Asia is the capital on cosmetics and beauty, and one of the things I wanted to do whilst in Japan was to do "permanent" hair removal like laser treatments. Maybe TMI, but I was a pretty hairy child. But I could always only afford temporary solutions back home. I knew once I started to make money, this was what I wanted to save money for in Japan.
And I did.
Laser Hair Removal at Beauty Salons
My first experience was a Datsumo Labo, a very popular chain laser hair removal shop all across Japan. ("Datsumo" is Japanese for hair removal)
I chose Datsumo Labo over Musee and their other competitors because they had a very sweet campaign for the spots I wanted to do laser hair removal on, and I had seen online reviews of this place from their sister stores outside of Japan. I thought, why not??
So I made my appointment at a nearby Datsumo Labo in Kansai, and went into a consultation with a staff members.
This was mandatory before starting any sessions with the salon, and for any beauty salon for that matter. It's possible to skip most of the "consultation" (mostly just sales pitches) if you went in there and purchased a package plan with them straight away. However, they would still make you sign a bunch of forms and sit with you to explain all the important details on the forms.
One of them being the treatment they offer. Beauty Salons do not offer medical-grade laser hair removal. So if you're browsing on hotpepper beauty like I love to do, and you see a nail salon or a massage salon, chances are they are NOT offer medical-grade laser treatments. They are all usually IPL type laser treatments.
They are much weaker beams of laser, and even with the right skin types, can take a long time to see full results. Or any results at all, for that matter. I had to go through a total of 24 treatments to see maybe just a good patch of hair in my underarms gone.
You are allowed to book after 2-3 weeks of each treatment, and they usually ask you if you would like to schedule your next appointment before you leave.
The other thing they will brief you on is cancellation. In general, they will allow you to cancel and it is common curtesy to give them a call about this instead of just not showing up (though they will usually try to contact you if you didn't reach out - I found this out when I missed my appointments by accident since I forgot about them). Different salons will have their own rules, but at the time I was with Datsumo Labo, you had to call 24 hours prior. There will be penalties for those with a package plan and did not call to cancel before that. For example, if you purchased a package plan for 6 sessions and you did not call to cancel, you will have one less session on your plan. Essentially they treat it as you showing up even though you didn't.
During the consultation, they will also warn you about when you should cancel - like if you have an open cut or if you were on any medication for a cold or flu, as they will not follow through with the treatment if you've taken certain medication. This will also count as a penalty and you will lose a session in your package if you tried to show up with the medication in your system. Why? I believe this is to prevent dark spots on your skin or something, but I'm not sure.
You can opt to choose a plan, which can be a good deal or you can choose to do one time treatments. Prices differ depending if it's a "small" (S) part, a "medium" (M) part or a "large" (L) part. S part would be places like upper lip, nipples, eyebrows, fingers, toes, etc. M parts would be something like the knee, elbows or underarms. L parts would then be divided by lower leg, upper leg, lower arm and upper arm.
In Japan, if you would like to do Brazilian, they call it VIO.
V is the large crotch area
I is part between your legs
O is your butt area
Usually none of these include the bikini area, and that is usually considered part of the upper leg. So do make sure you ask if the bikini area is the area you want to do only, not the insides of your undies :)
Oh and of course, all of the initial consultations are done in Japanese. So I recommend bringing a friend who speaks Japanese with you if you have planning to go these salons.
Overall, my experience at Datsumo Labo was wonderful.
Upon entering, you must fill in a checklist sheet and then sign saying you acknowledge that you didn't lie. The checklist will ask you if you were sick within the week (read above about the medication), if you've done other laser treatments recently, etc etc. If you admit to any of these things, they will deny you treatment.
(not saying you should lie about these things, but...)
The facility I went to, and the subsequent other salons I have tried were also very clean. They were always individual rooms with a massage bed. The staff will give you a few moments to change out of your clothes (you can leave certain pieces of clothing on for the areas you aren't do, of course - they will instruct you).
You must shave beforehand the areas you are going to laser on! If you do not shave, they will charge you 1500 yen for the shave. This will be mentioned in the consultation.
They will provide wipes, hairband and paper underwear if necessary. So take your time to get yourself comfortable before the treatment.
IPL lasers do not hurt at all, even on coarse hairs - so don't be too afraid!
The technician will also put a towel or sunglasses over your eyes to protect you from the laser, so if you are having a longer treatment, you can take a bit of a beauty nap whilst this is happening. they will also apply gel to all the areas you are laser to protect you from the heat of the laser, so definitely you won't feel discomfort.
Once you are finished, you will change and go back to the reception area. There is a vanity area next to the treatment rooms if you so wish to reapply make up or fix your hair after a long session. If you have a package plan, they will ask if you would like to make the next appointment. While they sort that out, you can sip on the tea they give you, and then you'll be on your merry way.
The only downside to Datsumo Labo is the delayed results.
Especially if you don't have two times a month to go to these appointments, seeing results will be a slow battle. And this is where I implore all of you to explore medical-grade laser hair removal.
Laser Hair Removal at Skin Clinics
(Keiseikai Clinic at Shinsaibashi)
The process is very similar to going to a beauty salon, except this is strong beams of laser!
And with stronger beams, comes larger risks. And larger price points.
In hindsight, prices for medical laser can be very expensive. One treatment for underarms is considered an M part, and can go for 5000 yen or more for one session. However, you will see MUCH MORE noticeable results - given that you are exposed to the machines that suit you!! And that the clinics don't try to scam you...
Let me get into this.
I changed my Datsumo journey to a medical one after failed attempts at IPL laser, and simply not being able to commit to so many appointments. The first clinic I went to was recommended to me on facebook in Osaka called "Maro Skin Clinic".
They were honestly great, and I saw immediate results after one session. However, this clinic was a bit far out from my way home after work, so I had to find something a bit more centralized to me. (also they were almost always booked out and closed early, so it just didn't work for me - but if you are in the South Osaka area, I do recommend this place!)
The second clinic in hindsight promised a lot of great things, but I realized they didn't and will not deliver the results I want. Here's why:
"The Scam" ???
Let's talk about what I liked about this clinic first. They were extremely friendly, and at the time they had a good deal for VIO and underarm treatment, so I wanted to give it a try. They also did not charge for not shaving, so you can essentially not have to worry about shaving before your appointment or if you've forgotten.
But I realized a few sessions in that they were a bit sus, when I remembered my previous experience with the other clinic.
The first thing was that they only allowed appointments every 4 months. I remembered this was not the case at the other clinic, and was later confirmed at a more recent clinic that they were indeed very sus. 8 weeks, or about 2 months is the average wait in between each session. Another technician at a different clinic mentioned that it might be common to push the wait time to 3 months so their clinics' hair growth can all come back (and get their money's worth), but 4 months is pushing it. Usually if you wait this long in between sessions, your treatments become less effective since we might not be damaging the hair follicle enough for hair loss to happen. Something like that. I'm not expert so don't shoot the messenger... but anyway, that's what was happening.
The second thing: any missed appointments will incur an extra 4000 yen fee for your next visit.
I noped out of that almost immediately.
Shopping for the Right Clinic
I recommend all of you going for medical laser to shop around, and don't lock yourself in a plan until you are satisfied with the clinic and what they offer. Google the place and take a look at their website.
Just because they are a skin clinic doesn't mean they are all good.
Websites that give you a list of the medical grade machines they use at the clinic is a good sign that they might be decent. Having different machines on their offering often means you can choose which machine you want, and some might be better for some people while not work at all for others. Though I feel that it has more to do with what level they set the laser on... who knows.
Medical laser treatments should also have a doctor on site to oversee any issues you might have. Of course, the sessions are still conducted by a technician, but let's say you were to have some peeling or scars, a doctor may be able to consult with you before your treatment.
Medical lasers will give you a pricking sensation and may hurt. So that's mostly the downside to it. But I would endure a bit of pain to be able to be hair free in three to four sessions, which is how long it took for me to be about 98% rid of hair in my underarms! I would absolutely recommend this over IPL salons.
Just before leaving Japan, I went to a multi-store chain in Osaka called "Keiseikai". Their main business is mostly cosmetic surgeries, but they have a very well-equipped floor for laser treatments. It's very easy to book with them, and while they do close a bit early, they're almost always never busy - so it's easy to get an appointment. The staff there are really friendly and because they have so many different laser machines, you can kind of pick and choose which one to try.
I hope this helps any ladies and gentlemen looking for laser hair removal treatments in Japan and are wondering how the general process is like.
Thanks a lot for reading!