Nova Scotia

Dartmouth hair removal business charging half price for transgender people

For transgender people, hair can pose yet another hurdle in making the outside match the inside. A Dartmouth, N.S., business is offering steep discounts to transgender people seeking permanent hair removal.

Patient Jessica Styche calls the move 'enormous' in fighting dysphoria

Jessica Styche says without the laser hair removal discount, she wouldn't have been able to afford the treatments that have been so integral for her transition. (Submitted by Jessica Styche)

Hair can be an integral part of the way we express ourselves, but for transgender people it can pose yet another hurdle in making the outside match the inside.

Jessica Styche, who works as a welder in Halifax, started her transition in the winter of 2016. The transgender woman said while she had an overwhelmingly positive coming out experience, she found she had to shave more regularly in order to maintain her appearance.

"Shaving became a real pain in the butt," Styche told CBC's Information Morning. "You shave a day, and then it's back two days later."

Beyond the annoyance of shaving, Styche said the hair was implicated in her own mental health. For many transgender people, persistent physical reminders of their old identity can cause psychological distress termed gender dysphoria.

"Everyone has different dysphorias, and mine was the facial hair," said Styche.

'It was a big deal'

Luckily, a Dartmouth, N.S., business called Atlantic Skin Care offers discounts for transgender people seeking permanent hair removal in a safe, understanding environment. Styche said after researching several options in the area, she decided to take advantage of the offer.

"It was a big deal," she said. "The price that I've paid, compared to what I should have paid, is half price, so it's just enormous."

Laser hair removal often takes several sessions, particularly on areas of coarse hair like the face. It can cost hundreds of dollars, depending on the size of area being treated. That can be cost-prohibitive for transgender people.

Styche said without the deep discount, she wouldn't be able to afford the number of sessions necessary to complete the process.

"I would not have been able to get all those procedures done if the prices were not what they were… and I still would have been frustrated and upset," she said.

Dr. Mary Lou Baxter is a dermatologist at Atlantic Skin Care in Dartmouth, N.S. (Robyn Simon/CBC)

Dr. Mary Lou Baxter, a dermatologist at Atlantic Skin Care, said the business started offering the discount five years ago, after seeing a considerable number of transgender people seeking hair removal as part of their transition.

"It was actually one of our patients who said, with great emotion, 'This is really important to me and I really need to have this done, but I can't afford it.' And that motivated us to offer this service at a price that people can afford," she said.

Baxter also acknowledged the procedure's importance for aligning one's body image with their gender identity, thereby reducing gender dysphoria.

"The problem is huge, and unfortunately the cost is preclusive, and so we don't want money to stand in the way of people being able to have a service performed that will hopefully improve their psychological health and their ability to function better in society," she said.

'They have a long journey'

Baxter said since offering the discount, she's seen an increase in transgender patients seeking the service.

She said all new patients are assessed by a doctor to determine the type and length of treatment required, taking factors like hormone therapy into account.

Employees are comfortable and familiar with the transitioning process, she said, and respect the pronouns and names of patients in their care.

"Someone who decides that they're going to transition will be met with opposition from family members, sometimes people in the medical community, who challenge their decision," she said.

"They have a long journey, they face a lot of challenges, and a lot of noes along the way, and we're trying to be one that isn't a no."

With files from CBC's Information Morning