Among the great pains that women face in life, laser hair removal isn’t that bad, particularly when you compare it to gender discrimination, lack of equal pay, or the pangs of childbirth. But if it’s your desire to forcibly have hair removed from your body, you should be able to access the least painful solution possible. At least that’s how I rationalized it when I received an email asking if I wanted to try something called “Reiki laser removal.”
As with many things wellness-related, Reiki isn’t actually new, although it’s newer than, say, turmeric. It was allegedly first developed by a Japanese monk named Mikao Usui in 1922 as a form of healing, inspired by his practices of meditation and Buddhism. Although it’s spiritual, it’s not based in any one religion. The main point is something called “energy transfer.”
Think back to the favorite cartoon of your youth. No doubt, the villain had dark “energy” or “force.” That’s kind of how Reiki works: The idea is that undesirable energy can be transferred elsewhere. It might sound, shall we say, unscientific, but practitioners claim it can be used to treat anxiety, stress, and sleeplessness, among other things. Little did Usui know that it could also one day be effectively used in pursuit of a clean bikini line.
Jackie Itzkowitz is the co-founder of the Floating Lotus spa, which sits in the penthouse of a building near Central Park. She has been practicing laser hair removal and Reiki for about five years, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that she thought about combining the two, at the request of clients. “It’s a way to relax,” Itzkowitz explains about the dual practice — a reprieve from what many people find to be a stressful experience. “People say they feel really calm.”
Your visit starts by taking off your shoes and heading over to the treatment room. Unlike many of the laser hair spas in New York City, the room isn’t decorated in the clear plastic-and-white décor of a Miami plastic surgeon’s office. Instead, delightfully, there’s a large, reclining treatment chair in the middle surrounded by warm wall tapestries, candles, and crystals.
Itzkowitz starts by turning off all the lights and burning some pungent sage. Then the Reiki part of the process begins. She gently holds my temples for several unrushed minutes, moving to my upper shoulders, ankles, and the soles of my feet. I’ve read that some people feel warm during Reiki or that they literally feel energy moving through them, but all I get is a calm sense of drowsiness like I’m in savasana. I’m given two crystals to hold to “ground me,” a clear quartz for one hand and a black tourmaline for the other.
Then she turns on the laser machine, a Cynosure machine that comes with a cooling system. It’s not exactly quiet, but it isn’t a terrible sound — it’s like being inside a house during a particularly windy day. The laser nozzle shoots cold air and laser light simultaneously towards each treatment patch, with the cool breeze working to soothe zapped skin. People often say that laser hair removal feels like having a rubber band snapped against your skin. I’ve gotten it at other places, and while I didn’t find the experience joyful, exactly, it was below the pain level of getting a large cavity filled or getting waxed or sugared.
I’m still not sure if it was the Reiki, the crystals, or the machine, but getting lasered at Floating Lotus was significantly less painful than that. On occasion, I felt a brief twinge, but it was no more painful than getting a strand of hair briefly caught in a hairbrush. You could say, in fact, that the whole experience hurt less than a good blowout. At one point, I wasn’t even sure that the laser was working because all I felt were gusts of wind. (Itzkowitz assured me it was functioning just fine.)
While Itzkowitz claimed my pain tolerance was probably high — an assurance I doubt, since I consider foam rolling to be a form of torture — she also told me that only one percent of her clients actually report the experience as painful. It takes between 6 to 12 sessions for an area to be completely treated, with about 15 percent hair loss each time. But if Reiki and crystals can make lasering painless, just think of all the other things in the world they could make hurt less, too.