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Experts explain the safety and proper use of these at-home devices. Skin Hair Removal
Smooth, hair-free skin that doesn’t need constant tending sounds like a dream. While plenty of ways to remove pesky body hair (plenty of people opt for sugaring wax or face razors for hard-to-reach places to get the job done), very few do the job effectively while also offering long-lasting results. But the best at home laser hair removal products help get rid of unwanted hair for extended periods of time—some even claim for good (though the jury is still out on that).
While performing laser hair removal at home can work, it’s important to note that you’ll get the best (and safest!) results by seeking a dermatologist to perform an in-office treatment.“Home laser hair reduction treatments appear to take longer to work than in-office laser hair removal treatments, meaning that more treatments over a longer period would be required for a home treatment,” explains Oma Agbai, M.D., board-certified dermatologist, healthsSciences associate clinical professor of dermatology and director of multicultural dermatology and hair loss disorders at the University of California, Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, California.
If you plan to try this at home, experts recommend chatting with a board-certified dermatologist who can help guide you through the process of at-home laser hair removal, as well as assess any adverse effects—especially if you have a history of skin cancer.
Meet the experts: Oma Agbai, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and Marisa Garshick, M.D., F.A.A.D., board-certified dermatologist in NYC.
It’s also important to note that many at-home machines don’t use lasers at all, Marisa Garshick, M.D., F.A.A.D., board-certified dermatologist in NYC, says. “Different technologies may be found in at-home devices,” she explains. “IPL—also known as intense pulsed light—is a light-based therapy that emits multiple wavelengths of light. It is using heat to destroy the hair follicles and many of the at-home devices utilize this technology,” she explains.
Ahead, find the best devices for at-home laser hair removal to get you one step closer to smooth, hair-free skin.
“This FDA-cleared device uses laser energy to target the hair follicle. In general, after at least eight treatments, many will achieve a substantial reduction in hair regrowth, offering great visible results for an at-home device. Additionally, it is easy to use and can also be used on the face,” Garshick says.
“Using IPL technology, this device incorporates a built-in skin sensor that can recognize the color of the skin to ensure the device is safe for use, though is generally best suited for those with lighter skin types and darker hair. It can be used on both the body and the face,” Dr. Garshick says. “The cartridge also has enough flashes for up to five years of treatment, making it both affordable (compared to some other options) and long-lasting.”
“This handheld device is easy to hold and use and uses IPL technology to eliminate hairs,” Dr. Garshick notes. Through high-speed repetition of pulses, she says it offers fast and effective treatment sessions at home. According to the brand, it features a skin color sensor making it ideal for a variety of skin tones.
“This uses IPL technology and incorporates a SensoAdapt sensor to adapt the treatment to your skin tone,” explains Dr. Garshick. “It can be helpful for larger surface areas using the glide mode and also includes a precision head to help address smaller areas such as the face, bikini line, and underarms.”
“This IPL device offers 10 intensity levels and three comfort modes, allowing for a personalized treatment that can quickly but efficiently treat the lower and upper legs, bikini line, and underarms,” explains Dr. Garshick. She also notes that it can be used on the face and boasts long-lasting results.
Recommended by the Good Housekeeping Institute’s beauty lab experts, this Iluminage device combines both IPL and radio frequency (RF) waves to reduce hair growth. Thanks to its precision adapter head, this device is great for small areas like the upper lip and other targeted spots on the face. While many devices won’t work on darker skin tones, the brand claims that it is effective for every skin tone. “I have been using the product on my face, legs, and underarms for the past six weeks and have really seen a difference (peach fuzz on face and ‘mustache’ on the upper lip are nearly gone!),” shares one Nordstrom reviewer.
Recommended by the Good Housekeeping Institute’s beauty lab experts, this product by BioStin claims to use the same “medical-grade technologies” as professional cosmetic centers. It also features a precision head that rotates from side to side for hard-to-reach places, like the bikini area. Several users note that the device is painless or nearly pain-free—keeping in mind varying pain tolerances. It even boasts a mode to help shield you from the burning intensity of the light flashes.
Vetted by the Good Housekeeping Institute’s beauty lab experts, this compact device offers a great portable option. The brand claims that it works in just 10-minute-long treatments. It offers seven different intensity levels to choose from based on your skin’s sensitivity. And the brand says they will replace the device if the flashes ever run out and offer shoppers a full refund within 90 days if it doesn’t work for them. A tester of the product likes that it has an on-off button, which not all IPL devices have (they turn on as soon as you plug them in). But, since it doesn’t come with a precision attachment for smaller spots, she noticed that the bright light of the flashes escapes from the sides, which could potentially make it less effective and even unsafe for eyes.
“Different technologies may be found in at-home devices,” explains Dr. Garshick. “IPL—also known as intense-pulsed light—is a light based therapy that emits multiple wavelengths of light. It is using heat to destroy the hair follicles and many of the at-home devices utilize this technology, and these devices can also be used for photorejuvenation.”
Meanwhile, she says other devices may use laser technology, often diode lasers, “which use a single wavelength of light, to target the pigment of the hair follicle and is selectively absorbed by the pigment of the hair follicle and minimizes injury to the surrounding skin,” she says.
It depends on a few factors, including your skin tone. “One major limitation is that knowledge on efficacy in darker skin types with dark hair is very limited,” Dr. Agbai says. Other things to consider is if you’re looking to remove hair once and for all and if you don’t mind some trial, error, and the feel of laser or IPL.
It’s also important to note that laser hair removal results vary and the outcomes are hard to predict, per the Mayo Clinic, so what might work for you might not for someone else.
“In general, some lasers may be considered safe for all skin types, while it is best to avoid IPL in darker skin types given the IPL has an increased risk of injury to the surrounding skin as well,” Dr. Garshick explains. “Both types of devices rely on the same target, which is the pigment of the hair follicle to have an effect, but the diode laser is generally more targeted than the IPL and as a result a safer option for all skin types.”
At the end of the day, if you’re concerned it’s best to consult a professional. “If you are interested in a home hair reduction device, go over the instructions with a board-certified dermatologist to make sure you are using the device safely and in a manner that will increase your chances to get hair reduction and reduce the risk of side effects,” Dr. Agbai says.
While experts recommend making an appointment with a professional for an in-office laser hair removal treatment, there are some at-home options worth considering. That being said, here’s what to keep in mind before you go shopping:
Yes, and they vary. “Side effects have been reported to be uncommon, and have been reported as redness, bumpiness of the skin, burns, and discoloration,” Dr. Agbai says. “Damage to the eye can occur with direct exposure of the laser light to the eye.”
We spoke with Oma Agbai, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, healthsSciences associate clinical professor of dermatology and director of multicultural dermatology and hair loss disorders at the University of California, Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, California and Marisa Garshick, M.D., F.A.A.D., board-certified dermatologist in NYC. The Best IPL Hair Removal Device for Bikini Area and the Best IPL Hair Remover Device for Face selects were vetted by the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Beauty Lab experts.
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