Would Laser Hair Removal Really Save You Money? We Did the Math
Sometimes I let my body hair grow freely — usually when I’m single or in the depths of a brutal winter.
I don’t do it because I love the way the tiny hairs prickle against my sheets and my clothes. Nor is it because I like when the stubs glisten in the sunlight.
I let it grow because shaving costs me so much money and time.
I’ve sought out alternative solutions. I considered waxing, but both times I had my brows done resulted in a nasty reaction due to my sensitive skin. No thanks.
I also tried Nair, but I accidentally removed a strip of arm hair. Plus, anything that smells that bad — and kind of burns — should probably not be soaking into my skin.
Then I wondered about a longer-term solution. It isn’t cheap, but is laser hair removal worth it?
How Much Money and Time I Spend Shaving Each Year
I use Gillette Venus Spa razors, which are more expensive than the average razor, but which don’t require shaving cream. These cost me about $100 a year — including a box of Band-Aids, to be safe.
In terms of time? I shave about three times a week, and it adds about four extra minutes to my showers. That’s 12 minutes a week or more than 10 hours a year.
My legs are the real time-suckers, but my underarms and bikini area also contribute to that $100 and 10 hours a year.
So would laser hair removal be a valid solution to my angst?
Is Laser Hair Removal Worth It? A Part-by-Part Breakdown
When I considered laser hair removal, my immediate thought was, “Will hairy body parts ever become trendy?”
I assumed no — plus I find it uncomfortable — so I moved on. I decided to tackle a cost-benefit analysis by body part.
Let’s dive into this prickly situation.
As I explained above, I’d save a fair amount of time and money by not having to shave my legs.
Of course, prices vary by your location, the size of the area to be lasered (I’ve got long legs) and the number of treatments required.
On average, each session costs $289, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
I looked into a salon in Tampa, Florida, that a friend recommended. There, I could get a “large” (in terms of surface area), six-session package for $845 — or a single session for $169.
It takes about three to seven sessions to permanently eliminate the hair, according to WebMD, so I’d opt for the package.
WebMD says laser hair removal on larger areas can take up to one hour, so the whole ordeal will take about six hours.
However, I also have to consider driving to the salon, which is about 30 minutes away from my home, six times. In total, let’s say the process will take about 12 hours, not considering traffic and time in the waiting room.
Since I spend close to $100 a year on shaving supplies, it’d take about eight and a half years to pay off the laser treatment — that’s if I only need six sessions.
That’s great, but forking out $845 right now versus $20 and change for a box of six razors isn’t exactly appealing.
And I’ve only considered my legs, so I’d still have to maintain other areas. Although I wouldn’t fly through razors as quickly, I’d still have to buy them.
Shaving my armpits takes hardly any time and doesn’t use up as many supplies, but getting their hair lasered off holds a certain appeal.
My skin there is so sensitive. Each time I run a razor over it, I feel razor bumps forming. Dramatic? Maybe. Accurate? Pretty much.
I also feel like it’s impossible to get a close, clean shave. Underarms are just such awkward crevices.
My co-worker Kelsey Buxton got laser hair removal for her underarms last year. She says she has really dark hair, and, even though she shaved every day, she still had a dark shadow. “I was just insecure about it,” she says. “Especially living in Florida.”
She spent more than $1,000 for eight treatments, but says she doesn’t regret it for one second.
At the Tampa salon I mentioned, underarms are considered a “medium” body part, which costs $495 for six treatments. That’s only $350 less than legs, but if razor bumps became too painful or obscene, I’d consider going for it.
The bikini area is another pesky spot, especially in the summer. I’d consider getting laser hair removal here if I had dark, unruly hair.
This particular Tampa salon lasers two inches out from the bikini area. It’s considered a medium body part, which costs the same as armpits — $495 for six sessions.
Some women choose to use razors, but many get waxed or invest in fancy tools to maintain this area. A bikini wax at my local salon costs $33 plus tip. (I’m too chicken, though; I stick to shaving.)
Waxing lasts three to six weeks, according to Pop Sugar. Let’s assume you need one a month; that equals nearly $400 a year — tips not included.
At that rate, if you opt to wax, you’d get your money’s worth of laser hair treatments in about 15 months.
I don’t have to worry about this, but I know many women who do. Solutions? Bleaching, waxing, shaving, hair dissolving (Nair) and tweezing (ow!).
Your upper lip is likely the cheapest body part to handle — at the same laser hair removal clinic, this “small area” would cost $325 for six treatments.
My editor let me prod into her personal life; she told me she spends about $85 a year on waxing.
If she opted for laser hair removal, she’d end up paying that off in just under four years.
More Laser Hair Removal Considerations
Here’s something I didn’t know: Laser hair removal is limited to certain hair colors.
When I asked a family friend about her experience with laser hair removal on her upper lip, underarm and bikini area, she recommended it but said not if you have gray, blonde or red hair.
Ideal Image, a national laser hair removal specialist salon, explains on its website:
The light emitted from the laser is attracted to the melanin, or dark pigment, in the hair follicle. This means that dark hair is treated most effectively. Treatments performed on red, blonde, and gray hair are not generally as effective.
My family friend echoed this. She said she didn’t realize she had some gray hairs, so those didn’t completely disappear.
After inspecting my own hairs, I realized some are dark, but many mimic my strawberry blonde mane. I’d be hesitant to throw down tons of money on something that might not work.
I’m also a wimp, so I made sure to ask about pain. My family friend said her technician described the sensation as a rubber band snap.
Her response? “It’s a pretty good snap” — though a “wonderful invention.”
Is Laser Hair Removal Worth It?
I’d enjoy not having to tango with leg hair every couple of days and hiking up my grocery bills with razor cartridges.
But, like I said, it’d take more than eight years to pay off the laser treatment. That’s a long time — and a big one-time fee.
And I’d still need to buy razors to shave my underarms and bikini area, though I wouldn’t go through them as quickly.
Plus, I have those tricky blonde hairs, so I’d want to make sure the treatment would actually be effective.
Time would be my biggest motivator. I hate showering. When I have a chock-full schedule, showering — especially when I need to shave — just soaks up time.
So would I get laser hair removal? For me, right now, it’s not worth it. If I needed to attend to my hair daily or if my upper lip hair started bugging me, I’d consider it.
Overall, it’s quite a hairy decision, but, in the end, I vote no; laser hair removal is not worth it for me.
Your Turn: What about you? Would you consider laser hair removal to save money and time?
Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She hates shaving her legs almost as much as she hates roaches.