Laser Beard Removal

Update: 3/2008

My laser operator, Adrianne Gorman, R.N., who I recommend most highly, can now be found at
2005 Naglee Ave. Suite 50, CA Jose, CA
(408) 295-2937

Update: 1/2007

Well, it's been four years since a laser touched my face, and I haven't had any regrowth. I think that pretty much proves laser hair removal was permanent in my case. I'm going to give you a summary of my overall experience, and then you can read the article I wrote when I was just starting out.

Over a period of two years, I had 21 laser sessions. I was seeing dimishing returns after about 6 or 8 sessions, but I was so scared of electrolysis that I went on with the laser. After session 10, I began using the Meladine melanin enhancer, as you can read at the bottom of this article. I stopped laser right after that post, and began electrolysis. I did 100 hours of blend electrolysis over a period of a year, one 2-hour session per week, and then I was done. Now I pluck a few white hairs a few times a week, and I run an epilator over my face once every few weeks. (Ouch!) I ought to go back for a little bit of touch-up electrolysis, but I just never get around to it.

The electrolysis didn't hurt any more than the laser. It just lasted longer. If I had it to do over again—thank GOD I don't!—I think I would do 6 or 8 laser sessions and then switch to electrolysis, and forget about the Meladine, which is a real pain to apply.

I'm very happy with my result. My face is smooth and my skin wasn't damaged at all. And that's about how it went. Now let's drop back five years...


I have been doing laser beard removal rather than electrolysis. I haven't seen much discussion of this method, except for electrologists's sites which naturally express skepticism or worse. So I thought I would relate my experience, and hopefully some of you will share yours with me in return.

I worte this essay to kick off a Yahoo group to discuss Laser Hair Removal. Please check out that group for further discussion and resources.

If you need to understand the laser hair removal process, try Laser Hair Removal and Hair Facts. Here, I will just relate my personal experience and results.

I am a transsexual woman, so my experience is with removal of male facial (and torso) hair. However, we transsexuals are actually a small minority of laser hair removal clients. Many genetic women use this service for removing unwanted facial hair, bikini line trims, and those pesky nipple hairs. Manly men use it for back, facial, and other body hair. I will be happy if my testimony is helpful to you others as well.

As I write this, I have completed 5 laser treatments for my facial hair. I also had 2 treatments on my chest and belly hair. I am a good candidate for the laser because I am light-skinned and my hair is dark. Also my hair is not very thick to start with. My main disadvantage is a significant amount of gray hair, which the laser does not affect.

My treatment has been administered at the office of Dr. Robert M. Lowen in Mountain View, California (SF Bay area). Dr. Lowen is a plastic surgeon and he performs the gamut of those operations, such as nose jobs, lifts, etc. I've never actually met Dr. Lowen. The laser is run by the very wonderful Adrianne Gorman. She is a lovely young woman who is a Registered Nurse with years (10, I think) of emergency room experience. This made me feel secure going into the program, since I felt she would know what to do if something went terribly wrong. At this point, however, the whole thing seems like no big deal to me. While I wouldn't urge anyone to be less than careful about selecting their laser practitioner, I would say you don't need to worry about it over much.

The laser Adrianne uses for this procedure is called GentleLASE, a long-pulse high-energy Alexandrite laser system (wavelength 755nm, 3 msec pulse ) with a cryogen spray to cool the skin. It does sting pretty good. I use Emla cream to anesthetize the skin prior to treatment. For the first few treatments I used it over the whole area that would be worked on. The last couple of times I just used it on the upper lip area. I never used it on my chest or belly. The reason is that when the hair is dense, at the beginning of treatment, it absorbs more heat from the laser. When the hair is sparser, not as much heat is absorbed so it doesn't hurt as much.

I'm told that electrolysis hurts considerably more. That's what I hope to avoid!

It takes only about 10 or 15 minutes to clear the face. This is about 300 shots. It only takes about 5 minuts to do the torso, because the hair (on me!) is sparse. Adrianne started me out at 15 j/cm2, later took me up to 20, and I did my last session at 25. I think she does my chest at 18. I know some studies suggest that a fluence of at least 30 j/cm2 is necessary to effect permanent hair removal, but 25 is painful enough for me, thank you.

I wish I had a good photographic record to document the results. But I am a lousy photographer, so that didn't work out. Thus my judgement of my results is unfortunately subjective. (I did put some photos in the Yahoo group, but they're not great.) Anyway.. I could see results after the first treatment. After 5 treatments, I am pretty happy with the results everywhere except the moustache area. I can easily go 24 hours without shaving, and I can go out with no foundation, just some beard cover (Dermablend -- you can order it from over the moustache. Prior to starting the treatment, I always wore a very heavy coat of Dermablend, so this is great progress. (I still wear foundation as a normal course at work every day, but I feel comfortable running out to the store or that sort of thing without it.) My chest and belly hair is pretty much gone with just 2 treatments.

My plan is to continue more treatments on the moustache area and probably the rest of the face for a while. I met a guy at Southern Comfort Conference--an M.D. actually--who said he had 20 treatments, and felt he was about done. I don't know if I'll go 20 (or need to), but I'll keep it up for a while and see what happens. One operator told me she's never had anyone go more than 8 or 9 treatments, and that's for tough male facial hair.

As for the gray hairs, I may need to do electrolysis eventually for them. However, Adrianne tells me that there's a new creme on the market, Vaniqua, that seems to be very effective in stopping hair growth. I may see if I get decent results that way. The down side is you need to keep using it forever, and I guess it's not cheap. Well, I'll see.

Oh yes, the cost of my treatments. I initially signed up for a set of 5 sessions for about $1,800. That's just the face. I forget how much my chest/belly was, but it was a lot less. My next face shots will be $300 each, for now. It seems like a lot, but I did a rough calculation, and I think it's priced to come out about the same as electrolysis. It's just a lot less time and less pain.

The big question, of course, is, "Is it permanent?" One laser operator told me she's done her own leg hair and just about everything else on her body, and 3 years later it's still all gone, except for the occasional stray. She says she has a girlfriend with the same experience. I've heard other stories of it all springing back after 6 months. All I can say is, "I'll let you know!"


Update: 10/2003

This is the second anniversary of my first visit to the laser clinic, and I celebrated it with Adrianne, my laser nurse. I just finished treatment number 21. All of my dark hairs were pretty much gone after the first year, but then I started using Meladine to allow the laser to get at my gray hairs, which were very evident once the dark hairs were gone. The Meladine has been effective and has dimished my gray hairs quite a bit, but after a year of continuous use, I still have a reasonable amount to work on. (I also noticed that as soon as I started on the Meladine, a bunch of persistent, stubborn dark hairs on my upper lip came right off.) I can go 48 hours without shaving and my stubble isn't particularly visible (this with no make-up at all), but after about 24 hours the stubble is apparent to touch. I've considered going to electrolysis to finish off the job, but I'm told that electrolysis can also seem to take forever to complete the last little bit. So I plan to continue with the laser and Meladine as long as there are hairs to zap, and as long as I can stand it and afford it.

I've also used laser to remove all of the hair on my chest, belly, underarms, and bikini area. I'm very pleased with the results there, and it appears to be permanent, with only the occassional renegade hair to tweeze. No dark hairs have regrown on my face, either, indicating that those results are probably permanent, I believe.

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