Now Is the Perfect Time to Try At-Home Laser Hair Removal—These Ones Work
Some people really swear by laser hair removal, even a lot of our own editors. It might be a bit of a time commitment and can be on the pricier side, but the justification here is that if you go through the process once, you won't have to keep spending money on razors or expensive monthly waxes. While you might have to get some maintenance treatments, they probably won't be as often. Sounds pretty good, right?
But for me, the word laser and thinking of one getting close to my body is a bit intimidating. So I did a bit more research on what exactly happens during the treatment. The Mayo Clinic sums up what goes down during laser hair removal: "A laser emits a light that is absorbed by the pigment (melanin) in the hair. The light energy is converted to heat, which damages the tube-shaped sacs within the skin (hair follicles) that produce hairs. This damage inhibits or delays future hair growth." It's also worth noting that the Clinic says some treatments delay hair growth but do not permanently remove hair, so follow-ups are needed.
While more laser hair removal treatments are done in a dermatologist's office, there are now at-home devices that let you DIY it, so to speak, from the comforts of your own home. Much like thinking generally about laser hair removal made me a bit nervous, having to do it myself at home? I had some serious doubts.
So I went to an expert source, Jennifer Herrmann, MD, FAAD, of Moy, Fincher, Chipps, to find out if these devices really work and how to use them safely. Herrmann said that while they do work for the most part, you won't get quick or as efficient results as you would in-office.
"I think the most important thing to remember is that these are low-energy devices to increase their safety profile," she explains. "To see results, many treatments are required, and for some types of hair (finer and lighter in color), the devices may not be strong enough to provide adequate results. In-office treatments can be tailored to safely treat nearly all skin types, and typically five or six sessions lead to a tremendous reduction of hair. For those looking for the most efficient method to target hair or for those with lighter and finer hair, in-office treatments are likely a more practical option. In-office treatments can also typically be done more easily, especially in hard-to-reach areas where self-treatment is challenging."
When researching devices, Herrmann says you should look into specifics because many aren't suitable for darker skin or red or blonde hair. She adds that none work on white hair. And you should think about the area you're going to use the device on.
"Depending on the area you wish to target, some have larger or smaller treatment handpieces," she explains. "If you're aiming at hairs on the lip, for instance, a smaller device with a precise tip for targeting this small area is preferred. Depending on your own skin type, it's also important to look at the device's safety profile and what skin tones it's safe for. Most of these devices are actually not lasers but based on IPL (intense pulsed light) technology, which can't be used on dark skin safely."
Don't forget to prep the area before you start lasering. Herrmann says you should clean the skin so there's no makeup, lotion, or sunscreen, which can absorb the device's heat and risk skin burns. And this might seem backward because you're getting rid of hair with the device, but you should actually shave before.
"Excess visible hair can absorb heat above the skin, making the treatment less effective and also risking burns," she explains. "Plucking and waxing should be avoided as these treatments remove the entire hair. The root of the hair must be in the skin so that it can serve as a target for the device's energy. When the device is fired, the light energy is transformed into heat when it interacts with the pigment cells (what gives the hair its color) in the hair. This heat then damages the cells that grow the hair, leading to overall hair reduction after multiple treatments target hairs in different phases of the growing cycle."
Most importantly, read and follow the device's instructions. And don't overdo an area. "In general, it's important to avoid stacking multiple pulses in a single area, as too much isolated energy can cause burns," Herrmann adds.
You shouldn't experience that much irritation if you use the device correctly, but if you do, she says a cold compress or ice packs can reduce discomfort. But if redness, blistering, or pain persist, you should make an appointment with your dermatologist.
Ready to try some at-home lasering? We've rounded up the best-reviewed devices below: