Body hair is a fact of life—and, for the record, 100 percent normal—but sometimes you want to remove it. Shaving is simple enough, but hair grows back quickly, while waxing and sugaring last longer but are more painful. More and more, people are turning to laser hair removal as an alternative, permanent solution.
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“Complete hair removal is a challenge. I feel that the treatment should be called ‘laser hair reduction’ rather than laser hair removal, because full removal of all of the hair may not be possible,” says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “As the hairs become thinner and finer, it is more difficult to completely remove them.” That said, the treatment is highly effective—if somewhat expensive and time-consuming. But new, at-home devices have hit the market so you can get similar results from the comfort of your own bathroom.
HOW DOES LASER HAIR REMOVAL WORK?
“Laser hair removal treatments emit a light that is absorbed by melanin in the hair,” explains Dr. Annie Chiu, board-certified cosmetic and general dermatologist and founder of The Derm Institute in Los Angeles. “The light energy is converted to heat, which permanently damages and destroys hair follicles. While it may not remove hair forever, the hair that grows back is usually much finer and less noticeable,” says Chiu. At-home devices use a similar, less strong technology called IPL, or intense pulsed light, so that they work and are safe to use on your own.
Still, it’s important to read instructions and fine print carefully. “At home laser devices have come a long way, although they are not on par with in-office treatments,” says Dr. Sunitha Posina, M.D., a New York City-based board-certified internist. “There are several devices that are good, but with lasers, it is extremely important to recognise that some devices aren’t as compatible with certain skin types,” she adds.
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ARE AT-HOME HAIR REMOVAL DEVICES SAFE FOR ALL SKIN TONES?
“Burns can happen. Doubling up on an area won’t speed up results,” warns Chiu. And because the technology targets melanin, a.k.a. the pigment in our skin and hair, many devices don’t work on darker skin tones and light hair colours. “If you have more pigment in your skin, it may confuse the laser. This may lead to potential dark spots or light spots in the skin as a side effect,” says Zeichner. Those with dark skin—and frankly anyone who wants to be extra-careful—can take extra precautions to prevent skin damage. “Choose FDA-cleared devices and [do a] patch test, because it is very important to keep in mind that not everyone responds the same,” says Posina. “Darker skin tones with skin type 5 to 6 [on the Fitzpatrick scale] should minimise the use of IPL devices, and be extremely careful if you decide to,” Posina adds. Finally, don’t forget to take care of your skin following each treatment. “After using the laser, make sure to apply a moisturiser to help hydrate and repair the skin barrier,” says Zeichner.
Whether you’re looking to start from scratch or are looking to touch-up or maintain a professional treatment, these are the best devices to get the job done. Read on to find out which at-home products the experts recommend most, and how best to use them.
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1. Silk’n Infinity
The light pulse technology is gentler than most, making it safe—but effective—for all skin tones. “I would definitely recommend the Silk’n Infinity as a safer device for darker skin tones,” says Posina.
2. Tria Beauty Hair Removal Laser 4X
“This device uses a diode laser, the same type I use in the office, to target the root of the hair,” says Zeichner. “The handpiece of the laser is small enough that it can accommodate skin contours such as those under the arms, in the bikini area, or even the face.” Posina also recommends the Tria, adding that “it’s a great option because when you turn it on, it won’t start working unless it detects that it is safe for your skin and hair type.” The Tria is also the first-ever FDA-approved product for at-home laser hair removal, however it is only safe to use on light and medium skin tones and darker hair.
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3. Me Smooth Professional at Home Face and Body Hair Reduction System
Posina says this FDA-cleared device that can be used on the face and body is “another good option for all skin types,” including medium and dark skin.
4. Me Chic Compact Permanent Hair Reduction Device
This smaller version has the same FDA-approved technology in a more compact size—ideal for travel, as well as targeting specific, smaller areas.
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5. Iluminage TOUCH Permanent Hair Reduction System
It’s not cheap, but this FDA-cleared device combines IPL and radio frequency technology to safely, painlessly remove body hair of all colours, across all skin tones.
6. Braun Silk Expert IPL Hair Removal System
This sleek IPL device has a unique sensor with UV protection that automatically adapts to your skin tone, making it one of the safest choices for at-home use.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.