Think again as Beauty Writer Dija Ayodele discusses excessive facial hair and puts laser treatment to the test.
I have had excessive facial hair since my teenage years. Not just fine downy hair which everyone gets, but also clusters of dark, curly and coarse hair on either side of my chin. Living in a society were a fuzz free female body is championed, there is a certain stigma attached to facial hair and I feel the lid of acceptance is only just being lifted. Women are much more open in tackling the issue and what may have been sniggers in the past are now supportive words. In this spirit of bravery, I decided to tackle my own issues with facial hair, especially in the light of the misconception amongst women of colour that laser treatment isn’t suitable for dark skin.
Excessive facial hair falls into two categories: those with a genetic predispostion to be hairy. Then there are those women, who suddenly start experiencing hairiness due to an underlying hormonal medical condition, perhaps Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which increases the level of male hormones in the body and results in male pattern hair growth — beards, moustache, sideburns, chest hair.
I hankered after a more permanent form of hair removal and investigated laser treatments whilst I was at university, but was told at the time that lasers were not suitable for black skin as the risk of scarring was high. Laser works best when the skin underneath and around the hair is a lighter colour than the hair itself. This helps guide the laser to its target which is darker. The issue with dark skin is that if both skin and hair are similar in colour, then the laser can miss and be absorbed into the skin instead, causing further damage. Also if there is any scaring in the area as a result of plucking and shaving, it can further darken the skin, making it even more difficult for the laser treatment to be successful.
Fast forward ten years, with a career in beauty and still dealing with facial hair on a weekly basis, I went back to thinking about laser treatment. With less time on my hands juggling work and family life, I wanted a more permanent solution. After talking to many a beauty professional, I also knew the adage about laser not being suitable for dark skin was incorrect, so I made it my mission to find a laser practitioner that could handle my skin.
Based on Brompton Road, the Debbie Thomas Advanced Skin Treatments Clinic are professional laser specialists and most importantly have over fifteen years experience treating dark skin. I kept a diary of my visits to not only monitor the success of my treatment, but also to have evidence that laser treatment is a viable option for women of colour.
Thought I would pass out from nervous excitement. Was this to be the end to my twice weekly depilatory sessions? Or would I still be using hair removal creams in my twilight years? I was going to talk to a perfect stranger about a very personal and frankly mortifying issue but I was instantly put at ease by the team. It’s very clinical, akin to a hospital, so the embarrassment factor is left at the door. Photos taken and I had a patch test with the laser machine. A good clinic will always test your suitability. I had to keep an eye out for any crusting of the skin or signs of damage. Luckily there was none, so I was pleased that I would be able to start my treatment on a monthly basis. This is by far the most important step. Research shows it can take up to two years for a sufferer with excessive facial hair to seek advice, so attending the first appointment itself is an achievement.
After a quick cleanse and a whirl of machinery, the laser beam is fired at my skin in rapid bursts that feel like a hot elastic band being flicked against my skin. Yes, you will smell burnt hair and the area will feel hot for a minute but a consecutive blast cold air instantly cools you down. I honestly did an internal fist pump each time I felt a zap! Dija 1, Hair 0. Typically you need eight to twelve sessions to be hair free, so I wasn’t expecting any results after this appointment. However, after approximately two weeks, I noticed the coarse stubble I used to feel on my chin was gone and in that time, I also hadn’t used any hair removal creams. There was of course, still some fine hair, but the thicker visible darker hair was definitely gone. Cue, disco in my head!
As hair grows in cycles, it’s important to keep up with treatments so that the hair can be tackled whilst its still in early growth underneath the skin. Debbie went over the same area and also expanded the treatment area once we’d established that my skin was reacting well to the treatment. Ten days later, I saw hair falling out on a cotton pad whilst I cleansed my skin. Ka-ching! Success!
I’m starting to forget what it was like when I did have hair on my face. One of the upsides to laser treatment is that my skin tone is evened out. Plucking scars darkens skin over time, so laser has actually given my skin time to heal and rejuvenate. Coarse sideburn hair has all but disappeared and my skin is smooth. I am encouraged and pleased. In fact, kicking myself for not doing this sooner.
I still have a few appointments to go, but the difference so far is noticeable. Over the last three months I haven’t had to do any form of additional hair removal which has been a massive time saver. My confidence is up so much that I can go out comfortably without makeup and like a lot of women I know who have excessive facial hair, I no longer have to hide behind my weave or use the tactic of resting my chin in my hands. Laser treatment has given me a new confidence and if my experience is anything go by, taking the time to find a specialist who can deal with dark skin is crucial. It is possible to damage the skin regardless of skin colour but technology has so improved that darker skin tones are now adequately served by laser. It is not that black skin cannot have laser treatment, it is more that you need to ensure the practitioner is experienced and using the appropriate type of laser for your skin.
For further information on the Debbie Thomas Advanced Skin Treatments Clinic visit here.