Why I Fear the Laser
By Mila Madison
Not one experience is the same with it. There are many different types of lasers that are used. You can have it performed by doctors, clinics or spas. Depending on the amount of hair growth, color, pigment and type of skin you have, the results may vary. You may also find you will eventually need electrolysis to remove the hair that the laser won’t. The entire process can be costly, emotional, and yes, painful.
“FACIAL HAIR WAS (AND STILL IS) A BIG DYSPHORIA TRIGGER FOR ME.”
For me the experience was a little unsettling. I was looking to remove facial hair and even though it would have taken about two weeks to grow a beard in my former existence, I had enough there for it to be a problem. Facial hair was (and still is) a big dysphoria trigger for me. Even when there is none, I still see it. For those who experience it, dysphoria can affect us all differently.
So I was at the beginning of my transition. I scoured the Internet, checked out all the Reddit boards and anything else I could find to educate myself. I read a ton of stories, all varying in experience. I was able to find a really nice woman who had her own little clinic. She used real lasers, and best of all, she was transgender friendly. So I booked an appointment and was on my way.
“I THOUGHT ABOUT HOW THIS WAS JUST THE BEGINNING OF A LONG LINE OF PAINFUL THINGS I WILL HAVE TO ENDURE IN THE FUTURE.”
The first session was more of a consultation so the technician could get gauge on things like which laser and setting she would use along with how my skin reacted to it. Next came my first real session. I was laid out on a table and she put these goggles on me to protect my eyes from both the laser and giant light she had on a moveable arm. The laser machine was all warmed up and humming. We were ready to start. The first few zaps from the laser were not so bad, but then it really began to hurt. The technician turned the strength of the laser down a little and proceeded. Now admittedly I am a bit of a wimp, but with each zap the pain increased. As she got near my upper lip and chin it began to feel like I was repeatedly being punched in the face. My mind began to think of Han Solo being tortured by Darth Vader in the Empire Strikes Back. The smell of burnt hair was in the air.
Now as trans people we sadly get used to a lot of stuff. We take all kinds of abuse from many different angles. What I mean is that we are usually pretty tough due to the adversity we deal with. It wasn’t so much the pain. Honestly I can handle that. The problem was with each painful zap of the laser; I began to think about all the tough things we go through as trans people just to feel normal. Each blast was a painful reminder of that and I began to lose it. With each punch of the laser the tears rolled down my face. I thought about how this was just the beginning of a long line of painful things I will have to endure in the future. I had a long road ahead of me and I wasn’t off to a good start. My mind was filled with the thoughts of what testosterone did to me. I thought about the life I never got to live. I was a mess, embarrassed by my inability to keep it all together.
The laser technician felt horrible that I handled it so poorly. I explained to her what was going on in my head about it to make her feel a little better. She gave me some cream to put on my face and sent me on my way. I returned home with my face all swollen as if I was in a boxing match and I put on the cream she gave me. I would later switch to aloe and by the next day I pretty much looked better. I would end up having to go through this procedure every 6-7 weeks. Fortunately I was able to get better with it each time I went.
“MOST PEOPLE SAY THE ELECTROLYSIS IS MORE PAINFUL, BUT I FOUND IT TO BE A LITTLE BETTER PERSONALLY.”
The problem with hair removal is that it grows in cycles. Roughly every 6 weeks a new cycle comes in and you often feel like you are going in circles. For some it can take years to complete. Laser is also ineffective with light hair, so if you have blond or grey hairs you will need to have electrolysis to remove those. Most people say the electrolysis is more painful, but I found it to be a little better personally. It is more of a burning feeling and you don’t feel the punching power like you do with the laser.
I have spoken to many trans women who had much better experiences with laser; so don’t let this story scare you away from it. For me the problem was more my own thoughts than the procedure itself. I would go on to deal with much tougher obstacles in my journey, but laser was one of the first ones I had to experience. For me it was emotional. The best advice I could give is that if you are sure you are going to transition, start laser as soon as you possibly can. It is a long process and you will be thankful that you started it early in the long run.
Stay safe and keep fighting for all of us.
Love and peace,