Is laser hair removal at home safe? Here’s what experts have to say

Experts explain how the devices can be used safely.

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Shaving is tiring, waxing is painful and laser hair removal is expensive. So it makes home laser hair removal – a method that promises painless, permanent and affordable hair removal results – increasingly popular.

But for a treatment that typically requires esthetician supervision (and thousands of dollars worth of in-office sessions), is it safe to do at home? We tapped Hadley King, MD, board-certified dermatologist, and Adriana Perez-Nakamura, licensed esthetician, founder of Skincare By Adriana to investigate.

What is laser hair removal?

Unlike waxing, which removes hair deep within the follicle, the laser hair removal process targets the dark pigment in your hair follicle, damaging it enough to hinder future growth.

“Laser hair removal treatments emit light at a wavelength that is absorbed by melanin in the hair root,” says King. “The light energy is converted into heat, which permanently damages and destroys hair follicles.”

To achieve the best results, you’ll want to use the treatment in the early stages of hair growth. “There are three stages of hair growth: anagen (growth phase), catagen (transitional phase), and telogen (resting phase),” says Perez-Nakamura. “In order for the laser to be effective, you need to target it while it is in the anagen phase. The hair you want to remove is in each of these phases at different times, so you will need several treatments before you see results.”

At home laser hair removal vs. Treatments in the office

According to Perez-Nakamura, portable home laser hair removal devices are typically marketed as laser devices, when they are usually IPL. “IPL stands for ‘intended pulsed light’ and uses pulses of light to target melanin in the hair follicle,” she says.

While IPL works on the same principle as lasers, which is that light energy is converted into heat energy (causing damage to the specific target area), it is very different in that it delivers many wavelengths (or colors) in each pulse of light rather than just one wavelength . Professional laser treatment is a more selective process and therefore the very high energy will focus on the hair follicle rather than the surrounding skin.

In other words, IPL treatments are typically weaker and require more treatments than your standard in-office procedure. “Home appliances use lower power settings so they are safe to use alone,” says Dr. King. “For laser treatments in the office, you should take into account 5 to 7 sessions, with an interval of at least 4 weeks. After that, you should have maintenance treatment once or twice a year. With home laser treatments, more treatments are needed because the energy of your home device uses less energy.”

Also keep in mind that while long-term home laser hair removal treatments are not considered permanent. “Results can last from a few months to a few years,” says Perez-Nakamura. “You’ll probably need additional treatments later on to maintain your results.”

Is laser hair removal at home safe?

Short answer: yes. “At-home laser hair removal is usually safe as long as…if you follow the directions and be careful to avoid burning,” says Dr. King. However, it’s also important to note that at-home laser hair removal isn’t for everyone.

According to dr. King, dark-skinned people are more likely to experience blistering and a burning sensation. “Because these devices target melanin (the pigment in our skin and hair), the best candidates for at-home laser hair removal are those with light skin and dark hair,” she says. “That’s the ideal setup so that the device can target the hair without damaging the skin. Darker skin increases the risk of burning and lighter hair can reduce effectiveness.

In addition, Perez-Nakamura says there are certain factors that mean you shouldn’t do laser hair removal at all—that is, if you’re taking certain medications (check with your doctor first), pregnant, or taking retinoids or taking Accutane.

Because professional laser hair removal devices have more settings, they can usually be better adapted to a person’s skin type. And while experts in the office will ask the right questions and take precautions to make sure there are no adverse effects (for example, professional laser treatments can be modified to work with darker skin tones), you’re more at risk if you do it yourself. Therefore, in-office treatments are preferred, but if you choose to do it at home, it’s always best to talk to a medical professional to make sure you’re using the right device for you.

Best devices for laser hair removal at home

If you’re looking to cut back (and cost) on hair removal, here are the best laser hair removal devices you can use at home.

Rose Skin Co. OG IPL Hair Removal Handset

Designed to promote long-lasting hair removal with a 45-minute session once a week, this portable IPL hair removal device can be used on any part of the body, including the face and bikini area.

MiSMON IPL hair removal machine for home

This clinically tested hair removal device is slightly stronger than most; it has even been shown to cause a visible reduction in hair growth after 7 to 9 sessions.

Silk’n Infinity At-Home Laser Hair Removal System

Designed with a lifetime of pulses, you never have to worry about replacing cartridges with this home use laser hair removal device. Big bonus: It has five customizable settings to find a power that works best for your skin.

Distress The Flasher 2.0

Nood’s FDA-approved laser hair removal device is conveniently sized to target many areas of the body. The 10-minute treatments make it easy to maintain, and the UV-filtered lens blocks harmful ultraviolet light, keeping your skin safe as you flash away unwanted hair.

Kenzzi IPL Hair Removal Handset

This effective IPL device comes with 5 intensity modes so you can choose the safest level for you. The brand says it can also be used to reduce the appearance of vascular lesions, including spider telangiectasia, broken facial veins, and rosacea.

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Is laser hair removal at home safe? Here’s what experts have to say

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