Archive | May, 2011

Why A Patch Test Is So Important

31 May

There’s a scary trend happening in the hair removal world. It seems almost as if we have forgotten that there are potential risks in having laser hair removal done. Many clinics and technicians have gotten to a comfort level where they have actually stopped doing a patch test before a laser hair removal treatment. Now you may think to yourself “That’s great! It saves me a trip to the clinic.” You may also feel that since you have had laser hair removal done in the past that you don’t really need a patch test. Let me explain to you why a patch test is so very important.

Laser hair removal is quite safe, but nothing is without risk. Not to mention that laser hair removal is not nearly as regulated as we think it is. In Canada, any person, regardless of experience or education, can buy a laser hair removal machine, receive training from the manufacturer and go straight to work. Now yes, if they are opening their own business there are steps they need to take, but they are fully capable of working out of an existing business. In case that isn’t reason enough to get a patch test, here are two more.

The first reason you should always get a patch test is safety. Even if you have had laser hair removal in the past, all machines are different. Even the same type of machine may have a slightly different calibration or may be a different version and thus the output is different. Your skin may not have reacted to one machine, but that doesn’t mean it won’t react to another. What do I mean by reaction? I mean burn. I have had it happen to me and I have seen it first hand. It’s very unlikely that it’s going to happen, but so is a car accident and you still wear a seatbelt. It is always best to protect yourself. Burns from laser hair removal can be minor but they can also be very deep and result in PERMANENT scarring.

I can already hear someone interrupting and saying that the technician watches for burns as the treatment is being administered. When I was burned it did not show up until the next day and it certainly scabbed. Thankfully it did not scar.

When a patch test is NOT done, to limit the possibility of burning, a technician will use a lower output from the laser resulting in a less effective treatments and possibly the need for more treatments. A patch test ensures that you get a higher level of laser while still being protected; it’s almost like skipping ahead several treatments. Think of it this way: generally a patch test uses three different settings of laser, from lowest to highest to determine which levels your body can withstand. Without this patch test you are starting at a lower, safer level, but had you had the patch test you could have started your treatments at a  level as long as you demonstrated no reaction. This means that you are very likely to get results faster.

Many clinics have sold deals on daily deal sites for extreme discounts, resulting in a drastic increase in clients that often the clinic is not able to handle. Their solution can often be to cut corners. Patch tests are being forgone, as is attention to detail. What do we do to protect ourselves? Ask for a patch test, any professional technician should be happy to oblige, without charge. Make sure that the technician is writing down the results and keeping them in your file. Don’t be afraid to ask about your technician. Ask about their training and their experience. I have had some very skilled technicians who have not been to school but have the experience to compensate. When in doubt, go with your gut. If your technician makes you uncomfortable don’t let them treat you. Politely excuse yourself and explain that you have changed your mind. Always inform management of your experience, the feedback helps them improve their service.

I think that in general laser hair removal is great, but that we have forgotten that it is in fact a laser. A laser that’s only purpose is to damage tissue (your hair.) We need to make sure that we treat it as so and that we are protected and safe. With a quick patch test we can limit the possibility of injury and increase the effectiveness of the treatment. Kind of seems like a no brainer.

For information on the safety of cosmetic laser treatments you can always consult Health Canada.

Miraj Hammam Spa – A Vancouver Oasis

17 May

Since moving to Vancouver I have always wanted to try the Miraj Hammam Spa, but for some reason it just never happened. So finally when I opened my email from MyDealBag and saw that they had an offer on Dealathons for a Hammam and Gommage I figured I had to buy it.

Miraj Hammam Spa

Right now most of you have the raised eyebrow: Hammam? Gommage? What is she talking about? Well, according to their website, “This is a steam and exfoliation treatment in the authentic traditions of the Middle East.” And it is quite the experience.

This is not a treatment I would recommend for someone who is shy, and it’s also the reason you won’t find many pictures in this post—this is a sans clothing treatment, although they do have disposable undies if your are not one for being in the buff.

When my therapist, Katherine, was ready, I was guided to a change room where I was given a locker and left to undress. I was also asked to wet down in the shower and cover myself with the provided sarong. I was asked to follow her into the Hammam. The Hammam is a beautiful marble steam room, and looks like something you would see in an ancient bathhouse. The entire room is made out of beautifully detailed marble with built in benches. Katherine guided me to a glass-enclosed corner of the room where I would have my steam. She was very careful to explain everything very thoroughly as the steam is very thick and can make people quite nervous. She told me to lie out my sarong on the marble bench and get comfortable, as I would be there for about 12 minutes. She showed me where I could turn the steam off if it became too much for me to handle. We decided to keep the door of the glassed-off area open as I was a little nervous that with it closed I might get panicked. She brought me some ice-cold water and left me by myself.

During my 12-minute steam, two things became abundantly clear to me. One, I simply cannot relax. What is one supposed to do for 12 minutes without a phone or anyone to talk to? Two, I watch way too many horror films. I was convinced that something or someone was going to emerge from the thick steam and murder me. (This cannot be a normal thought.)

The steam is hot and thick and smells of eucalyptus and lemon. I was told that it’s normal to cough when you breathe it in, but I felt fine. But, as mentioned, it’s hot! I was a tiny bit nervous that I might faint…because, really, that’s what I do. But, surprisingly, I actually felt great. Katherine informed me that she always tells people it’s best to move slowly as the heat suppresses your nervous system and fainting can sometimes occur—perhaps I’m not alone in the world!

I grabbed my sarong and walked out of the glassed area headed to another marble bench where, again, I laid my sarong down. This time I lay down as well. Katherine covered me with a thick black soap that contains eucalyptus. She then put on some exfoliating mitts and proceeded to scrub me down. She did both the back and front and was very thorough. I’m usually disappointed with scrubs—I find therapists just don’t put in the effort—but Katherine did a truly excellent job. She even took the time to rinse me off.

I was then shown back into the change room where there are all the little things you may need to freshen up and get back into the world.

My only disappointment was of my own doing: I wish I had bought an add-on massage to my treatment. The receptionist (who, by the way, is just lovely) informed me that the massages are amazing, and, that when you do the whole package, you get tea and sweet bread in the lounge.

Miraj is unlike anything I have experienced. I honestly didn’t think I would enjoy the steam, and, yet, I loved it. And the scrub is very exfoliating. When I left my skin was glowing and I felt amazing. This is certainly something I would suggest for those winter months in Vancouver when you need a pick-me-up.

What It Takes To Be A Blonde

4 May

I certainly have the personality, but the fact of the matter is that I am not a natural blonde. Shocked? You’re not alone. I’ve been faking it since I was about 20. At that time, I started having my hair bleached every 6 weeks or so; that means I’ve probably had somewhere in the area of about 70 bleach-outs.

There are many different ways you can go blonde. For me, I have a solid bleach-out done, meaning that I am totally blonde. In the past I have had highlights done, but with my length of hair (quite short) I find it’s easier to go for the all-over colour.

My dark roots

My hair is naturally dark brown so the process involves removing my natural pigment (bleaching) and applying a new tone to my lightened hair (toner/balancer). In the past this service, including a cut, would take over three hours, but now I see Simona at Rain Boutique and Salon in Vancouver. Simona has managed to cut (obvious hair pun) that time down to an hour and forty-five minutes or so. This is a huge plus for me, because it means I can fit these appointments into my life with much more ease. Not only is her timing amazing, but both the colour and cut are always perfect.

The first thing that Simona always does before starting is to go over what we are doing. She asks if I was happy last time and if I want to make any changes. Once we have formulated a plan we get down to bleaching. Simona uses a L’Oreal bleach and applies it section by section to only the roots of my hair. She takes special care to not touch the existing blonde to make sure my hair does not get damaged any more than necessary. Avoiding the existing blonde also helps her prevent what is called banding i.e. those tiger looking stripes that look TERRIBLE.


So what does bleach feel like? I wouldn’t call it painful, but you definitely know that there is bleach on your scalp. At some points it feels a bit itchy like little ants are crawling on your scalp. Sometimes it can feel quite warm and stinging. But after a little while you almost get numb to it and stop feeling anything at all. It’s really quite tolerable. I am a huge wuss, so if I can do it, trust me, anyone can do it.

Bleach-outs are not without risk. Even with the most experienced stylist there is always the possibility of chemical burns, especially for those with sensitive skin. In my time as a blonde I have had many, but have never had complications from them. They heal quickly, although the pus that sticks to your hair can be REALLY gross. The best way to avoid them is by finding a good stylist and staying with her/him. Once they learn how your skin reacts to products you won’t have to worry about anything unexpected. Also, there are great new products on the market for people with sensitive skin. L’Oreal even has an ammonia free bleach that can be used on much more sensitive scalps.

Simona keeps an eye on my hair the entire time, checking it to make sure that it lightens to the right level and not any more. Once we have attained this level we head to the sink for a rinse. There, she shampoos my hair with a “post colour” shampoo that ensures all traces of bleach are gone and evens out the porosity of my hair. Next step is the balancer. So what is balancer you ask? A balancer, or toner, is what is used to add colour back into my hair. It is adding the tone or shade to my hair. Generally a semi-permanent or demipermanent colour is used. These colours will gradually fade over time. Without a balancer I would just have that nasty at-home bleached-out look. Think of a famous rapper who shall not be named.

The balancer is only left on for a few minutes and then rinsed off. Simona takes great care to choose a good, rich, deep-conditioner to use for my scalp massage to ensure that some of the damage caused by the bleach is repaired. Once that is rinsed, we always cut my hair to make sure that it looks its best and that any damaged ends are removed. She styles it and I’m back to looking like my fabulous blonde self.

Me and my fabulous stylist Simona

Having bleached hair does require some at-home maintenance to keep it looking its best. There are two accessories I simply can’t live without.

1. A purple shampoo. I use L’Oreal Professionnel Silver Shampoo. I use this once a week to eliminate any yellow or “brassy” tones from my hair.

2. A good conditioning mask. I use Noctogeniste Serum Nuit by Kerastase. This ensures that my hair is soft and shiny, and not rough like straw.

Being blonde may sound like a lot of work, but remember…we do have more fun.

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