Ow. Ow. Ooooowwwww.
I had my initial consultation with my electrolysist this afternoon. It has been a couple of months coming. You may recall that back in September I (as Bob) had called into a Belfast beauty salon that advertises laser beard removal for men. They took one look at me and said to forget it, I was too blonde/grey for the treatment to be effective. So after a couple of emails off to one of the doctors at the Belfast Gender Clinic, I found myself booking an appointment at “The Electrolysis Centre” for an initial consultation. I have finally had that appointment and it all went surprisingly smoothly. In fact, I don’t know why I’m surprised. Lynda (the electrolysist) was professionalism personified.
I arrived at the clinic with a couple of minutes to spare. As the clinic is upstairs, I had to hit a buzzer at the door to be admitted. This is where I had a bit of a “what now?” moment. I had come straight from work, in full male mode in my suit and tie. When the voice on the intercom asked “Yes?” I felt rather foolish saying “It’s Kirsty” given how I looked, particularly since there were a few people around in the street. It would have felt even odder switching into Kirsty-voice for that. So, thinking on my feet, I just said “I have an appointment with Lynda”. The door buzzed open.
I have met Lynda socially in the past, around 18 months ago. She and Andrea use the same hairdresser, and it was at a charity event in the salon that Andrea had invited me along to where I met Lynda. This afternoon I walked into her clinic as my male alter-ego. She was quite surprised at how different I looked, in fact she said I was completely unrecognisable. To be fair, given my experience with Shirley in the book group (who has known Bob for nearly 20 years but has never once given a hint that she sees any of him in Kirsty) that’s probably not too surprising. Lynda did confess that she felt a little unsure of how to address me, so we agreed that she would call me Kirsty at all times regardless of how I might appear. She also reassured me that she had enough sense not to address me by name while I was presenting male if there were other clients around in the waiting area who might hear. We then had an initial chat through what sort of thing I was looking for, what stage I was at, and my medical history. It was all very easy and very friendly.
What I am looking for, as I have already written in older posts, is to get a head start on my facial hair removal before I go full time. Since the treatment requires a little bit of stubble to work, and then you can’t really shave for at least another day afterwards, it’s a lot easier to carry off two or three days’ worth of stubble when presenting male. My target full-time date is five months away, so hopefully I’ll have made a reasonable start by that stage, although I am well aware that full removal will take longer. In the longer term, I also plan to get hair removed from my torso too (I am cursed with a hairy chest and back) but that isn’t as pressing since it can be covered up with clothing.
Lynda uses a very bright ring of light on a flexible arm (a bit like what a dentist shines into your mouth, but much brighter) to get a good look at my skin. Her verdict? Pleasingly, she reckons my skin is in pretty good condition. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink to excess and I have been moisturising daily since I was in my late 20’s, so I suppose it all adds up. But then she said something that surprised me. She announced very quickly that there were plenty of hairs that were still dark enough to respond well to laser, and that I shouldn’t write that off completely. However, she did observe that it might well take the medical-grade laser treatment that I would be entitled to in a hospital under the NHS, and that the IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) treatments such as those offered in beauty salons might not be strong enough. So in a way the woman in the beauty clinic was right. But still, there are also more than enough grey and pale hairs that won’t respond to a laser at all, so that is where she is going to put her focus. It’s good news. She doesn’t think it will take her too long, relatively speaking, to clear out the pale hairs. We’re still talking in months rather than weeks, but at least not years and I’ll have a good bit done before I go full time. The darker hairs are going to have to wait unfortunately, I’m not about to pay for laser when I can get it for free on the NHS – well free in as much as I have been a UK taxpayer for 25 years.
She also mentioned that in other patients similar to me, she has seen a big improvement once HRT begins as it softens the skin and hair meaning it is more easily dealt with. Delaying the commencement of electrolysis until that point could possibly be worthy of consideration. However, since that could potentially mean having to schedule NHS laser treatment and private electrolysis at the same time, it might be too much for my poor face to cope with so I’m probably just going to forge ahead with the electrolysis now.
After all this it was time to go under the needle. Between the two of us we selected a small patch of my chin where beard growth is strongest, and she got to work. It felt, well, like having a red hot needle stuck into me. Funny that. It was quite painful. But only quite, not very. But the individual pricks were so short-lived it was definitely bearable. Although I reserve the right to revise my opinion when I get my top lip done. She asked me how it felt and I replied
“Grr grr arg, grr r grgg grrr gr grr grrgrgr grr’gr grrgrng gr grgg”
Which roughly translated means “Not too bad, but I can’t move my jaw because you’re holding it shut”. It was only a very short treatment, really to see how my skin reacted rather than to make any sort of effective start on the beard removal. Although not too long after she commenced, she observed that the hairs were coming out really easily, which was encouraging.
When she had done what she was going to do, which was only about five minutes worth (this was just an initial free consultation after all) she gave me a choice of three different products to soothe my skin; witch hazel or aloe vera gels, or a tea tree moisturing creme. I’m not a huge fan of the smell of tea tree oil, so I plumped for the aloe vera gel, which she rubbed on to the treated area with some cotton wool. She also gave me a decent amount of the stuff in a little pot to take away with me. It is going to be necessary because I have basically been subjected to a series of tiny electrical burns.
I’m under instructions not to shave the affected area tomorrow, and not the next day either if there is still any redness or swelling. I’m also not allowed to even touch the skin except with just-washed hands to apply more aloe vera if necessary. She also had some advice about make-up. Liquid make-up only, no powder-based products, and application by hand only. Applying foundation with a sponge or brush is out, because I can’t guarantee that these applicators will be clean enough. Primer and liquid foundation applied with clean fingers it is then for the foreseeable future.
I’m not going to list the prices. It’s not cheap but also not quite as expensive as I had feared. And the longer the session, the cheaper it gets. A one-hour session only costs twice as much as a ten-minute session, although whether or not I could stand a full hour is a whole other matter. Her recommendation was to go for 15-minute sessions initially and then see how I reacted to them. She is also going to keep a record of everything I ever pay her in a separate folder (as she does with all her trans patients) in case the NHS ever decides to start paying for electrolysis as well as laser, and I might be able to get some of my money back. Surely it wouldn’t be unreasonable to have the same hair removal budget split between laser and electrolysis as required rather than the current situation of laser or nothing? I’m not holding my breath.
I haven’t booked a repeat visit yet. I need to have a chat with Mrs K (whoopee, those trans chats are always a treat!) to decide what the best time would be to slot in with my family commitments. I’m aiming to have weekly sessions and I’m leaning towards Mondays as it would be easier to have a bit of growth, and also it’s probably going to be a few days before I have to present as female again so I can afford not to shave on Tuesdays and perhaps even Wednesdays.
So as I left the clinic, the gel had dried and for the first time I could sense that my face was slightly affected. That little corner of my chin felt like it was glowing, a bit like the feeling when you’ve been out in the sun and you can still feel it on your face in the evening. Not burnt, but definitely glowing a little. However that feeling soon passed. It’s now nearly five hours since I had the treatment and I can’t feel the burn any longer. There doesn’t even seem to be any visible reaction on my skin either. Looking at myself in the mirror, were it not for a couple of tiny streaks of cotton wool stuck to the stubble, I wouldn’t be able to tell where she did the hair removal. I know it was only a very small amount that she did, but surely that has to bode well.
20 hairs down, 29,980 to go!