And so it happened that, at the age of thirty, I found myself in my bathroom with a laser pointed at my crotch.
Not just any laser—it was the TRIA Hair Removal Laser, which promised to liberate me from shaving and waxing and stubble, razor burn, and ingrown hair in as little as six months. Advertised in classy places like the bliss catalog and Nordstrom, and retailing for the price of a very fabulous pair of shoes, the laser is supposed to get rid of hair just like laser treatments from expensive salons do.
I am not going to get into the politics of hair removal and whether women are obligated to do it. Personally, I have decided that keeping things tidy is the way to go for me, and if you’ve clicked and are reading this far, you probably have, too. Now, after about the tenth or fifteenth year of shaving, waxing, and other medieval methods of depilation, something a little more permanent starts to sound really tempting; am I right? Enter the TRIA. Frankly, I’m surprised it took the beauty industry so long.
No Pain, No Gain
Back to me in the bathroom pointing the laser at my nethers: to use it, you verrrrrrry slowly move the laser across freshly shaved skin, working in little overlapping circles like a Venn diagram until each area has been zapped a few times. I’m sort of summarizing the process, but that’s basically the gist of it. You can use the laser on any nonfacial area of your body, and I settled on my bikini line, since the legs seemed too labor-intensive and forever-hairless armpits seemed just weird. With any luck, I would see a noticeable difference after using the laser every other week for six to eight months.
From the time I started until this writing, eight and a half months have passed. And I see … a noticeable difference. The hair grows back slower and finer. After a few more sessions, I think it will be gone completely.
The TRIA has several power levels, from low to high, and here’s where I went wrong: I hung out at medium-high and only started going full blast a month or two ago, which is when I really started to see changes. If I had graduated to the highest level right away, I think that I might be done by now; but I didn’t get there sooner because the high setting can be a little painful.
Don’t get scared by the word “painful”! I guess I could describe it as “discomfort” or “ouchiness.” But I’m not going to lie—it sort of hurts a little bit. The TRIA literature describes the feeling as that of a rubber band being snapped against your skin, and that’s a pretty accurate description. I might also describe it as a strong static zap (or rather, a long series of them). It’s that sort of pain—instant and fast receding. I tell myself that the zaps are how I know it’s working (this may or may not be true).
First, the good news: the TRIA works; in the almost nine months I’ve been TRIA-ing, I would have spent more on bikini waxes than the cost of the machine, making it a worthwhile investment. The bad news: there are a few drawbacks. If you like a more-thorough hair removal, bikini line–wise, it’s hard to achieve that effect with the TRIA. It’s not impossible, if you’re willing to get into some very indelicate positions and guide the laser with mirrors. But if you want the hair to be entirely or even mostly gone, you are probably still going to need to pay someone to do that for you.
Also, not everyone can use the TRIA. It’s only for people with light- or medium-toned skin, and it works best on dark hair. So if you’re a fair brunette like me, you’re fine; but if you have dark skin or blond hair, you may be stuck at the waxer. (The TRIA has a skin sensor, so don’t try to fool it.) While you’re undergoing the TRIA treatment, you can’t ever wax or pluck because of the way the laser targets hair follicles during active and resting phases; this can be annoying. And be sure to use the laser as soon as possible after you shave. If you wait an afternoon and the hair has started to grow back, it tends to be ouchier. I learned this the hard way.
When I started using the TRIA, I thought I wouldn’t care about treating my legs or armpits, but now I sort of wish I had. I’d start over, but I promised my friend Mindy that she could try it out when I was done, and another friend is already interested in borrowing it afterward. We’ll call our little setup the Sisterhood of the Traveling Crotch Laser.
The Lab Rat is dedicated to testing curious and dubious beauty, fitness, food, and lifestyle trends. If you’ve ever wondered about whether a particular fad is worth trying or buying, please email The Lab Rat at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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