Are you considering doing laser hair removal with an at-home device?
There are several laser hair removal devices on the market that manufacturers claim can have effective results when used in the privacy of your home.
But before you spend your hard-earned money on a device, read what experts have to say about the pros and cons, if at-home laser devices actually work, and ideal candidates.
We’ve gathered input from three experts for this topic, who have provided knowledge based on their extensive training, so you can decide if an at-home device is right for you.
Keep in mind that some laser devices can potentially cause damage, so before you do this at home, talk to a Board Certified Dermatologist, or your medical provider, first.
Yes, they most certainly can, according to Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson, Co-Founder and Partner at Modern Dermatology in Westport, Connecticut; and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Yale University of Medicine in New Haven.
Laser hair removal – or more aptly named reduction devices – works by targeting and damaging the pigment in the hair follicle under the skin, she said, adding that most devices on the market are IPL-based (meaning Intense Pulsed Light) and there is a single laser-based device on the market as well.
There is never permanent hair reduction, Dr. Robinson noted, but rather hair reduction. Even in an office, 6 to 8 treatments can reduce hair growth by approximately 80%. “However, as at-home devices are not powered as highly, they require many more treatments to achieve that same result.”
Dr. Matthew Elias, a Board Certified Dermatologist at Elias Dermatology in Florida, added that at-home laser hair removal devices “work well for a very small subset of committed patients.”
There are pros and cons to home laser hair removal, according to Dr. Paul Yamauchi, Ph.D, who’s in private practice at the Dermatology Institute and Skin Care Center in Santa Monica, California. Dr. Yamauchi, who is also the founder of the Clinical Science Institute in Southern California, offered the following details:
Affordability: Laser hair removal at home may be more affordable and less expensive than having it performed at a dermatologist’s office. “However, there are disposable costs to replace parts, similar to having change blades for your razor,” Dr. Yamauchi said.
Convenience: You can do laser hair removal in the privacy in your home anytime you want without having to go to the office.
Effective for small areas: Home laser hair removal can be effective in removing unwanted hair, especially for smaller areas such as the upper lip.
Inaccuracy: Home laser hair removal maybe not as accurate as having laser hair removal performed in an office by a professional. Additionally, treating large and hard to reach areas – such as the back, legs, arms, and bikini – may result in missed spots, “which can be frustrating,” Dr. Yamauchi noted. Therefore, for large areas, an in-office treatment would be more accurate.
Time-consuming: Treating large areas of the body with a laser hair removal device at home can be time-consuming. “There are self-inflicted pain and discomfort which you can control by slowing down the rate or taking breaks,” Dr. Yamauchi said, however, “that will consume more time.” While in-office laser hair removal also feels uncomfortable, you’re not doing to it yourself, and therefore it may be less painful than doing it on your own. In the end, the length of time will be less when performed in an office by a professional.
More sessions required: More sessions are required with at-home laser hair removal devices because the power level is much lower than in-office lasers.
Poor results: Overall results may be less with a home laser device because of the lower power built into the machine. In-office lasers use higher power and are therefore more efficient.
Not for all skin types: Home lasers are not designed for all skin types. They are not necessarily safer for darker skin, and an in-office treatment would be safer to avoid hyper-pigmentation and burns. When properly performed at a dermatologist’s office, the incidence of burns from laser hair removal is minimized. “However, we have seen patients that overdid it with a home unit and sustained burns and hyper-pigmentation regardless of the color of the skin,” Dr. Yamauchi warned.
According to Dr. Robinson, the energy levels that can be achieved with in-office devices are much greater than what can be obtained with an at-home device. Additionally, laser treatments of hair with pigment specific lasers, such as Alexandrite or NdYAG, are not available in at-home devices.
“Generally, the treatment tip of at-home devices are very small and it can be very time consuming to treat a larger area, whereas in-office devices offer a range of treatment tip sizes which increases speed,” Dr. Robinson said.
“The ability to alter the treatment parameters to maximize results is also imperative in laser hair reduction, which is not possible in at-home devices.”
As most devices are IPL based, they are best suited for fair-skinned individuals with dark, coarse hair, Dr. Robinson said.
“Darker skin type individuals are at increased risk for burns and subsequent dyspigmentation and/or scars with IPL based devices,” she warned. “Also, thinner, finer hair can be more difficult to treat with at-home devices as it generally requires higher energies and or decreased pulse durations.”
Those with white or blond hair will not respond to at-home laser hair removal devices, Dr. Robinson added. Additionally, “darker skin type individuals should be very cautious as…they are much more likely to be burnt with subsequent sequelae (a condition resulting from an injury).”
Typically to be an ideal candidate, Dr. Elias agreed you must have fair, non-tanned skin and dark hair. He explained that the majority of at-home devices use IPL technology, which is actually not a laser at all, but a broadband light, which targets the pigment in your skin to destroy the hair follicle after multiple treatments.
“Since it is targeting pigment to destroy the follicle, there is a higher likelihood of complications including pigmentary issues and burns.”
According to Dr. Yamauchi, like any laser device, whether it is performed in the office or for home use, the potential side effects include:
- Skin infections
“If properly performed, these side effects are minimized,” Dr. Yamauchi added.
Any laser procedure can feel uncomfortable and painful, including at-home devices, Dr. Yamauchi noted. “It varies on the settings. There can be more pain or an unpleasant sensation at higher settings. It will depend on the person's tolerability of pain.”
Makers of these at-home laser hair removal devices sell these systems as painless, Dr. Elias noted, adding: “These are at-home tolerable devices, but there may be some areas that are slightly more uncomfortable.”
Tria Hair Removal Laser 4X
Dr. Robinson recommends the Tria Hair Removal Laser 4X, which she said is the first and only FDA-approved laser for at-home use.
Dr. Elias agreed this is a good at-home device, adding that the Tria uses a laser medium that’s similar to what’s used in Board Certified Dermatologist’s offices, “so it can be very effective; but due to the wavelength, it is best and safest for those patients with light skin and dark hair as it also targets pigment in the skin to destroy the hair.”
According to the manufacturer of this product, this device is powered by the same in-office Diode Laser Technology used by dermatologists, and “safely delivers over three times more hair-eliminating energy than any other at-home hair removal devices, making it the most powerful at-home hair removal technology.”
Reviews on Tria Website
Based on 834 reviews on the Tria Beauty website, this product received 4 out of 5 stars, with one customer stating they saw “great results after only 6 weeks,” adding, “can’t believe how much money I saved over professional laser treatments.”
One customer who rated the product with a perfect score of 5 out of 5 stars wrote it’s an “excellent product, high quality, and easy to use.” Another reviewer who gave this device a perfect score stated they’ve been using this laser for about three weeks, “and already see a difference.”
The same customer went on to state that “I used it on the highest setting and apart from a little expected stinging did not experience any adverse effects.” A male customer who rated this product with 5 out of 5 stars wrote: “hurts at first, but you get used to it after about 5 minutes.”
Tria Reviews on Amazon
On Amazon, 537 customer reviews resulted in an overall rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars. One person who gave it a perfect score of 5 out of 5 stars stated “it works,” but also noted that “it hurts. This isn’t for someone who freaks out at a slight sting.”
Another customer who rated this device with 4 out of 5 stars wrote: “This is the real thing and has the power to really do what it promises.”
On the flip side, a customer who gave it a score of 3 out of 5 stars stated: “I thought more for your buck since there are many others much cheaper, but this isn’t ideal if you want to treat large areas. The laser eye is small and you have to overlap your zaps, so to treat your legs will take hours to finish just the bottom section.”
The Tria Hair Removal Laser 4X costs $449 on the company’s website, where customers are offered free shipping, as well as 60-day money-back guarantee.
The price of this device is also $449 on Amazon.com, not including tax and shipping costs. It can also be purchased on eBay for $495; shipping is free, but this price does not include tax.
Remington iLIGHT® Pro Plus Quartz
Dr. Elias said another example of a good at-home device is the Remington iLIGHT® Pro Plus Quartz. According to the company’s website, using this FDA-cleared product can result with up to 94% hair reduction in three treatments; provides longer-lasting permanent results; and is fast, gentle and easy to use.
Reviews on Remington Website
There are only 23 reviews on the manufacturer’s website, with customers giving this device a rating of 3.4 out of 5 stars.
One person who rated this product with 5 out of 5 stars who has been using it on the bikini area stated, “it works great,” adding that “Pain is definitely tolerable and since you're doing it and not someone else you can take a break a pause when you need to.”
Another customer who rated this device with 4 out of 5 stars wrote: “You have to be patient with this machine other people have said it’s taken up to a year to become completely hairless.”
A person who gave it 3 out of 5 stars noted that after around 12 treatments, “I’m seeing about 30% hair reduction,” adding to “be careful not to go too high on arms. It gave me burn marks and I’m unsure how to get rid of it.”
Reviews on Amazon
On Amazon, 246 customers gave this product a rating of 3.3 out of 5 stars, with one who gave it a perfect score stating, “I’ve had it and used it for about 9 months now and can say without a doubt…it works. I am very fair with super dark hair so that does increase the efficacy of such devices.”
Another person who gave it a perfect score wrote, “This product isn’t painful, but I’d say uncomfortable in sensitive areas. It also doesn’t work on the first three tries…but six to eight treatments will give you results you’ll be so happy with.”
On the flip side, a customer who rated this product with 1 star said they had “been using this for 6 months now, on targeted areas, and have seen NO result. Hair grows right back, as if I had not treated it at all.”
Another individual who gave this device the same low rating wrote, “I've done 7 treatments exactly as it instructs and noticed no difference.”
The Remington iLIGHT® Pro Plus Quartz costs $399.99 on the company’s website, not including taxes, and shipping is free. On Amazon, the one-time purchase price is $289.99, not including shipping and taxes. This device is also sold at Target for $289.99.
Another good example of an at-home device is the Silk’n™ Infinity, according to Dr. Elias.
On the company’s website, this FDA-cleared device features Silk'n Infinity's eHPL™ technology, which uses pulses of light to permanently remove undesired hair growth without stubble, ingrown hairs, redness or other irritation.
The manufacturer claims this product is “painless” and suitable for many different hair colors and skin types.
Reviews on Silk’n™ Website
On the company’s website, this device received 4 out of 5 start based on 457 customer reviews.
One person who rated this product with 5 out of 5 stars stated: “When you use it, it does not hurt,” adding that there’s also an app “that helps with staying on track with your treatments.”
Another customer who gave this device a perfect score said, “it works as described,” and that it is “easy to use, painful and quick” with “good results.”
A woman who wrote she was “extremely skeptical” at first gave it 5 out of 5 stars, stating that “all in all though I am astounded at how well it actually works.”
On the other hand, a customer who rated this device with 3 out of 5 stars stated, “I didn't experience any burns or blisters but I also don't see any less hair growth anywhere.”
Another person who rated it with 1 out of 5 stars wrote, “I went for ONE professional laser treatment and experienced 100x the results…I am very upset I wasted my money on this product.”
Reviews on Amazon
There are only 15 customer reviews about this product on Amazon, with customers giving it an overall rating of 2.7 out of 5 stars.
A licensed electrologist who gave it 5 out of 5 stars wrote, “It does work as long as you keep up with treating the area.”
Another person who rated this device with a perfect score stated, “I have a few hairs that grow back but this machine is AMAZING.”
On the flip side, one customer gave this device 1 out of 5 stars, noting that “I followed the directions – shaved, spent an hour gliding the item along my leg and flashing the laser. Repeat every 2 weeks. No difference.”
One person who also rated this product with 1 out of 5 stars stated, “It's been 5 months and I used it around 10 times – I have dark hair and was patiently waiting – no results.”
The Silk’n™ Infinity costs $399 on the company’s website, and offers a 15% discount off the original price, bringing the cost down to $339.15 not including taxes; standard shipping is free, and expedited shipping costs an additional $25.
It costs $399 on Amazon, not including shipping and tax.
While there are several at-home laser devices on the market, it’s important to conduct your own due diligence by researching every product to make sure it’s safe and effective for your personal use.
Dr. Robinson recommends looking for safety data and studies pointing to efficacy and safety. Also, ease of use is very important for an at-home device. “The size of the treatment tip is also important to consider, especially if you are planning to treat larger areas such as arms or legs,” she said.
Look for devices that have an FDA clearance for hair reduction and study results, Dr. Robinson recommended. “Also, check the safety data on these devices by looking at their study results and checking the adverse events/effects.”
It’s also helpful to research customer reviews to determine if the device you’re considering is worth the money.
While reading these customer reviews, it’s good to be skeptical, keeping in mind that some reviewers might be bogus in alignment with each company, which of course, wants to make sales as a top priority.
The safest option is to get laser hair removal performed by an expert, such as a Board Certified Dermatologist, but in-office sessions are more expensive.
Still, costly treatments are safer, and you must take this into consideration when it comes to potential dangers of doing this at home, which can potentially cause damage, forcing you to visit a professional to mitigate any possible problems that may result.
“If you are interested, it takes commitment with at-home devices,” Dr. Elias said. “I see them best used to deal with small areas or touch-ups after treatment with LHR lasers in your friendly Board Certified Dermatologist’s office.”
Lastly, follow the directions carefully, “and don’t overdo it,” Dr. Yamauchi advised. “Exercise sun precautions before and after treatment. Don’t have your expectations too high with home devices.”
» Recommended Reading:
- Expert Guide to Laser Hair Removal: Everything You Need to Know
- 2019 Best Epilator Buying Guide
- Women’s Facial Hair Removal: Expert Guide to Best Options