Novelist Marian Keyes has spoken out at the Oxford Literary Festival about the ‘horrific’ experience she had with laser hair removal.
“The first time I had the lasering done it was horrific. I couldn’t imagine that something would hurt so much. It’s very painful and very pricey,” she said of the procedure. It hurt so much that the 51-year-old revealed she covered her legs in a local anaesthetic cream she bought from a “dodgy” website before wrapping them in cling film. She then dressed and boarded a plane, where she said she felt “euphoric” from the cream which had entered her blood stream.
Doctors have now spoken out to warn people that applying too much cream can you put you at risk of ‘anaesthetic toxicity’ – which is potentially life threatening.
“It can be dangerous to apply numbing cream to a large area because there is the risk that the amount of anaesthetic absorbed by the body could lead to high blood levels – in extreme cases this can cause cardiac problems, even cardiac arrest,” says Dr Askari Townshend, an aesthetic doctor based in London. “Cling film works to maximise the penetration of the cream, increasing the amount absorbed into the bloodstream.”
The laser skin specialist Teresa Tarmey agrees. “What Marian Keyes did is completely toxic and dangerous.”
But that’s not to say you can’t do laser hair removal safely and feel no pain. Here’s how:
1. Take some pain relief
“To help with any pain, some of my clients take pain relief an hour before the session, which can take the edge off,” says Tarmey. “Just one Nurofen usually does the job.”
2. Avoid IPL
There’s a big difference between laser hair removal and IPL (Intense Pulse Light). “It’s the IPL methods of hair removal that usually hurt,” says Tarmey. “Lots of clients still don’t realise that hair removal doesn’t have to be so painful – there’s a new laser device called the Soprano,which hardly hurts at all. It has a cooling tip that safely ‘numbs’ the skin as the laser passes.”
3. Use numbing cream – in the right way
“The use of numbing cream prior to laser hair removal is quite common, however it is how and when it is applied that is important,” says Dr Townshend. “A medical professional will know how much is safe to use and can regulate the amount of time it is left on the skin. In my opinion, the safest way for these creams to be used is in the clinic, under medical supervision, 20-30 minutes before the treatment occurs.”
4. Book your appointment strategically
“I recommend that clients try to avoid laser the week before to the day before their period is due, as this can add to the sensitivity,” says Tarmey.
5. Ice packs can help
“Post-treatment we have chilled aloe vera available for clients to soothe and cool the skin,” says Townshend. “We also use cold packs and a cooling machine that delivers cold air to the treated area. These can all help minimise any discomfort after laser hair removal.”