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Moments when I question my choice of Mexico City spa service providers

It hit me last month that our time in Mexico is quickly coming to a close, causing me to spring into action on a topic that I’d been mulling over for the last year and a half: laser hair removal. (It’s ok, boys, you can stop reading now & I won’t be offended.)

With an eye towards taking advantage of Mexico/US pricing differentials, I figured hitting a spa around here was at least worth a shot. The cost for a package of ten laser treatments here appeared to be in the same ballpark as one laser treatment on the East Coast, which appealed to my midwestern value-oriented mindset. I also assessed the situation based on what is now my most commonly-used phrase in Mexico: What Could Go Wrong? (*see footnote)

The “What Could Go Wrong” analysis led me to select only two areas for laser treatment: underarms (axilas) and bikini line (bikini). You will note that both of these areas (on me at least) are rarely exposed to the public (but when they are, they shouldn’t be furry). This ensured I would not be subject to daily awkward stares at some horrible blotchy laser explosion scar on my calf. I don’t even know if that can happen with lasers, but this scenario was nonetheless factored into my What Could Go Wrong vision. (I get enough daily awkward staring that I don’t need to offer up any more ammo.)

I opted for a spa in Polanco based on the recommendation of an Embassy associate + the fact that it was within walking distance– key for maintaining my motivation to go. My first visit, near the end of March, was fairly uneventful, mainly because I didn’t really know what I was doing. I did discover that my 4th-grader-Spanish left something to be desired when it came to chatting about a high-wattage laser zapping my body. But I suppose that’s to be expected, given the number of 4th graders who have the need to discuss hair removal, period, much less using a laser. :)

After my two visits, I’ve identified the following questions/observations that are confusing to me as a photoepilation novice. Perhaps there are savvier ladies in my reading audience who can shed some light/comment on any of the following:

  1. The doors to the spa rooms where the laser treatments are done have big signs indicating “WEAR EYE PROTECTION!”  I, the client, was given eye protection in the form of some hippie-colored plastic glasses. However, my practitioner DID NOT WEAR ANY EYE PROTECTION. She instead opted to just CLOSE HER EYES each time she clicked the laser gun.  WTF???  I mean, I didn’t take a *lot* of laser-related classes in engineering school, but I am pretty sure that our micro-thin eyelids are not sufficient for blocking out intense bursts of laser light….right?
  2. When I called, they asked for my name. When I got in the treatment room, they asked for my name. When I was ready to leave, they again asked for my name. Finally it became evident that they had no record of me in their magical computer system, despite my prior lump-sum payment. Tricky data entry! (Though to their credit, they actually let me leave after just writing my name down, promising they would search later for my account details. Recognition: one of the benefits of being a 6′2 guera in DF.)
  3. When I left my first appointment, the lady informed me that I should shave my underarms a few hours after I got home. Looking at multiple websites, I gathered that one should not shave for a few *days* after the treatment. Which is it, and why does it matter?
  4. Today I tried to explain to her that it didn’t seem like much of the lasered hair had fallen out, as she had told me it would. We had an awkward discussion in Spanish which follows:
  • Me: Uh, so it didn’t seem like any of these underarm hairs fell out like you said.
  • Her: Let me look.
  • starts lasering away–
  • Me: Uh, so do you know why it didn’t work?
  • Her:  Leriwhelh Hdlisehr weroj joiehQ ELHIoppz. It will take 10 sessions for it to work.
  • Me: Huh, you told me 3-4 sessions last time because of my magic skin/hair color combo.
  • Her: Well you will see progress in 3-4 sessions.
  • Me: okaaayyyy… totally not what you said last time.
  • Her: How many times did you shave under your arms since last time?
  • Me: How many? Well several, I don’t know exactly…
  • Her: Ohhh… see, what you are doing is stimulating the hair to grow. Each time you shave the hair grows more. You won’t see any results if you do that. You cannot shave more than 2 times during the month between appointments.
    • Note: I perceive this line of reasoning to be faulty, according to much-respected myth-busting website snopes.com. Review their comments here.
  • Me: Uhhh… but isn’t the laser killing the hairs? Why would it matter how many times I shave? If new hairs grow, won’t they just get killed by the laser?
  • Her: [indecipherable] You can’t shave more than twice or it won’t work.
  • Me: I don’t understand. Isn’t this killing the hairs? After 10 sessions won’t most of the hairs be dead? Why am I here?
  • Her: [sighs with frustration]
  • Me: [decides to stop asking questions & ask the innerwebs later, and instead lie there wondering how many years it will take for the practioner's retinas to burn to a crisp]

In summary, I am increasingly unclear whether either this woman has no actual training in laser hair removal, or she knows facts about laser hair removal unknown by any other website. Any laser aficionados out there who would like to shed any light on do’s/don’ts of this process, your wisdom is welcomed. :) In the interim, I will continue slogging through as many of my remaining 8 visits as I can before we depart, each time bringing a new set of sciencey questions to further frustrate her.

* Copyright 2010, Julie’s Measures for Assessing Activities in Mexico. All Rights Reserved.

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15 Comments on “Moments when I question my choice of Mexico City spa service providers”

  1. #1 Joy
    on Apr 28th, 2010 at 9:48 am

    You are much, much braver than me.

  2. #2 Kim
    on Apr 28th, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Vamanos! Jules, I don’t often (openly) question your wisdom when you are off on some new adventure in a foreign land, but laser hair removal? Are you insane? Run like the wind my friend!!!!

  3. #3 Refried Dreamer
    on Apr 28th, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    kudos to you for trying. I don’t have a problem going to the doctors here in Mexico… for my vertigo and all sorts of shit…. but I I checked into Laser tattoo removal here and the good ole’ whoo haa check up…. and well, I’m saving up for the States. Good luck with the remainder of your visits.

  4. #4 Leah Flinn
    on Apr 28th, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    It’s trial & error here. I went a to have a dental procedure done a couple years ago here, thinking I would save some $$. The dentist was totally unqualified and within a couple weeks the filling fell out. Tried someone else who was competent and did a great job, and cheaper. The weeding out process is what can be frustrating here, since there are a lot of unprofessional professionals.

  5. #5 Liz
    on Apr 28th, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    I went to a laser hair removal more than a year ago (the one that closed) and I only received 4 sessions, after that, they closed and stole my money duh.
    But, I can tell you that those 4 sessions were worth it. Now I have muuuuch less hair in my legs, and also under my arms.
    I think you mus be patient and keep going to your laser sessions.
    When I went there, I only shaved my legs the day I was going to receive the treatment.

    I hope this information is useful.

  6. #6 Julie
    on Apr 28th, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Ahh thanks ladies for the variety of perspectives!! :)
    Melissa– yah, laser tattoo removals defo falls into the *visible* category of What Could Go Wrong.
    Liz- you give me hope (except for the spa-going-out-of-biz-and-stealing-your-money part). ;) I will keep at it & hope for the best.
    Leah- “trial and error” is definitely right. I see why they want you to pay for everything up front now.
    Kim- I knew you’d be impressed. Ha! Just think how jealous you’ll be when you come visit me in DC and all I can talk about will be my smooth, glowing armpits. (pls beat me if that happens)

  7. #7 Your Mother
    on Apr 28th, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Did I teach you nothing in the years you lived with us? Have you lost your mind because of the increased proximity to the sun in Mexico City? Do you want to cause permanent damage to yourself? If you are answering yes to any of these questions, then please go back for more treatments. If, however, you are beginning to doubt your insane decision, please do not return to the scene of that crime. I’ll gladly refund your money if they won’t. Hope to see your non-damaged self soon!

  8. #8 Angela
    on Apr 28th, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    I did laser hair removal in Chicago at a very-uppity salon (and paid the price for the cucumber water too) because I was scared of having anything unprofessional/scary happen with the laser-crotch situation. So my experience is this, I was told to *not* wax the areas that you are treating at all during your treatment period. My treatment professional never said anything about shaving or not shaving or how many times is ok to shave but she did ask me to shave before my appointment or else she would dry shave me (ouch!!). I did 5 treatments on my bikini and underarm area and there is definitely a lot less hair there. I usually only need to shave my underarms once a week but the bikini is a different story – I didn’t have as much success there. I was thinking of trying to do my legs and “touch-up” my already treated areas so I may be shopping for laser hair removal centers…so if you don’t mine providing me the name of your place offline, I would appreciate it!

  9. #9 lisa herickhoff
    on Apr 29th, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Hi Julie,

    My Mom did laser treatments (and I’ll forward your blog-link to her). I had them done on legs, pits and bikini area. I now only shave my legs about 1x/week (good for dark haired, light skinned girly). Unfortunately the laser wasn’t tuned when I did my underarms and so it didn’t really work well.

    The whole shaving = hair growth is a big fat myth (ask myth busters!). You should notice less hair in about a two weeks after the treatment. If not, run the other direction, take your Mom’s advice and wait until you are back in the U.S.

    You are a brave chick!
    Lisa

  10. #10 Ruth
    on Apr 29th, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Juli, I am laser certified and I wish you had asked before you had the torture session done.
    First, there are several requirements that have to be met before one even does laser on someone. You interview them and if they are blond- they are very bad candidates. I do believe that there are special lasers that have come out for blonds within the last few years but I do not know the brand names.
    Second, you do not need long hair just stubble as the laser light is attracted to the hair color and travels down to the root, killing it.
    Tthird, you cannot be tan as the laser is attracted to color and will leave your skin very blotchy. These are things they should have told you.
    I hope your glasses were the correct ones as the laser light can do serious damage to the cornea and the lens of your eyes. I had to quit doing laser becauase I have eye issues.
    If you ever get back to colorado, I would be happy to take you to a friend who is still doing laser and can tell you if you are a canditate which I do not think you are as I recall you are a natural blond.
    If you need more details just email- I will find out the answers!

  11. #11 Ruth
    on Apr 29th, 2010 at 11:10 am

    I forgot to mention that if the hair has been “killed”. it falls out on its own within 10 days. Shaving has no effect on anything to do with laser- you just need a few days of growth as I stated earlier. If the laser is affecting the hair, it will smell like singed chicken feathers esp. if the hair is long- the smell would be awful!!
    The laser setting is very important and the laser must be properly alligned by an tech on a regular basis. The type of laser being used is also important.
    Well, there is much more but I think you get the picture!

  12. #12 Lesley
    on Apr 29th, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Wow! And here I thought “spa treatment” in your post title meant a facial or something. (Which I also consider to be a risk in Mexico, because you just aren’t sure of the quality you’re going to get.) Major props to you for trying this out. One question: does it hurt?

  13. #13 Julie
    on Apr 29th, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Hi Ruth! Thanks for the commentary! I did research most aspects beforehand– I am blonde but have dark hair in the two spots I had done, which I understand to be the best combo (light skin, dark hair). And I have no tan– just glowing white ghost-like skin, so no worries there as well. Yes, they told me that just a few days of stubble was needed pre-laser– it was just the post-laser commentary part that didn’t make sense. Yes, we’ll see how this round went! I could tell a difference last time after a couple weeks for my bikini line; underarms weren’t as obvious though.

    Lesley– the analogy I’d heard before was “like a rubber band snapped against your skin” which is pretty accurate. Not too painful, just a little zap.

  14. #14 Lucy
    on May 9th, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Hi Julie,
    I’m getting my laser hair removal treatments at Novopiel in Guadalajara. They have locations in DF as well. They are much better than the last place I went to (where the receptionist doubled as the hair zapper), so you might want to check them out:

    http://www.novopiel.com/inicio

    Good luck! I am also trying to take advantage of the beauty offerings while I can.

  15. #15 sonal
    on May 21st, 2010 at 1:34 am

    Hi there, I actually came across this blog as i was researching Novopiel laser clinic. I am originally from Canada and have had laser done on my full legs, bikini, underarms, and half face. I loved the place i was going to in Canada but relocated now to Mexico DF i am in search of a clean and well established laser clinic. I read Lucy, that you are going to Novopiel in Guadalajara. How many sessions have you had? and if you don’t mind me asking, what are you getting treated? I only need to continue my underarms and half face but have a fear with my face as i am not familiar with the clinic and reputation here. Any information would be helpful.
    Also Julie, as said by others, the amount of shaving should not make a difference. The normally only ask so they can determine the course of your hair (if it is from shaving or natural). The hairs should fall out and usually you will notice stubble the first couple of weeks and once the hair has fallen out, you will feel the smoothness. I have only had 2 treatments in Canada and the difference is remarkable. I only hope to have the same success here. I am living in Izcalli, Tepalcapa if any one can advice me of any other laser clinics with a good reputation.
    Thank you so much and good luck to everyone…:)

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