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June 20, 2017

Why Laser and Sun Don't Match

Here we are -- summer in Canada. About a week left before school's out and time to signal the parties, late nights and trips to the beach. It's also almost time to bust out that summer wardrobe if you haven't already -- capris, shorts and dresses! Woo! I love summer fashion.

You know what else comes with all that exposed skin? The need to shave my legs. You may remember earlier this year, I started on my journey to be Hairfree in 2017. Well, I'm afraid I won't be completely hair-free in 2017. I have been quite diligent and have almost finished my laser treatments on my upper lip and underarms (which is AWESOME, by the way!), but as for my legs, I was a little too late. 

Summer's coming and I've heard you can't mix laser with sun or suntans. 


So unfair, right!? 

Here's the thing: I don't even really tan. Like, I don't roast. But let's be real, I do love sitting outside in the sun after a long day, and there's a chance my legs will get slightly bronzed as a result. But is that enough to make a difference? 

To answer all my millions of questions, I went to the woman I trust with a highly-powered laser inches away from my eyes, Daniela Hoffman at Freedom Medi-Spa in Vaughan: 

J: Why can't I go in the sun once I've had a laser treatment?

Freedom Medi-Spa: If you have completed your treatments – then you are ready to slowly get back into the sunshine, using sunscreen of course!  However, if you are in the middle of your treatments – a tan can really set you back.  The laser doesn’t know the difference between melanin in the skin and melanin in the hair – therefore if you come in with a tan at the start of your treatments – it might not be so bad as we are likely treating darker, courser hair and the laser settings will be quite modest.  If it’s in the middle or towards the end of your treatments – the hair is likely finer and lighter – this is when we need to make sure we are treating quite aggressively to be able to permanently destroy those hairs (which are much harder for the laser to see). If your skin is darker than your hair, the laser will be attracted to the darkest pigment, which can result in surface burns.

J: What is the best way to prevent damage to my skin?

Freedom Medi-Spa: The most successful laser clients stay out of the sun, wear 40 + sunscreen and re-apply every 2 hours in the sun, wear a wide brimmed hat or light coloured clothing to cover the areas, and always be honest with any time spent in the sun – including walking, biking an impromptu patio lunch, etc.

J: Can I use a self-tanner?

Freedom Medi-Spa: Yes – however, you must stop their use a minimum of 2 weeks prior to your laser appointment.  After your laser appointment, we recommend waiting at least 5 days before resuming use. 

J: Oops! I forgot to reapply my SPF! What happens to my laser treatment if I get a tan?

Freedom Medi-Spa: If you suddenly present with a tan during your treatment package, then we would have to reduce your settings so that you do not burn from the laser.  Again, the laser is looking for darker pigment – we only want it to see the hair – however, it’s not always easy.  If there is a substantial amount of colour difference – we would likely test patch the area prior to treatment – sometimes a few days prior.  We want to prevent any surface burns.  They will resolve – however, they can take time, so we want to avoid that. 

J: When is an ideal time/season to start a laser procedure?

Freedom Medi-Spa: Generally we say the Fall – however any area that is not tanned and likely won’t be tanned through Summer, you could begin anytime.  Some people would rather treat through Summer and be hair free for a Winter vacation instead.  It really depends on lifestyle.  Some people are great at using their sunscreens or keeping covered – we can treat them at any time. 

So the verdict (at least for moi) -- while I can complete your laser treatments year-round, to avoid unnecessary risk or burn, I'm going to hold off. But only until Fall when I can guarantee my pasty white legs will be concealed from daylight for months on end.

In the Fall, I'll start lasering my legs.

And it's perfect timing, really -- I'll be Hairfree for a Winter 2018 Holiday!

PS -- Photo Credit: Silvana Marshall Photography

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