By Dr. Anu Bajaj – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
When people find out that I’m a plastic surgeon, they always ask, “So, have you had anything done?” And of course, by “anything”, they mean plastic surgery. I usually tell them that I’ve had “lots” done – how else do I look so young?
As a female plastic surgeon and the daughter of a plastic surgeon, I’ve been exposed to plastic surgery my entire life. During my teenage years, I would always ask my father to fix things – like my nose – that bothered me, and he would always say “No”.
As a medical student, one of my friends – a hardcore feminist – asked me how I could become a plastic surgeon because of how it makes women conform to an image of beauty. Not even mentioning that the foundation of plastic surgery is in reconstruction – after cancer, after the war, after trauma – but also, if an individual is bothered by something that makes that person (man or woman) feel inadequate or lack self-confidence, plastic surgery tries to improve it. That is what plastic surgery is about for me – making me and my patients feel better about themselves, more confident, and less self-conscious about perceived flaws.
One of the first procedures that I had wasn’t surgery. When I was fourteen, I noticed my first whisker on my chin and a dark, hairy upper lip; unfortunately, I was not one of the girls who had nobody’s hair – I had dark, black hair everywhere! Hiding these was not an option, and kids in high school aren’t nice. Thus, began my odyssey into hair removal. I started electrolysis to remove my whiskers, my mustache, and my unibrow. At the same time, I had to enter into a battle to be able to shave my legs that were hairier than most men. Unfortunately, when you shave coarse, dark hair, the five o’clock shadow is just as bad.
One day, while I was in residency, I read about laser hair removal – this new technique was going to be the answer to my prayers! Eventually, I was able to find someone who would do this procedure for me – the concerns included that I’m dark-skinned and I have dark hair (the laser treatment is most effective on individuals with light skin and dark hair), that I would need many treatments, and that the hair removal would not be permanent.
At the time, laser hair removal was in its infancy meaning that we didn’t have the variety of lasers that we have now. During the process, I did experience pain, blistering, hypopigmentation (temporary), and some areas of hyperpigmentation (can be permanent). But the end result has been that my hair has been significantly reduced in quantity and quality – meaning that it is thinner, lighter in color, and less coarse. I think that I had somewhere between a total of 5-6 treatments per area on my legs. Since I was doing both of my entire legs, we did have to break it down into segments because of what I could tolerate – I think that it took me almost 3 years from when I started until I finished.
If anyone were to ask me if this was worth it, I would answer with a resounding “yes”!