Do Home Laser Hair Removal Devices Really Work?

Shaving is a quick and easy way to remove body hair, but you might find yourself doing it multiple times a week. For a more long-term solution, people often turn to laser hair removal. Professional laser hair removal requires an office or salon visit, which can be time-consuming and expensive. At-home laser systems are available, but are they actually effective? Keep reading to learn more about whether these devices can meet your needs.

What Is Laser Hair Removal?

Laser hair removal uses concentrated beam of light to target and destroy hair growth. Lasers emit light at a certain wavelength that targets melanin — the pigment that gives your hair and skin its color. The light from the laser creates heat that damages the hair follicles, preventing your hair from growing back.

It’s important to note that the effects of laser hair removal are temporary. Your hair follicles eventually heal and begin making new hair strands. You’ll need multiple treatments at first to destroy the follicle and begin seeing results. Afterward, you’ll continue maintenance treatments every so often to prevent the follicles from growing back.

Who Performs Laser Hair Removal?

Laser hair removal is usually performed by a licensed professional, like a trained esthetician who works with a qualified dermatologist. This is because laser treatments can become dangerous if they’re performed incorrectly.

The lasers used in doctor’s offices are high-powered and can result in skin burns or scarring if used improperly. This is why the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) Association recommends choosing an office with a board-certified dermatologist to perform laser hair removal.

How Do Home Laser Hair Removal Devices Work?

When you search online for a home laser hair removal system, you’ll find hundreds of results. How do you know which will work best? According to experts, there are 2 types of systems — one that uses a true laser (usually a diode laser), and another that uses intense pulsed light (IPL).

Like a laser, IPL also uses light energy that heats and destroys hair follicles. This system generally targets the inner layers of skin while avoiding the top layers. However, studies show that laser treatment is more effective than IPL for hair removal and takes fewer treatments.

Laser and IPL home hair removal systems work similarly to what you’d find in a doctor’s office, but they’re not as strong. Luckily, this means your chances of harming your skin are much lower. However, these devices are much smaller than what are used in an office. You’ll likely have a harder time treating larger areas of skin — like your legs.

At-Home Laser Hair Removal Devices Work for Certain Skin Types

Since at-home devices use different lasers or IPL than what is found in an office, they don’t work as well to target hair on all skin types. Experts have found that home laser hair removal is usually effective in people who have contrast between their skin and hair color. Those with lighter skin and darker hair see the best results.

Remember, at-home laser devices work by targeting the melanin in your hair. People with dark skin tones have more melanin in their skin that will absorb the heat from lasers. This raises the risk of burns. Many home laser hair removal devices have built-in sensors for preventing their use on darker skin. If you have a dark skin tone, an at-home device probably isn’t going to work.

At-Home Devices Might Not Remove All Hair

When using an at-home hair removal device, you likely won’t achieve the same results as in-office treatment. One study compared an in-office laser to an at-home device for underarm hair removal. The in-office laser removed 85% and 88% of hair under each arm, while the at-home device removed only 52% and 46.3% under the arms.

Many at-home devices also run on batteries, meaning you have limited time to complete a treatment. You’ll want to start with a small area of skin to see how the treatment works. Just like in-office lasers, you’ll need to go through several rounds to start seeing results.

Your at-home device may also require additional light cartridges that need to be replaced every so often. Keep this in mind if you plan to use the laser device for large areas of skin. These cartridges vary in cost, but it’ll be an extra expense you should be prepared for.

Tips for Using At-Home Laser Hair Removal Devices

If you’re interested in trying an at-home device, it’s important to do so safely. Take extra care to avoid areas of sensitive skin. This includes the eyes and genitals. However, you can use laser hair removal devices on the upper lip and along the bikini line, with caution.  

The Cleveland Clinic also notes you can use at-home laser hair removal devices on your upper lip with caution. Avoid areas of pigmented skin, such as moles or tattoos. You may accidentally burn your skin.

Laser Hair Removal

By Emily Wagner

Emily earned a Bachelor of Science in biotechnology from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2018 and a Master of Science in biomedical sciences with a focus in pharmacology from University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in 2020. During her thesis work, she studied non-small cell lung cancer and how the immune system plays a role in response to different treatments. Emily feels privileged to use her research acumen and scientific mind to write about topics that advance the health and wellbeing of others. She currently lives in Colorado where she enjoys the mountains, spending time with her dog, baking, and reading a good book.