Real Life

Hair removal horror

Aucklander Gyll King (47) hoped laser therapy would put an end to her facial hair problem. Sadly, she was wrong. Here, she tells her story.

oy stomach was churning as the beauty therapist slowly lifted the mirror. My face was stinging badly and I could see she was upset. But nothing could have prepared me for what I was to see next. There were bright-red blisters all over my neck, chin and lips. The searing pain I had felt as she ran the laser hair-removal tool over my skin and the revolting burning stench I could smell afterwards suddenly made sense.

“I called my boss,” she told me. “You have two options.”

She went on to explain how I could get a refund for the treatment I had just undergone, or I could come back another time and have 10 free sessions.

“I will call you in a few days,” I mumbled on my way out. I was choking back the tears, too upset to say anything else. I was about 20 years old when I first noticed my facial hair. I didn’t think anyone else would see it – until a night out with friends.

“Alcohol might be good for burning off that moustache,” joked a friend’s husband. “Maybe you should drink some more.”

I know he thought it was funny but it made me completely paranoid. I tried product after product, but none of them seemed to work.

Within months, I was shaving every day and I have continued with that routine for more than 20 years. I had heard about laser hair removal and when I could finally afford a $2500 course, I booked with a reputable salon. I knew I should keep out of the sun afterwards and that it might not work properly because of my thick hair. But I was willing to give it a go.

It was a few months later, after my third treatment, that I found myself standing on a busy Auckland street, wincing from the pain caused by my weeping blisters. People were staring at me. I felt like a leper. I had started to feel a sharp pain as the therapist was running the laser tool over my face. It felt like a hot iron.

“It’s really hurting,” I told her. “And I can smell burning.” She told me the smell was normal and asked if she should continue. I let her decide – she was the expert after all.

A couple of minutes later, I was in agony and told her to stop. That’s when she went to call her boss to explain what had happened. At first, I was in shock and horrendous pain. But later I got angry.

I sent an email to the company, demanding an explanation and a refund. Their reply offered me only a partial refund as I hadn’t reacted to my first sessions. But I still had facial hair and I now had blisters and scarring to add to my humiliation. They also offered some free treatments, but I’d never take that risk again. They said their offer was “policy” but I felt cheated – I still had a credit-card bill to pay off.

It was weeks before the scarring faded slightly so I felt able to go out socially and I still feel very self-conscious. I will never trust anyone with that kind of treatment again. I’m going back to my razor and shaving cream and sticking with it.

As told to Jonica Bray

The Consumers’ Institute says if consumers aren’t warned about possible risks, they are entitled to compensation. If a dispute can’t be resolved, dissatisfied customers can take their problem to the Disputes Tribunal. For more information, visit www.consumer.org.nz

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