How exactly did I come to find myself on a dermatologist's table while he uses a laser to remove hair from my bikini line?
My recovery from years of excruciating pelvic pain was not linear or quick. And when I did finally start experiencing life without pain, the tiniest thing could set me back or cause my anxiety to spike. Period cramps: is my pain back?! A pimple on my vulva: is my pain back?! Normal discharge: is my pain back?! Gradually, this got better, and my fear of pain returning was only triggered by more significant discomfort.
As somebody who's always had sensitive skin and who deals with psoriasis, shaving my bikini line has long caused particular consternation. There isn't a hair removal option available that doesn't make my bikini line red, puffy, and superbly irritated. And anytime I shaved or waxed or otherwise removed hair from the area, it was immediately rendered pointless as the hair was replaced by unsightly red bumps. I've brought bikini bottoms on more vacations that I can count, only to end up wearing board shorts on the beach to cover up the ridiculous inflammation. Even worse, that level of inflammation is often accompanied by (entirely normal!) pain, which stresses me out because I hate experiencing pain down there.
Now that I'm healthy and pain-free, my energy is largely focused on doing things that I enjoy: whether it's work, or... as is so often the case in Chicago in the summertime, enjoying outdoor activities! Some of my favorite summertime activities are paddleboarding and hanging out on the beaches of Lake Michigan near my house. So as the weather began to warm up this spring, I was yet again plagued by frustration about my bikini line hair removal issues. So this year, I took the plunge.
Yesterday was the third of my bikini line laser hair removal appointments. My brilliant dermatology/laser doctor who's been wildly successful in fixing a scar on my neck is administering the treatments. I was pretty freaked out about the first one, but as it turns out, it's way less unpleasant than I imagined.
When I arrive, they offer me a paper gown and ask me to keep my undies on. By now, they know that I'm likely to just wiggle out of my yoga pants and dismiss their invitation to don a paper gown that will be pushed aside immediately anyway. I then ice all areas of my bikini line for a bit (and usually use this time to finish my hastily-grabbed latte en route to the office). The doctor and medical assistant come in to see how the hair has grown since my last visit, and then the medical assistant uses a dry razor to shave the areas we'll be lasering that day.
Next, the doctor uses different frequencies of lasers for the different areas of my bikini line, with an attentiveness to areas that are naturally more sensitive. The laser treatments themselves take only a few minutes, and while they're just uncomfortable in some spots, it does enter the territory of "somewhat painful" in other spots (especially in the crook of your leg and vulva nearest to the vaginal opening -- yowza. This pain feels like tons of rubberband snaps on the area, as artfully (and accurately) described by the medical assistant. Once he finishes an area, I reapply the ice and the pain dissipates pretty rapidly. After he's done, the medical assistant applies hydrocortisone ointment to reduce inflammation in the area, I hop back into my pants, and I go on with my day! Yesterday, I had another appointment, then a lunch date with my hubby, and went for a stroll afterwards. The only after-effects of the treatment are the itchy and unsightly razorburn covering the area for a few days afterwards. Then, in about a week, the area will look like it's covered in ingrown hairs, but with some gentle exfoliating with a washcloth, the hairs will come loose.
I'm so glad I had the nerve to try this, and I feel so exquisitely "normal" each time I pop by the office for these treatments. It's something I would've lacked the courage to do a few years ago, but which definitely improves my quality of life, comfort, and ability to engage freely in the summer activities I most enjoy.
A few tips if you're considering it:
> Find a doctor to do it, not just an aesthetician. Tell them about your history and ensure you feel comfortable before moving forward.
> Figure out what areas you'll want treatments on, and wear undies that encourage access to them. If they're too high-coverage, you'll just regret it later when you don't achieve the full hair removal goals you wanted.
> Use the ice before and after -- it makes a huge difference!
> Bring hydrocortisone ointment to rub on the treatment areas afterwards.
> If you're getting the treatment in the middle of your day, toss an extra pair of undies in your bag. After an hour or so, I find that my underwear seams are gross with hydrocortisone residue, so I like to change.
> Exfoliate regularly and gently with a washcloth to encourage the area to shed those unwanted hairs.
> Do a little happy dance: it takes guts to survive pelvic pain and then let a stranger point a laser gun at your bits!