Here are a few of the most common methods of pain management. Try these first. If these don’t work well enough, you might consider Topical anesthetics.
A pain medication which works perfectly for one consumer may not work at all for another.
I make absolutely no guarantee that any product mentioned in this section will work for you or will work better or worse for you than another product.
For details, see my Pain management intro page.
Over-the-counter pain medications: Many find that over-the-counter analgesics are enough to dull the pain: Advil, Alleve, Tylenol, regular aspirin (although you may want to avoid salicylates, which interfere with blood clotting in some people). Many take this in conjunction with other methods listed here.
Antihistamines: This is not a pain management tip, but it can make your session more comfortable. You may find an antihistamine tablet or nasal spray like Dristan can help reduce sneezing and the amount of mucus your nose produces while working on your upper lip. Some find these also help reduce swelling.
Antacids: Kathy writes: “I would like to pass on something I have stumbled across recently which has helped mitigate a significant amount of discomfort from electrolysis. I have been taking Pepcid AC an hour before my treatments and it works. Of course it is still uncomfortable but it is much more tolerable. I do not have any idea how it works but it does. This was passed on to me by a friend who regularly has her legs waxed. I hope it can help others.”
Ice: Some people like to numb the area with ice before treatment, although some electrologists and almost all waxers prefer the skin to be normal temperature during treatment. Check with yours first. Wrap an ice cube in a wet washcloth or inside a plastic bag. Some like to freeze pieces of wet tissue to use. If you don’t like the water dripping everywhere as the ice melts, you might try one of those reusable frozen packs for use in coolers, or one of those gelpacks they make to put over your eyes. You don’t need a lot of icing– five minutes before starting, then for as long as needed as you move to a new area. This may also reduce swelling. For some, this slows the process down too much. Some lasers use ice before and during treatment, while others use cooled gel or a cryogenic spray immediately before the pulse.
Get comfortable: Take off anything binding like shoes, socks, belt. Wear loose clothes. Have a fan blowing on you. Any discomfort not related to laser, waxing, or electrolysis should be eliminated.
Start slow: If you dive right in with several long sessions or tackle the most sensitive parts first, you may not want to repeat the experience.
Ask about adjusting the intensity: There is a trade-off here. You should work at the highest energy level you can stand with laser and electrolysis, otherwise you’re wasting your time and money. However, it shouldn’t be past what you can stand. Adjusting the intensity happens throughout a typical session, so don’t hesitate to try to find a comfortable working point.
Save sensitive parts for the end of your session: No matter how long you you’ve been going, this is probably the best way to do it. Sensitive areas can sometimes leave me tense and exhausted. Doing them last means there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and after that, your session is done. Some like to get this over with first, though. It depends on you.
Don’t return to a treated area: Some find that they build up a mild tolerance in an area as it’s being treated. Slowly moving out from that area can help keep the pain lower. Going back to a tender place that has already received treatment during that session can hurt much more. You should never treat a lasered area twice in the same session.
Something to hold: Some people squeeze stuffed animals during treatment. Maybe you’ll like this too, especially if you’re fidgety like me. I usually hold a couple of tissues which I twist, tear and use to wipe away EMLA.
Something in your mouth: Some people find that having a breath mint or hard candy to melt and play around with can help. Careful with gum or something that requires chewing or moving the jaw– it may slow facial treatment down. You should probably avoid smoking and chewable tobacco products during treatment.
Watch: Some like to watch the whole process with a hand-held mirror. This lets them prepare for when and where a hair is about to be treated. Others can’t stand to watch. While I find that it’s interesting to see waxing or electrolysis, it gets real old real fast. For me, it did make it seem less painful for some reason. You won’t be able to do this with laser due to protective eyewear.
Get involved: Some people like advanced warning just before the current is applied or the wax strip is pulled off.
Be motivated: This may sound silly, but those who really want this done are willing to deal with the occasional pain. If the pain makes you not want to go, perhaps you should step back and think about what you really want.
Bring a friend: Occasionally, clients will bring a friend along to pass the time. If you know someone else who is also undergoing treatment, you could schedule back-to-back appointments, drive there together, and keep each other company. The moral support can also be good for those who are prone to forgetting appointments or reluctant to go.
Sleep (or lack thereof): Some people have to be wide awake for hair removal. It’s easier to take when they’re fresh. For others (like me) going in very tired does seem to help.
Exercise: Some people find that being in shape makes the pain more tolerable. This makes sense, because exercising reduces your stress level and helps increase the production of natural painkillers (endorphins) in the body.
Hydrate: Some claim drinking a lot of water helps with pain. Plus, it can’t hurt!
Reduce your stress levels: If you have a stressful job or home life, get treatment when you’ll be relaxed. Give yourself plenty of time to get to treatment so you’re not stressed about that. Try not to get wound up on the day of your appointment. That’s why many people get weekend treatment. For those who can’t control their stress level on their own, they may find a tranquilizer such as Valium useful.
Acupressure: I find a little acupressure can work wonders. When I get treatment in certain areas, the pain travels away from the treated area. For instance, a couple of places near my ears are much more tolerable if I press a finger between the treated spot and my ear. This blocks the pain from traveling to my ear, which I find very unpleasant. I find blocking the pain from traveling down my neck during treatment is very useful as well. Have your electrologist or waxer push down with the fingers he or she is using to stretch the skin. The closer to the treatment site, the better. Some laser handpieces require pressure on the skin, which can help with pain.
Pinch/stretch skin: This is similar to acupressure, in that it can keep the sensation from spreading or shooting down a nerve.
Rubbing: Have your electrologist or waxer rub the spot right after treatment, which seems to diffuse the pain a bit. Don’t touch it yourself- that increases the chance for irritation or infection.
Placing cotton rolls in mouth: An excellent variation on acupressure is to put a cotton roll (like the ones they use at the dentist) or a tightly-folded piece of facial tissue between your lips and teeth during work around the mouth. This elevates your lip so the practitioner isn’t smashing your lip against your teeth while treating that area, and it makes it easier to see the fine hairs. It also has the effect (for me, anyway) of greatly reducing the tears and mucous that can be triggered by working near the nostrils. It’s kind of like pressing your finger against your upper lip when you’re about to sneeze.
Breathing techniques: Concentrating on breathing can help some people. Try slowing down your breathing with deep breaths. Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. On every outward breath, just mentally “let go.” Say “aaaah,” or “blaaah,” or “ummmm” under your breath or to yourself, and go mentally and physically floppy. Holding your breath and counting to a set number can be good, as can breathing out just after the treatment. Some people like to hold their breath until a certain amount of treatment has been done. Experiment and see if it helps you.
Relaxation techniques: Some people can take themselves into a light trance by visualizing and consciously relaxing various parts of their bodies. Try to focus on the feet and legs since they’re about as far away from the head as possible. It doesn’t exactly lessen the pain, rather it *disconnects* one from that pain. Anyone who is reasonably well-practiced in self-hypnosis, visualization, or meditation can find these techniques helpful during a long session. To get that feeling of “letting-go,” visualize a sunlit garden, and imagining walking down a series of steps as you go deeper and deeper with each breath into solitude and serenity. Imagine slowly sinking down into a bath, the warm water gently relaxing each part of your body until you’re floating. Another method is to push the pain and stress away from your face each time you exhale. Push the pain down your arms and out your fingertips. Dangling your hands off the table may help this. Gosh, I feel more relaxed just typing this stuff!
Double up: Pay the same amount but be done in about half the time by having two electrologists or waxers work at once. Nicki writes, “I get twice the hours of work for the same number of hours of my lying there being tortured so it’s much quicker to make progress. Also, I find (and this may surprise you) that when you’re getting sensitive areas like the lips or chin cleared, having someone else working somewhere else is actually an advantage: it’s a distraction!”
Chit-chat: A conversation with the practitioner or clients who may be waiting can help make the time zip right by. I like to invite in people waiting. Find something you like to talk about: movies, music, current events (ugh, a pun!), sex, fashion, community gossip, whatever. Chatting during work around your mouth may slow the process down, though, and any talking can interfere with relaxation techniques. Let your practitioner know if you’d prefer silence before you start.
Music: Some people like to bring their own music if it’s not a salon with music piped in. Familiar songs do seem to make the time go by faster. Headphones might get in the way, but maybe that’s an option if you really want to blast something.