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), 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 Joshua Zeichner, MD explains: "Lasers work by emitting a beam of light that is absorbed by a specific target in the skin. 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.")
How should you prepare for laser hair removal?
Dr. Gretchen W. Frieling, a Boston-based triple-board-certified dermatopathologist, says that you should actually shave a day ahead of when you plan to use your laser hair removal device. Similarly, she recommends staying clear of self-tanners and spray tans at least two weeks before, too. Finally, she says it’s important to “avoid potentially irritating products such as retinoids, retinal, or retinoic acids" prior to your treatment, as well as “brightening ingredients and acidic cleansers."
What should you do after laser hair removal?
Dr. Anahita Mansouri, a cosmetic doctor at Kat & Co Aesthetics in the UK, says to avoid exercising (or sweating, for that matter) for up to two days. Both sweating and heat can cause “irritation on freshly treated skin after a session is completed,” she says.
It’s also important to stay out of the sun for two weeks. To be extra careful, Mansouri says to wear loose-fitting clothing, and keep your skin cool. Furthermore, you should “avoid topicals, including makeup, except for aloe vera gel or calming and soothing creams,” to allow your skin to heal correctly.
Along with Dr. Zeichner, Dr. Frieling, and Dr. Mansouri, 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 laser hair removal devices that really, truly work.
The Compact Pick
Silk'n Flash&Go Express, IPL Laser Hair Removal System
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.
The FDA Favorite
Tria Beauty Hair Removal Laser 4X
Just short of $450, the Tria 4X 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.
MiSMON Hair Removal Device
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.
Braun Silk Expert Pro3 Permanent Hair Removal System
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.
Best For On-The-Go Removal
Sensica SensiLight Pro Bronze
Dr. Gretchen W. Frieling recommends the Sensica device. “I love this!” she says. “It has an automatic and manual mode and is best for on-the-go hair removal. It comes with two different heads for large and small areas. The charge will last for approximately 600 flashes.”
Ellesilk Laser Hair Removal Device
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.
Best for All Skin Tones
“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."
Imene IPL Laser Hair Remover
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 11 individuals. Translations: Your bikini line doesn't stand a chance. And neither do your BFFs.
For Hard-to-Reach Areas
Tria Beauty Hair Removal
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 agrees: "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.
mē Sleek Permanent Hair Reduction Device
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.
The Quick Fix
SmoothSkin Pure IPL Hair Removal Device
While not technically a laser hair removal device (IPL uses a different type of light), 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 downside? Hair does back grow a bit more quickly, so you'll have to be more diligent with touch-ups. It's also, unfortunately, not safe for dark skin tones.
Lukelady Home Ice-Sense IPL Laser Hair Removal Green
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.
Iluminage Touch Permanent Hair Reduction System
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 you follow the directions, you'll quickly get hooked on your smooth-as-hell skin.
The Ultimate 2-in-1
JOVS Venus Pro
A common theme among the various laser hair removals is that the head of the device is so small that it sometimes can take extra time for a removal session. Currentbody knows a thing or two about innovative beauty tools—they sell the iconic and game-changing NuFace—and its reputation alone should tell you what you need to know, but this device speaks for itself. The big selling point: The 180-degrees rotating head that's detachable! No matter where you're looking to treat (face, arms, legs, bikini lines, etc), there's an attachment that can work specifically for those. Oh, and the LED power also helps with skin rejuvenation to help with wrinkles.
Kenzzi IPL Laser Hair Removal Handset
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.
Braun Silk-Expert Pro 5 IPL Hair Removal System
The latest edition of Braun's best-selling and dermatologist-endorsed IPL hair-removal system, this smaller, lighter device is outfitted with a skin sensor that actually recognizes your skin tone and adjusts the flash intensity as you use it. It also promises that both of your legs will be done in under five minutes, so say hello to smooth legs in a pinch.
Best Cooling Option
DEESS Permanent Hair Removal System
This fast-acting device from DEESS has built-in ice-cool technology, which means that the hair-removal experience just got a little less painful. Since it cools skin as it works, you don't have to worry about inflammation after you're done with the process.
Julia Marzovilla is an E-Commerce Writer at Marie Claire covering all things fashion, beauty, and entertainment. Offline, she’s most likely browsing the web for another pair of black boots or listening to music too loudly—often at the same time.
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