your foot to cure a toothache." The only times I did feel some tenderness were around the ankles and when the laser would zap the same exact area twice. But really, that just felt like a quick and bearable pinch. Otherwise, hickies, hickies, hickies galore, man.
But as Dr. Frank rapidly continued with the process, I suddenly realized why he had suggested I shave relatively recently before the appointment. As the laser continued to sprint across my legs, I noticed plumes of smoke furl into the air and a smell of burnt hair. Turns out, the laser was literally singeing off my existing fuzz as it targeted the roots! Dr. Frank assured me this occurrence was totally safe and just made for a slightly bizarre thing to watch. I was quite fascinated by the curls of smoke as they spiraled into existence and then quickly evaporated, but the smell of burnt hair, not so much.
All in all, though, I was impressed by how speedy and effortless the process was, which took a precise 13 minutes to complete both lower legs (I'm super-tall though, so it'd be even faster for other people.) After the treatment, Dr. Frank warned there would be some redness for the day. When I stepped out of his office, it felt like my legs were sunburnt and they looked like they had razor burn all over, but both of these after-effects completely disappeared in three hours. "With older lasers, the downtime of redness and soreness would typically last a few days," said Dr. Frank. "But with this device, since we're drawing the skin in closer to the light, we're actually able to get the same amount of efficacy without using such high energies of the older lasers, which makes this one gentler."
I've now had four out of five of my treatments done, and I'm proud to say that my leg hair was completely gone after my third session. I have not used my razor once since that treatment. Not. One. Time. As the treatments continued, Dr. Frank revved up the power of the laser. The pinching feeling progressively became more pronounced, but it was never, ever squeal-worthy. Another bonus: The recovery time after treatment progressively shrinks with each visit. After my last treatment, my legs both looked and felt entirely normal in about an hour.
All things considered, the LightSheer Desire Laser has been an exceptional success. I never have to use a tedious razor on my legs again, and I no longer have to hide my stubbly stems in a pair of pants, either. Of course, the process wasn't cheap—but when you consider that, according to recent research, the average woman spends more than $10,000 on hair removal products in her life (and four months of her time removing that hair!), paying a couple thousand dollars upfront for something that's fast, painless, and permanent doesn't seem so crazy. Like, at all.