After years of shaving, waxing, and sugaring, your go-to hair removal process can understandably start to feel like a serious hassle—so much so that you may start considering a more permanent alternative. When it comes to getting rid of unwanted hair on your legs, underarms, bikini area, or face, laser hair removal is a safe, long-lasting treatment that can eliminate stubble and fuzz for good.
Unfortunately, these treatments can come with a price tag in the thousands. A single laser therapy session might cost a couple hundred dollars, but for full results, you’ll need to get four to six sessions. Depending on where you’re getting laser hair removal (say, your upper lip versus your legs), the cost can also go up. Luckily, there are plenty of at-home devices that come at a fraction of the price of in-office treatment and can be used safely and effectively. However, there are a few things to keep in mind before you buy one.
Before any kind of medical procedure, it’s a good idea to fully understand what you’re undergoing—the same is true for laser hair removal. Essentially, a device emits light, which is absorbed by the pigment in a hair follicle. “You’re heating up the pigment that is in the hair follicle,” explains David J. Goldberg, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. “That heat damages the follicle, so it reduces in size and eventually doesn’t produce hair.”
There are two different types of technology that are used in these kinds of hair removal devices: laser-based and intense pulse light, or IPL. Joshua Zeichner, MD, founder of Zeichner Dermatology in New York City, explains that the main difference between these devices is the light they emit—lasers emit one wavelength, whereas IPL devices emit several wavelengths. While they’re different, he says they both work to remove hair: “We have very effective laser devices and very effective IPL devices.” In terms of at-home tools, however, you’re far more likely to find ones that use IPL.
Because this technology targets the pigment of the hair, it’s not suitable for everyone. Laser hair removal doesn’t work on blonde or white hair, and for those with darker skin tones (or tattoos!), it can prove more challenging and even dangerous. “These devices cannot tell the difference between melanin in the hair and melanin in the skin when they are close in color,” explains Caroline Robinson, MD, founder of Chicago’s Tone Dermatology. This can result in risks such as irritation, blistering, and dramatic hyperpigmentation. Many at-home hair removal devices provide charts that show their level of safety and effectiveness for different hair and skin tones. If you’re unsure whether laser hair removal, either with an in-office treatment or an at-home device, is suitable for you, speak with a dermatologist before trying it.
“At-home devices utilize the same technology as many in-office devices, but at much lower energy levels,” explains Jessie Cheung, MD, founder of Chicago and New York-based Cheung Aesthetics and Wellness. “That translates to slower heating of the hair follicle, so each treatment takes much longer and there is less damage to the hair follicle, so more treatments are needed.”
While home devices are less expensive than an in-office treatment in the long run, they require far more patience and consistency. While you might come in once a month for a professional treatment, Dr. Goldberg suggests using a home device once a week for six to eight weeks. “Compliance often becomes an issue, but if you can stick to it, you’ll get a reasonably good result, but it’s not going to be as good as an office device because it’s not as powerful,” he tells Health. “The more power you can deliver and the more you can heat up the follicle, the better it’s going to be.”
Because at-home laser hair removal devices aren’t quite as powerful as the professional alternative, they are a great option for people to use after they’ve already received an in-person treatment—after all, although it will grow back slower and finer, hair can still grow back after it’s lasered. “Nothing’s ever perfect,” Dr. Goldber says. “We have to be realistic.” He adds that it’s important to realize how long at-home hair removal can take—because home devices have less power and a smaller surface area than those you’d use at your dermatologist’s office, it can be time-consuming to treat larger portions of your body, like your legs.
Dr. Zeichner suggests that home devices can alternatively be a good starting point. “As you use these devices, the hair gets finer and grows slower, since the laser stuns, if not partially destroys the follicle. Even if the hair grows back, there are longer shave-free intervals,” he tells Health. “When you’re left with just fine hair, you often need a more powerful laser to finish the job.”
Because these devices target the root of your hair, avoid plucking, waxing, or sugaring a few weeks before you start the removal process. Shaving is okay, but let your hair grow a day or two for the best results. “You just want enough hair to conduct the heat to the root, but not too much at the surface so that the heat gets trapped there,” Dr. Cheung tells Health. If you’ve had a tan, she adds, wait at least two weeks so the pigment cells in your skin are less active, so they won’t reach the heat of the device.
Like you should with any skin product, patch test it before using it on especially sensitive areas, like your bikini line or face. You might feel a pinching or stinging sensation when you use it, but it shouldn’t be more than mild discomfort. “I’ve never had anybody complain that they couldn't use a home device because it hurt too much,” says Dr. Goldberg. If you’re especially sensitive to pain, he advises using a topical pain-reliever (like Apercreme).
Think at-home laser hair removal could be the right decision for you? Here are the best devices, according to these dermatologist guidelines and customer reviews, for safely and effectively zapping away unwanted stubble from the comfort of your own home.
Dr. Goldberg gives this a thumbs up to this device, which is the only FDA-cleared at-home laser hair removal tool. Its laser uses high energy density technology to effectively target pigment in hair follicles. Tria has also undergone lab testing, which showed it reduced hair growth and caused hair that did grow back to be lighter and finer. “I paid a lot for in-office laser treatments only for the hair to come back after I stopped going,” wrote one reviewer. “I have been able to get the same results as the clinic with the Tria. If you are patient and consistent the hair will thin and die.”
With over 3,000 five-star ratings, Fasbruy’s IPL device is one of the most highly-rated laser hair removal tools on Amazon—and it happens to be one of the most budget-friendly options, too. Reviewers say that it’s foolproof to use, and that it works well over time. “I am amazed at how easy and quick it is to use. I have had professional laser hair removal treatments from a local spa in a couple areas,” one shopper wrote. “This is so quick and painless. It covers a large area at a time. It’s lightweight and easy to hold and use yourself.”
When you don’t have a lot of bathroom space to spare, it can be hard to justify investing in yet another tool—but Silk’n’s egg-shaped IPL is easy to tuck away. And best of all: Its light cartridge never has to be replaced (unlike most IPL devices). Importantly, shoppers also say it delivers good results: “I used it once a week for one month on level 3 and then switched to every two weeks on level 4 for another two months and I am now 100-percent hair free,” one wrote. “I have dark brown hair and medium to fair olive skin. I’ve now started using it on my face and underarms too and it’s absolutely working; even on the peach fuzz. I recommend this because you can use it everywhere, it works, and it’ll last forever pretty much.”
The LED screen on the top of this IPL device shows how many flashes—a.k.a. uses—it has before its lamp cartridge needs to be replaced, as well as which intensity level (out of five) you’re using it at. “The process is straightforward, fail proof and nearly painless,” shared one shopper. “There is a small zing when you pull the trigger but doesn't deter you from wanting to continue at all. The machine won't even fire if it's not applied appropriately.”
This device—which offers six different intensity levels—has a pre-cooling function that makes it especially gentle on skin. And not only does it remove hair, it also emits infrared light to boost collagen production and improve skin elasticity. “I started on level one the first time, but have been consistently using it at level six since the first treatment,” wrote one reviewer. “It’s super easy to use and the ability to adjust the angle of the head is really convenient. The cooling feature is awesome—I don’t use it while I’m using the flashes, just once over when I’m done. Best at home hair removal device I’ve used.”
Braun’s Silk Expert Pro 3 is designed to be easy-to-handle, so you can use its IPL light on your body part of choice relatively quickly: It’s been tested to treat both legs in less than 10 minutes when using the lowest intensity level. Shoppers say it helps thin out hair, reduce ingrowns, and make hair grow back slower. “I wanted this because I’m both disgustingly hairy and also get awful ingrowns on my lady parts. It’s been 2 months of zaps,” wrote one five-star reviewer. “Legs: results happened QUICKLY. Now I don’t have to shave for like 2-3 weeks. Lady parts: at first it’s pretty uncomfortable zapping here, but you get used to it and you have to tough it out. It feels like a rubber band sometimes when you get closer to the more sensitive area, but now finally I’m getting lighter hair and some areas aren’t growing back.”
With clinical results showing an average 94% reduction of hair after three treatments, Remington’s IPL device has pretty solid backing. It offers five different power levels, with many reviewers saying that, even at the highest level, it’s not too painful. “Though time consuming, I have used this once a week on the highest level on my entire body,” wrote one shopper. “The bulb still shows full power, and I have nearly no hair growth in the areas I’ve treated after 8 weeks of usage. At first, maybe three uses, the hair becomes a little sparse. Soon after, maybe five uses, I noticed slow regrowth. Now, after 12 or so uses, I believe the hair is all gone. It’s truly amazing for me to no longer have to shave any unwanted body hair.”
Any at home device will take more time to use than an in-office machine—however, this IPL option by Braun has earned praise from customers who say it’s fast-working and easy to use. “Not only is it so easy to use, but it SO FAST! I can honestly say that after using it on the lower part of my legs four times, where the thickest and darkest hair is, I haven’t shaved in three weeks and I can now barely see where the remaining hairs are,” raved one five-star reviewer. “It says it takes 12 weeks to see results, but I saw results after the first use.”
Those who are extra sensitive to pain might consider Baivon’s Ice Compress device, which features a cooling function that can reduce the sting of the hair removal. “I’ve been looking for an alternative for shaving since I have a very sensitive skin and I’m allergic to wax,” wrote one shopper. “This is just incredible. The ice cool plate really makes a difference. I’ve used it a few times and I’m already noticing the results.” It also offers five power levels, so you can pick the strength that’s best suited for you.
This under-$100 device offers five different levels of power, so it offers some versatility. While it says 8 to 12 weeks of use are necessary for the best results, some shoppers say they saw a difference after just one at-home session. “I ordered this because I am currently getting professional laser hair removal at a salon and it's very expensive. So I'm using this to laser additional areas of my body, at a fraction of the cost,” wrote one five-star reviewer. “It's easy to use and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to try laser hair removal at home without paying top dollar.”
The angled head of this IPL device makes it easy to maneuver around the curves of your body—making it a good option for hair removal along your bikini line. Shoppers add that it’s gentle on sensitive skin, so you don’t have to worry about it being painful. "I've had this device for about three weeks and have done five or six treatments so far. I've used it on my legs, my underarms, and my bikini zone,” wrote one customer. “I don't have to shave every day anymore and I am confident I will have greatly reduced hair growth in another month or so.”
With five different levels of power, Imene’s IPL hair remover is a favorite of customers with coarse, dark hair, who say that the device is easy to use and effective over time. “I finally decided to get my personal laser hair remover because I've spent so much money at the salon getting this done. I'm using it in areas that have not been worked on,” shared one reviewer. “I've used this sporadically in the last couple of months, four times to be exact, and the hair on my legs is growing back thinner already! The first three times I only used level 1. Now I'm using level 4. I know that if I already see results in just the few times I've used it then I have confidence that it will work.”
If you’ve gotten in-office laser hair removal, you’ll likely have to touch up some spots eventually, which is why many Amazon shoppers have turned to this under-$100 IPL device. It’s easy to maneuver and offers five different power levels, so you can adjust the intensity. And for treating large expanses of skin—say, your leg—it offers a continuous flash mode that helps get the job done faster. “I've been going slow, just doing teeny little patches of hair,” wrote one shopper.
“And it's been a few weeks now and no hair has regrown! It does not hurt at all.”
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