Lasers: Are they painful?
Often a large concern new clients have when first coming to Althea for a laser treatment is the amount of pain they will be enduring throughout the procedure. In order to answer this question we must look at several factors. Pain levels are specific to each client and can vary in each circumstance.
Pain in men and women
First, lets look at how men and women experience pain. Which gender generally has a better pain threshold? Many spa practitioners believe that men are more sensitive to pain than women. However, this is widely debated among experts. Pain is subjective and difficult to measure. We have to rely on what people say. Pain cannot be analyzed as if it were under a microscope in some physical form.
This hinders study due to the tendency of males to refuse to admit pain. This denial results from the social construct of male masculinity and image, which can inhibit accurate data collection.
Our sex hormones also affect our pain threshold. During a woman's menstrual cycle, hormones such as estrogen increase. This helps the brain suppress pain. Thus a woman’s ability to handle pain changes cyclically.
Despite these difficulties, multiple studies show that men have a higher tolerance for pain. However, the difference between men and women is not great. Males can handle sudden acute pain better. Men and women experience chronic pain, such as cancer pain, similarly.
Pain and hair removal
Other factors are the client’s hair type and the area of the body being treated. Patients with thicker and denser hair experience more “zaps” from the laser, as there are more follicles for the laser to find and kill. The laser kills follicles by emitting flashes of light to the desired area. The light heats the follicle and is absorbed by the hair's melanin pigment. Heat is then conducted through the hair shaft. Finally, the combination of light and heat kill the follicle.
This process tends to be less uncomfortable on areas that have more fat and muscle then bonier areas. Sensitive areas include (but are not limited to): the upper lip, jaw, collar bone, genital area, hands/wrists, and feet. Other areas may be sensitive if the hair is thick, dense, or dark in color.
Most clients find the discomfort tolerable. On certain areas some clients like to apply numbing cream before treatment. Numbing cream is one of several methods that can be used to reduce discomfort during treatment. Other methods include: taking an over the counter pain reliever, icing the area to be treated, and limiting sun exposure as much as possible.
When having laser hair removal done, avoiding sun exposure is a must. Even being outside for short periods can make the skin sensitive to the laser and make the treatment less comfortable. Even sitting in your car or in an office that receives sunlight from a window should be avoided.
To prevent sun exposure, apply a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide. The zinc oxide creates a barrier between the epidermis and the sun which protects the skin more effectively.
Most clients handle laser discomfort without using any prior pain reduction techniques. Laser hair removal may not be completely painless, but most find it to be tolerable even if it is mildly uncomfortable.