For all of the many methods of body-hair removal out there—from shaving to sugaring to waxing, and everything else in between—laser hair removal (both professional and at-home) is the only strategy that promises permanent results. However, since the professional versions are not very budget friendly, coupled with the fact that most of us will be hunkering down at-home for the foreseeable future, at-home laser hair removal devices become all the more enticing.
In terms of the technology, at-home handheld hair removal devices come in two categories: IPL or a diode laser. “Both devices rely on the same target, which is the pigment of the hair follicle, to have an effect,” says Marisa Garshick, a dermatologist in New York City. “At the most basic level, the diode refers to an actual laser, while the IPL is a light-based device.”
A majority of at-home laser hair removal devices rely on IPL—or intense pulsated light—therapy, in which tiny beams of light zap the bulb within each hair follicle. “In essence, it is using heat to destroy the hair follicles,” explains Garshick. “Many of the at-home devices use this technology.” IPL technology emits a variety of different light wavelengths, and dermatologists also use versions of it for photo rejuvenation procedures (AKA fading dark spots).
On the flip side, diode laser technology uses one single wavelength of light, which can experts say can help minimize damage to the surrounding skin and be used safely on all skin types and shades. The light is selectively absorbed by the pigment, or melanin, within the hair follicle, making it a more targeted (and often more effective) approach to hair removal.
Whichever light beam route you choose, at-home laser hair removal products have come a long way just in the past few years, meaning that with a bit of consistency and a lot of patience will come real results. Typically, it will take at least a few sessions to see results, and each session should be spaced out at least one week apart (always follow the instructions of your specific device). And yes, depending on the intensity level of the laser (many of the devices have multiple settings), it can feel uncomfortable; When each follicle gets zapped, it might sting a bit—many people compare it to a rubber band being snapped on the skin. But hey, no pain no gain, right?
One super important editor’s note: Because laser hair removal relies on melanin to produce results, it’s often not effective on lighter hair colors (like blonde and light gray), which, by nature, contain less pigment. If you have a lighter hair color, consult with a dermatologist before investing your money into an expensive at-home device (and also read the fine print of every product description—most companies disclose this information up front). Laser hair removal is also safe for people of color but certain lasers can cause hyperpigmentation and irritation on darker skin tones, so again, it is best to consult your dermatologist.
Hair Removal Laser 4X for Women and Men
This FDA-approved laser hair removal device is the real deal: Rather than IPL, it utilizes diode laser technology, which is the same type of laser your dermatologist likely uses in-office. For best results, the company recommends treating each area (it’s safe for both face and body) once every two weeks. I can personally attest to how well this bright pink baby works (it really does!), although as with many things pertaining to beauty, it does take commitment to really see results.
Full Body Hair Removal System
This handheld device works via IPL from head-to-toe, though it’s particularly useful on larger areas (thanks to its interchangeable wide cap), like the legs and arms. True, it’s a bit pricey, but the company promises results with just three treatments—after which you’ll likely only need maintenance touch-ups here and there. Another big plus: It’s corded, so you’ll never have to recharge or worry about it dying mid-session.
Silk’n Infinity – At Home Permanent Hair Removal
Unlike many at-home IPL devices, this one is suitable for all skin types and hair colors, and according to reviewers, it’s also a gentler option than many others on the market. The device itself isn’t rechargeable or corded; it comes pre-charged with 400,000 light pulses, which the company claims will last for a lifetime of treatments.
Precision Hair Removal Laser for Women and Men
This version of the Tria laser is designed specifically for smaller and harder-to-reach areas, such as the upper lip, between the eyebrows, and along the contours of the jaw. It uses the same FDA-cleared, diode laser technology as its larger-sized counterpart (see #1 on this list) and promises a 70% reduction in hair after three months of regular use.
IPL Hair Removal for Women, Silk Expert Pro 5 PL5137
With ten different intensity levels to choose from, this device strikes the perfect balance between safety and efficacy. For those with sensitive skin, there’s also three ‘comfort modes’ to choose from: Normal, gentle, or extra gentle.
Laser Hair Removal For Women
$189.99 (21% off)
According to some reviewers, this device is best suited for those with very dark and/or coarse hair. It’s equipped with an LED screen so you can track how many light pulses have beamed onto each area—though you may need to wear safety goggles (which are included) while operating. Each lamp comes programmed with enough pulses to last for up to five years. When it runs out, you can simply order a replacement cartridge and keep the handle.