After experiencing the many pitfalls of shaving (ingrown hairs, redness, irritation, and speedy re-growth), we're contemplating alternative hair removal methods this season. Since professional laser hair removal isn't the most budget-friendly option (initial sessions can cost upwards of $600) and many of us can't head out to an appointment right now, we're looking at the next best thing: at-home laser hair removal gadgets.
We need to reassert, before we go any further, that body hair is a completely natural, normal thing, and you should absolutely not feel compelled to remove it if you don't want to—it's a personal choice. (If you're a body hair, don't care kind of person, more power to you!) But if you're into the idea of laser hair removal, want to save some money, but are a little freaked about the idea of doing it at home, we've got you covered.
How does laser hair removal work?
New York-based dermatologist Josh Zeichner, MD, explains: "Lasers work by emitting a beam of light that is absorbed by a specific target in the skin," Dr. Zeichner explains. "In this case, the light is absorbed by pigment in the hair follicle to heat it up and destroy it, so the hair does not grow back."
Are at-home laser hair removal devices safe?
Dr. Zeicher considers at-home lasers a safe alternative to in-office treatments. "At-home devices work similarly to professional treatments, but use lower energy levels. They are more time-consuming to use, but can help. They are also a great option to maintain improvements between professional treatments." (As an interesting FYI, Dr. Zeichner adds that, "Each treatment causes some degree of damage to the hair follicle resulting in thinner hair, and it often takes multiple treatments to completely remove hair. For this reason, the term laser hair removal is a bit of misnomer, and it should probably be called laser hair reduction.")
Along with Dr. Zeichner, we chatted with Howard Sobel, M.D., NYC dermatologist and founder of Sobel Skin; Rosemarie Ingleton, M.D., dermatologist and medical director of Ingleton Dermatology; and Rachel Nazarian, M.D., dermatologist at the Schweiger Dermatology Group, to tell us the best devices that really, truly work.
This FDA-approved device is a compact-sized tool that packs a powerful punch when it comes to removing hair—fast. It glides over your skin accompanied by its 150,000 pulses per minute. Holding it down to target one hairy spot is super-easy.
"This new compact version uses light-based technology, which is FDA-cleared for permanent hair reduction for the entire face and body," Dr. Sobel explains. "I like that it features a new high-tech applicator that allows you to properly target and zone in on smaller area such as the upper lip, arms, or bikini area." To see long-lasting results, employ this device every other week for two months.
"This device is ideal if you have dark hair and can be used both on the face and on the body," Dr. Zeichner adds.
Just short of $450, the Tria will cost you a pretty penny—but seeing that it’s the first and only FDA-approved laser for at-home use, it’s become a favorite among derms and patients for legit, professional-level results. “I’m a fan of this device because it has high energy levels and it’s super easy-to-use,” says Nazarian.
Dr. Zeichner is a fan of the Tria. "This can be used both on dark and light hair, although it will not work on white hair," Zeichner explains. "It is a true laser as opposed to other devices that use a broad spectrum of light."
Dr. Sobel suggests trying the Tria laser as well. "The technology safely delivers over three times more hair-eliminating energy than other at-home hair removal devices, making it the most powerful at-home hair removal device," Dr. Sobel explains.
Here, loyal readers, is an editor's pick that wouldn't be right not to include. Honesty moment: I'm really hairy and I've tried a lot of "hair removal" tactics that have failed me tremendously. This shiny rose gold device, on the other hand, did not and is worth giving a glowing review. First off, it's inexpensive compared to its counterparts. Secondly, thanks to the LCD screen you're able to monitor the number of flashes on the skin so you'll never go overboard, which is best for a beginner like me.
According to Ingleton, the majority of at-home hair removal devices don't actually use lasers, but rather Intense Pulse Light (IPL), a technology that targets your hair's melanin to permanently destroy the hair follicle after repeated treatments.
Ingleton's favorite IPL device? The Remington iLight Pro Plus. “Not only does it give off a total of 30,000 pulses before it needs to be replaced, but its design allows for the easiest and fastest treatment of larger areas of skin,” she says.
But, like many IPL and laser devices, the Remington iLight isn’t safe for darker skin tones, she notes. “Most devices will actually block you from starting a treatment if your skin or hair color isn’t the ideal mix,” she explains. Darker skin tones are at a higher risk for burning, since the device can't differentiate between hair and skin.
For a quarter of the price of other devices, you'll get the very same IPL technology, but less bells and whistles. (No countdown clock telling you how many pulses are left, no cordless option.) But if the reviews are any indication, it works just as effectively, especially on small areas like your forearms or upper lip.
As a high school graduation present, my mother gifted me with laser hair removal. It wasn't exactly your average gift, but my father gave me his Cuban hair genes, and, well—you know where this story is going. So I set off on my hair-free mission, and quickly became addicted. So it's only fitting that my mother gifted me this tool for my college graduation so I could come full circle in my journey to become stubble-free. The Braun Silk Expert System uses intense pulsed light (IPL) that quickly treats my legs in under 10 minutes. It's also equipped with over 300,000 flashes, equalling out to around 16 years of treatments. Needless to say, I'm hooked.
“The Silk’n Infinity also uses IPL light, but unlike the Remington, it’s safe for all skin colors,” says Dr. Ingleton. The petite, circular design allows for easy, all-over treatments, and it’s also equipped with five energy-level settings for a genuinely customizable experience.
If the steep price tag turns you off, Dr. Ingleton adds that the Silk’n Infinity’s lifespan makes it worth the investment to her. “It stores 400,000 pulses before it dies, so it’s going to last significantly longer than most devices,” she explains.
Zeichner is also a proponent of this device. "This laser emits a broad spectrum of light, rather than a single wavelength. The technology, known as intense pulsed light, can be used across a variety of skin types, even those with an olive complexion."
Because laser hair removal is elective, sometimes brands and derms alike downplay the discomfort associated with zapping your skin with high frequency light. This device comes equipped with an ice compress plate that cools the skin, reducing redness, swelling and inflammation as you go. The light is strong and effective enough for 500,000 flashes, which is said to be enough to remove unwanted hair head-to-toe on nine to eleven individuals. Translations: Your bikini line doesn't stand a chance. And neither does your BFFs.
Not only is this the only device of its caliber that's FDA approved for every hair color and skin tone, but its midrange size means it can as readily flash away hairs on your upper lip as on your partner's back and thighs. Use once a week for seven weeks, and expect smoother skin for way longer than a razor can offer.
Abe Ayesh of Eternal Hair & Esthetics is a big fan of the Phillips Lumea: "Philips is high quality, particularly their hair removal and grooming function. They have a 4.5 star rating on Amazon, too." Also, if you're worried about your hair growing back in .5 seconds, rest assured that the Salon IPL technology in this device, prevents hair regrowth over time.
There are a few handy features in this emerald stunner. First: A cooling plate automatically kicks in when temperatures on the skin's surface climb uncomfortably high. Also, some find the handle easier to maneuver in hard-to-reach places like the backs of thighs or deep bikini zones. But most impressively, this device won't kick on unless it's in contact with your skin, meaning no unseemly (and damaging) flashes to your eyes.
This handheld device has a pointed applicator to reduce hair in harder-to-get-to areas. "Because of its small size, this device is a good option to treat areas of the skin that have contours, like the upper lip," Dr. Zeichner confirms.
Dr. Sobel concurs: "This is a great option for smaller areas on the face or neck since it uses diode technology, which is similar to in-office technology for laser hair removal. Most other home devices typically use IPL technology, which does not always target the hair follicle as specifically as the diode wavelength." So if there's one spot bugging you, employ this guy.
The Illuminage Touch offers high-power IPL technology, 120,000 pulses, and the ability to target blonde and red hair follicles, making it a force to be reckoned with.
For ultimate results, this gadget should be used only once a week for six to seven weeks. “Consistency is important—you will only see results if you continue to use these products regularly and as directed,” says Dr. Nazarian. “Even though progress is slow, you will see results.”
Zeichner adds that this device uses intense pulse light to treat unwanted hair across a variety of skin types and hair color.
On that note, make sure to read the instructions thoroughly on whichever device you choose. Every device is a little different, but if follow the directions, you'll quickly get hooked on your smooth-as-hell skin.
While not technically a laser hair removal device, this sleek unit makes use of a broader range of light wavelengths to cover larger stretches of skin more quickly. Plus, it has unlimited flashes. The only downside? Hair does back grow a bit more quickly, so you'll have to be more diligent with touch-ups.
This lesser-known device caught our eye thanks to the five power settings, which means you can adjust based on your skin tone, the color of your hair, and let's be real: Your pain tolerance levels. As with all these devices, compliance is key, so do follow the manual instructions and expect results within five weeks of diligent usage.