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The First-Timer's Guide to Fast Beauty Fixes

The First-Timer's Guide to Fast Beauty Fixes

What It Is: Laser hair removal isn’t new, but the technology has dramatically improved. The theory is simple: Pulses of laser light target the pigment in a hair follicle; the pigment absorbs the light and in the process damages the follicle, which prevents hair from growing back. “Someone with dark hair will get the best results,” explains Christian Karavolas, owner of Romeo & Juliette Laser Hair Removal in New York.

Cost: $500 to $700 per session for full legs; six treatments are usually recommended, spaced six to eight weeks apart.

What I Expected: I can certainly take a little pain in the name of vanity, but the idea of a laser systematically zapping the entire surface area of my legs had me in a cold sweat.

What It’s Actually Like: I’d chosen Romeo & Juliette because I had heard the name whispered in fashion circles—particularly in connection to Victoria’s Secret Angels, who I figure must know a thing or two about the subject. Lo and behold, the first person I see in the waiting room looks like an off-duty Angel. I take that as a good sign. I fill out a de- tailed questionnaire about my skin and health history, and then I’m led to a treatment room. The technician evaluates my skin, hands me a pair of safety goggles, and uses a red marker to divide my legs into quadrants from thigh to ankle. “Are you ready?” she asks sweetly before turning on the laser (the Synchro REPLA:Y Excellium 3.4). The first zaps feel hot and shocking, but once I realize it isn’t all that bad, I zone out. The technician asks me every couple of minutes if I’m okay, and honestly, I am. The whole thing is over in 25 minutes. When I sit up and look at my legs, though, my stomach drops: They are completely hairless (yay!), but they are also covered with bright red splotches. The tech assures me this is perfectly normal. She’s right: Within the hour, my legs look fine. And did I mention hairless?

The Results: Even after one session, I see a significant decrease in hair growth. After a few more, I stop shaving altogether. To be honest, I feel jubilant about the whole thing. Freedom from my razor! I can’t believe that I waited this long to do it. —Alexandra Parnass

What It Is: An intro-level skin-resurfacing laser that works on all skin tones. Clear + Brilliant uses heat to poke fractional, invisible columns into your face. These micro-injuries stimulate new collagen, which treats early signs of aging—including fine lines, sunspots, enlarged pores, and dullness. “It emits the same energy as alternative treatments, but in a smaller, more shallow dose, so there’s less recovery time,” says Anne Chapas, MD, the New York City dermatologist who performed my treatment.

Cost: $300 to $500 per session, depending on your provider.

What I Expected: I went in wanting to even out my skin tone and restore the glow I’d lost from age, stress, and polluted Manhattan air. I’ve had laser hair removal done, so I was anticipating that familiar rubber band– snap feeling (spoiler alert! I was wrong).

What It’s Actually Like: The appointment lasts 30 minutes, but half of that time is spent getting frosted with numbing cream and waiting for the effects to kick in. The laser treatment itself takes less than five minutes, as Chapas makes quick passes over each section of my face. The sensation is hot, somewhere between getting poked by a tattoo gun and accidentally tapped by a curling iron. I leave with a face that feels and looks as though I fell asleep on the beach sans SPF. It takes about two hours for the intense redness to fade, and 24 for the swelling to go down. Over the next few days, my skin has the texture of low-grit sandpaper.

The Results: On day five, the magic hap- pens. I wake up as smooth as a baby seal, with a radiance I’ve only ever been able to fake with makeup. My pores even look smaller. As for my dark spots, I don’t notice any improvement, but I was told that pigmentation issues typically require four to six treatments to resolve. —Maddie Aberman

What It Is: A semi-permanent tattooing process that creates the look of full brows. The practitioner, wielding a disposable microblade, etches fine, superficial cuts into the skin, then deposits pigment to mimic the appearance of real hairs. The effects last between one and three years—a dream for a natural blonde like me, who’s been spending 10 minutes each morning filling in my light, sparse arches.

Cost: Starts at about $700. At her New York City studio, Piret Aava (eyebrowdoctor.com) charges $1,500, which includes a touch-up.

What I Expected: I’m ink-experienced—I have 13 tats total, and I’m not too proud to admit that every single one of them hurt. But I had no idea what it would feel like to get a tattoo so close to my eyes. And I was worried about the possibility of going from patchy brows to boxy, asymmetrical ones.

What It’s Actually Like: The session is a lot like going to the dentist: You’re reclining in a comfortable chair with a bright light shining on your face, and you’re experiencing an entirely tolerable amount of pain. First, Aava mixes several samples of taupe pigment—lighter or darker, cooler or warmer—then paints a streak of each above my right brow. Mirror in hand, I decide with Aava which hue meshes best with my hair color and skin tone. After outlining my brows with pencil to map out the most flattering shape for my face—and dousing the area with numbing cream—Aava picks up her blade. And...phew! It’s a scratch-like sensation that’s no more uncomfortable than threading. For the next 45 minutes, my eyes water only two or three times as she etches tiny incisions along my brows and inserts the pigment.

The Results: Turns out, cutting your face without scabbing isn’t a thing. Mine is minimal, though for about a week, my look is more Groucho Marx than Lily Collins. But now, thanks to my microblading fairy godmother, I wake up with the full, neat brows of my dreams—no pencils or pomades required. —Kate Foster

What It Is: An injectable neurotoxin (Botulinum toxin type A) that temporarily paralyzes muscles to reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

Cost: Depends on the doctor and the number of locations treated, but anticipate spending at least $600 for a small area, like crow’s-feet, and around $1,000 for a large one, such as the neck.

What I Expected: When I’m not smiling or laughing, I look like Grumpy Cat. I have what are called “11 lines” between my brows and several horizontal fore- head creases. I’m hoping a few shots of Botox will make me appear less like a feline meme.

What It’s Actually Like: “You definitely have some forehead lines and 11s,” confirms NYC dermatologist Macrene Alexiades, MD, PhD. “How do you feel about your crow’s-feet?” “Do it all!” I tell her. The nurse applies some numbing cream. Alexiades tells me to hold the nurse’s hand, and prick, prick, prick goes the needle into my eyebrow muscles. I feel just a little pinch and drop the hand-holding. As Alexiades works, she explains that she administers Botox in two sessions, since it takes about a week for results to fully take effect. I’ll be returning a week later for a follow-up, when she can determine the areas that need more attention (which helps results last up to six months, instead of the usual four). The nurse tells me not to exercise, bend over, or lie down for the next four hours to help the Botox settle into the treated area. I’m so diligent about keeping my head up that I trip on a step while leaving Alexiades’s office.

The Results: I didn’t want an ice-block forehead, so that means I still have some lines, though they’re much more faint. I can still move my brows up and down. I was expecting my face to feel tight and stiff, but it feels basically the same as before. The overall effect is very natural—I look more relaxed, refreshed, and happier. Good-bye, Grumpy Cat. —Carol Luz

This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of ELLE.

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