I hope this post will be of great interest to ladies/men out there who are contemplating plunking down a buttload of cash to make themselves a smoother, sleeker animal.
From June of 2008 through June of 2011, I underwent about 19 Laser Hair Removal Sessions, each 8 weeks apart, at a nationwide company (with which I am not affiliated; full disclosure: I worked in this national company's call center for one month January through February of 2008. Working in a call center would take up an entirely different post with an entirely different tone ;-) I did not work for the corporation long enough to recieve any discount for the treatments, and I paid in full with my own money because I had faith in the product I was peddling while I worked for them, even though the job was totally FML).
Three YEARS, you ask? Yes, indeed. My original package was for only six treatments but the contract stipulation was that I could return to attempt to get off all the hair with free sessions following the initial 6 for up to two years. If you do the math, you'll quickly figure out that I've never managed to get rid of ALL of the hair.
I'm afraid I can't advise you on price of such a contract/package for several reasons:
1) I paid at least $2,000 towards my package of my own money, but
2) My mom paid for the rest as a birthday gift, and
3) I added a microdermabrasion and anti-scar laser treatment package to my laser hair removal package (mostly paid for by my mom) and
4) 2008 prices are not going to be current and I'm sure prices vary depending on location as well.
5) The sales pitch works as follows: You enter a contest online to try to win a free laser hair removal package (or you enter at a Bridal Show or Gym, etc.) This is where my job came in: the call center staff calls all entrants that do not win (believe me, it's a LOT LOT LOT more fun to call the winners!) to offer a discount and try to set up a consultation appointment on the spot. If you bite on the offer, you set up an appointment then and there. When you go in, you get a huge sales pitch on the services they offer and it takes a while. They'll tell you if you're a good candidate or not, then show you a pricing list at long last. They'll work out the discount off that just about everyone gets, and offer more discounts should you combine packages. I think there is room for haggling as well, but my mom and I felt comfortable with the final price at the time. But, as you can see the price is very much up in the air so it is impossible for me to tell you whether or not this is a value for your money, or if it's a better deal than shaving, waxing, etc.
I still kick myself because while I worked for the call center I loved to tell contest entrants that they'd never have to shave again (it was in the script, too!). Unfortunately for me, my results fell short of that promise so I feel like a jerk even now for making that claim.
However, I don't regret getting laser hair removal, even though I went back every 8 weeks for three years (now the free treatments are finished, but I can do touch-ups for a massive discount, like $25 a session... but honestly, I'm not sure I can get further results and it may be a waste of time).
I've also had both areas waxed in the past, which is more expensive in the long run but you don't have to pay up-front or finance it. Waxing, I promise you, is the more painful option.
I was a hairy beast. That is, in the bikini and underarm regions. If you've got a forest in these places, light skin but dark hair, I can't recommend laser hair removal enough (provided you can afford their quoted cost)! I'd get a five o'clock shadow under my arms which rendered wearing sleeveless tops to within hours of a shower, and I couldn't shave daily because overzealous shaving and hair that thick will irritate your sensitive underarm and bikini line skin. The hairs that grow in now are far lighter in color though still coarse as hair that grows in those areas usually is. They are sparse and I can forget to shave sometimes. Still, if I let a week pass I get about as much hair as someone who never had much hair to begin with. That is why I think sparse areas like legs or arms are NOT acceptable candidates for laser hair removal treatments. You're going to go get yourself zapped with a hot poker over large areas to *maybe* get rid of *most* of your hair? Not worth it!
If, like me, you're just kind of a hairy girl and you can keep your underarms and bikini area out of the sun for a few years, by all means get it done!
Most of my results were seen within the contract 6 sessions (70% gone). I do think that company's policy allowing you to come back for two years afterwards is excellent, but it is also an admission that a lot of people never get rid of all their hair.
My sister got her underarms done with a different company (not a national chain) and she only went for 4 sessions and just about all her hair was gone (she can get the remaining with tweezers!), so please keep in mind that everyone's experience is going to be different. She doesn't have acne, either, so it may be that her hormones are more stable. We both agree that the first three sessions hurt like a %^&* so consider your pain tolerance (ours is apparently low). It is going to hurt more closer to your period, and if you take an ibuprofen (if you are able) 20 minutes or so before the treatment I found that helps with the sting. Only after my first few sessions did the areas treated feel a bit sore and raw, and thereafter I only felt the momentary sting of the laser (the laser is going to hurt more when it has more hair to zap).
You may have heard of the phenomena of actually seeing the hairs come out of your skin. I only witnessed this after my first few sessions. I believe once you get rid of the bulk of the hairs it's an incredibly tedious process but you must continue because otherwise (pay attention here) the area will become unsightly due to patchy regrowth. If you start and go to more than one session, you really must keep going until the hair becomes uniformly sparse or is totally gone, or you will feel like a monkey (I sure did!).
If you have any questions about my experience, please feel free to ask! I'm difficult to embarrass :) I found this about.com article to be really straight-shooting, so it may answer some of your questions as well.
Keep in mind that if you are physiologically like me (and not like my sister, whose hormones are more stable and hair is darker), you may never get rid of all of your hair. Still, the relative ease of shaving these days totally makes up for the bit of disappointment and all that time getting treatments!