Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Chat with a Laser Hair Removal Technician, Part II

Continued from Q&A Part I... Q&A with Jennifer Belser from Pulse NYC Laser & Skincare Center

Q: Do you have a preference of machine, are they all the same, is there one that is the best?

A: All lasers are NOT created equal.  There are variations in the industry with regards to the wavelengths of light used, as well as cooling methods used.  Stay away from IPL, or intense pulsed light, which uses a broadband width of light, some of which isn’t successful for hair removal. Look for machines that are Alexandrite (755nm) or YAG (1064nm); with both of these machines, you can treat skin from the lightest to darkest.  I have worked with many different types of machines and brands, and in my personal experience I get the best results with the Candela Gentle Lase Pro and the Candela Gentle YAG.

Q: What lasers do you currently work with?

A: I work with the Candela machines daily, and have over 10,000 treatments under my belt at Pulse.

Q: Wow, that’s impressive! …In my previous article about laser deals/promotions I recommended in general those getting treatment should tip their practitioner because I think there is some confusion out there about it. In fact, everyone I’ve helped with laser information, I tell them they should tip, do you agree? I’ve always believed you tip when the person is a laser technician who does not perform other procedures like injectables, and is not an RN, would you say that is about right? How should one determine whether they should tip or not? And should people tip on a regular service scale? I mean, a $400 for the full price treatment would be a $80 tip! Seems excessive for what might be a 15 minute service.

A: I think that you are correct that if the person performing your treatment is not a doctor or nurse, and doesn’t provide other medically based services (and likely works on an hourly wage like I do) it is customary to tip.  We have tip envelopes at our place of business and clientele will usually see them and ask what is appropriate.  We do tell them 15-20% of the full price cost of the treatment. Sometimes we get that, sometimes we don’t.  If the treatment you are getting is expensive, you can assume that we are doing the same amount of work and give you the same quality of treatment whether you paid full price or got it through a discount deal. It’s just a courtesy to tip someone for a job well done.  If you can’t afford the 20% that’s okay, just put in what you can. We consider it akin to any other beauty service like a haircut, a waxing, a manicure..only we are putting class 4 laser devices in very sensitive areas on many peoples’ bodies. We take pride in our knowledge and skills and typically, you can’t do it at home on your own.  I’d say tipping is a great way to show your appreciation for someone who is available to you at most hours of the day to permanently get rid of the hair in the most unsightly of places.

Q: What are your thoughts on all the LHR services being offered through advertising deal sites? I’ve never seen your clinic pop up on the popular deals sites, so I know you guys don’t do the ‘daily deal sites’ thing. I ended up getting all my LHR through promotional pricing (only years ago when groupon didn’t exist) because I had all the woes of hair and its issues, but didn’t have a lot of money. What are your thoughts on the proliferation of daily deal site laser offerings?

A: We actually DO use popular deal sites, so it's unfortunate that you might have missed us. We work with Groupon regularly (our next deal will be going up in the coming months, possibly around April), our last deal ran with them in November around Thanksgiving and we left it up for 4 weeks. We've also used KGB and Bloomspot. It's both a blessing and a curse to have these deal sites out there.  On the one hand they bring in hundreds or thousands of clientele to our businesses, but on the other hand, they can cater to people who are only interested in the best deal available and not necessarily caring about the level of treatment or about staying loyal to one place.  So the blessing is that we get wonderful new business, and are able to retain some loyal clientele.  The curse is that once the treatments are done, they might have moved on to other places or are also going to other places in tandem with coming to ours. Laser establishments need a regular influx of clientele to maintain their business- we want to get new people in daily, but the thing is, we also want them to be loyal to us and to stay with us to eventually finish all body parts.

(All that glitters): Yeah, I have to admit, I have myself clinic-hopped based on price, but that was years ago when there were so few promotions around (and never for a package) and the cost of laser was quite prohibitive.  I can definitely say it was to the detriment of my treatment. It seems to me laser techs tend to ramp up their treatment during the first 1-2 treatments to gauge how high they feel confident going, so I can see when you have 3 in one place, then the next 3 in another at another clinic your treatments end up being not at optimal settings.

A: I think the difficult part is that people think that laser should be cheap now, when in reality, it isn't.  This is because if you are doing laser at a decent place that has good machines, you can expect that those machines are expensive ($50-100k) to purchase, which means that they are also expensive to maintain - and they usually do require regular maintenance if they are getting steady use. Maintenance, which is necessary in order to maintain maximum effectiveness of the laser, is in the thousands per machine issue, as well as the glasses, the lenses, etc...all of these are very expensive.
(ATG): Based on that I definitely see a correlation between expense of the clinic and effectiveness in the LHR business; it’s probably a good idea people seek out the best clinic they can afford. I think there are great options for those who can't afford $1000's, but they should definitely try to stretch their limit to give themselves the best options.

Q: Anything else you would want to tell people interested in LHR? Frequently requested information, words of wisdom, advice, warnings?

Yes. Don’t workout directly after being lasered for 24 hours.
If you are pregnant, please bring a doctor’s note with you - many places have different policies towards treating pregnant women.  Ask your OB what their policy is as well.
Do not go into the sun for 2 weeks post laser. 
You must be out of the sun for 4-6 weeks to get treated on an Alexandrite and for 2 weeks if you get treated on a YAG.
You must be off of any oral antibiotics for 2 weeks before being lasered. This is because antibiotics make you light sensitive and lasers are intense wavelengths of light.
Go to your treatment clean! (sounds like common sense, but isn’t always). If they offer a moment to freshen up with wipes, take it. If they don’t, ask for a moment. Similarly, if you need to use the rest room ask to go before they take you into the room.
Ask the practice how you need to prepare.  Some places might require stubble, others might require none, so inquire before your first treatment and prepare how they ask you to.
Don’t be shy- this is something that we see all day every day, and we do our best to make you feel at ease and comfortable.
Laser can be somewhat uncomfortable, but most people say that it is less painful than a wax. If it concerns you, you can use a 5% lidocaine anesthetic numbing cream on the area for one hour prior to your treatment.

Q: Oh, one more thing, which is better before a treatment, Tylenol or Ibuprofen?
A: Ibuprofen 45 minutes before.

All that glitters: Thank you so much. I know this will be very helpful to a lot of people.

(Stay tuned for my next article in my 3 part series on laser hair removal, the first one being 'how to choose a laser hair removal groupon')


  1. Your article is very helpful. Thank you so much for posting!

  2. how can u gaurantee complete coverage of hair removal as agreed?
    i.e you cant necessarily watch most areas being done and the technician may quickly move over an area or miss a portion.

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