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When the warm weather hits, shorts, tank tops, and swimsuits become wardrobe staples. They definitely keep you cool, but if you’ve got body hair that you’re not comfortable with, it’s often tough to rock them with confidence.
Laser hair removal is the only way to permanently reduce the total number of hairs on your body. In fact, in many cases, you can go months without needing retreatments. The problem is that it can be very expensive to have laser hair removal done by a professional, and you usually need multiple treatments to get rid of all the hair that you’re targeting.
An at-home laser hair removal system is an ideal solution if you don’t want to commit to multiple costly sessions of professional treatments. These systems allow you to get a similar result that you would with a medical professional or technician in the privacy of your home – and at a fraction of the cost.
But purchasing an at-home laser hair removal system is still a major investment, so it’s important to choose the right one.
That means deciding whether you prefer a laser or IPL system, a corded or battery-operated model, and what power levels and type of display work best for you.
Here at Best Review, we try to make the shopping process a little easier for you.
We purchase all our own products so we can provide unbiased reviews of the top laser hair removal systems. Add in our expert and field research, and you’ll have all the information you need to make an educated shopping decision.
If you’re ready to purchase, check out our top five product recommendations in the matrix above.
To learn more about evaluating laser hair removal systems, continue on to our shopping guide.
The very first laser ever used to destroy hair follicles was invented by Theodore Maiman in 1960.
In a laser hair removal treatment, an electronic wand focuses a concentrated beam of light on specific hair follicles. The light is absorbed by the pigment in the hair, destroying the follicle enough to slow hair growth in that area.
To get rid of the hair completely, you must treat the targeted areas two or more times. The hair isn’t permanently removed, but the growth is slowed so you won’t need additional treatments for anywhere from several months to several years.
Results vary based on the individual.
There are four types of laser commonly used for laser hair removal: alexandrite, ruby, diode, and ND.
Because the laser or light is absorbed by the pigment in the hair, there must be a contrast between the color of your skin and the color of your hair. Thus, the best candidates for laser hair removal are those who have light skin and dark hair.
If you have dark skin and dark hair or light skin and blonde hair, there usually isn’t enough contrast between the two for laser hair removal to work. Gender isn’t a factor; it works just as well for both men and women.
Keep in mind that laser hair removal only works on certain types of body hair, such as on the face, legs, arms, underarms, and bikini line. It shouldn’t be used on the genitals.
The laser hair removal system relies on contrast between skin tone and hair color to effectively target the hair follicles.
While laser hair removal may not permanently remove hair, it does dramatically reduce hair growth, so you can stop shaving or waxing for months to years.
It also allows you to be very precise, so you can target specific hairs on small areas, such as above your lip.
In terms of pain, laser hair removal falls in the middle of the spectrum. It is more painful than shaving, but for most people it hurts considerably less than waxing.
Lasers can only destroy hair when it’s in its active growth phase, but up to 85% of our hair is in the active phase at any given time.
Safety is the most important thing to consider when you shop for a laser hair removal system.
Check that the system is FDA approved as a safe and effective means of home hair removal. Typically, approval requires that the device is not as powerful as professional laser hair removal systems, and must have built-in safety measures that prevent injuries during use.
If a product has FDA approval, it will be clearly indicated on the packaging.
Laser hair removal was approved as a method of hair removal by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1997. The first at-home laser hair removal was approved by the FDA in 2008.
Technically, not all of the laser hair removal systems utilize lasers to reduce hair growth. Some actually use intense pulsed light (IPL) to target the hair follicles.
Not sure what the difference is?
A laser uses a light beam in one specific wavelength, while IPL employs multiple wavelengths. Lasers usually target a smaller area, but IPL can cover a larger area.
However, because lasers hit a smaller area, they’re usually more precise. Some laser technology has also progressed to the point where it can treat darker skin tones.
IPL hair removal systems can cover a larger area more quickly, but systems employing a true laser are more precise.
At-home laser hair removal systems are typically available in two styles: corded and battery operated.
Corded laser hair removers must be plugged into an outlet in order to be used. That may limit the locations where you can use the device. It can sometimes be tricky to operate the tool with the cord in the way as well.
A battery operated laser hair removal system features a rechargeable battery. The battery life of each model varies, but in many cases, you can get as many as 30 minutes of power. There’s no cord in the way when you’re using the remover, and you can use the device even if there isn’t an outlet nearby.
A battery powered laser hair removal system will typically run for 30 minutes before needing a recharge.
For the most effective and comfortable laser hair removal system, it’s important to choose a device that features multiple power levels.
Different areas of the body may be more sensitive to the laser than other spots, so it’s important to be able to adjust how strong the beam is. In most cases, you’ll want to start with the lowest power setting to determine how sensitive you are to the laser. You can increase the power if you find that the setting is comfortable for the area you’re working in.
It’s best to purchase a laser hair removal system that features as least three power settings to provide you with the most control over the treatments.
The results of laser hair removal can last for anywhere from three months to two years.
If you hair and skin tone aren’t suitable for laser hair removal, using a system can be extremely painful and potentially injure your skin.
Because the hair and skin on your body may not necessarily be all the same color, you may want to purchase a system that features a skin sensor.
The sensor automatically determines whether the hair and skin tone in the area that you plan to use the device are suitable. If they aren’t, the system won’t activate, and you know that you shouldn’t use the device.
A hair removal system with a skin sensor prevents you from potentially irritating your skin if the hair contrast isn’t sufficient for treatment.
Some laser hair removal systems feature an LED display with visual alerts that allow you to use the device more effectively.
The display usually indicates the power level, discharge pattern, pulse duration, low battery level, and light cartridge replacement.
A display is convenient to have, but you usually have to pay extra for it – lower end models typically don’t have them.
An LED display helps configure your laser hair removal system, but will only be available on more expensive models.
A laser hair removal system’s treatment window determines how large an area the device covers in one swipe. A larger window allows you to work more quickly, and is especially helpful when you’re working on large areas, such as the legs or chest.
However, if you’re working on smaller area, such as the bikini line, you may prefer a smaller treatment window that allows for more precision.
Treatment windows vary from system to system, but they usually range from ⅓ to 2 inches.
Most people require two to six laser hair removal treatments to fully remove the hair from a given treatment area.
When you’re purchasing a laser hair removal system, it’s also important to consider whether a model requires regular replacement parts.
Many devices use light cartridges that allow for a certain number of treatments. They need to replaced whenever they run out.
In many cases, you may pay less for a system that uses cartridges initially. However, you’ll need to buy replacement cartridges regularly, so you may be better off in the long run buying a more costly system that doesn’t use cartridges.
Laser hair systems that require replacement cartridges are often cheaper at initial purchase, but if you use them frequently the cost of cartridges can make these models more expensive in the long run.
A laser hair removal system is a fairly costly purchase. In general, they range in price from $150 to $450. It is important to remember that you’ll pay considerably more for professional laser hair removal treatments, so it may be worth the investment if you want to lessen your amount of body hair economically.
If you’re only interested in removing small amounts of hair, a lower end system that comes in around $200 and requires replacement cartridges is usually a good option.
If you plan to use the device all over your body or for larger areas such as the legs or chest, a higher end model will cost about $449. One that require replacement cartridges may be a better value compared to paying less for the machine but buying new cartridges over time.
Q. Are there are side effects to using a laser hair removal system?
A. For up to 24 hours after using the device, you may experience mild redness in the skin, but it usually goes away on its own.
Q. How often should you use a laser hair removal system?
A. Always consult the manual that comes with your device to determine the appropriate usage. However, most systems suggest using the device once every two weeks.
Q. How long does it take to see results with a laser hair removal system?
A. In most cases, you can expect to see results within two to four weeks of your first treatment.
Q. How do you prepare the areas for laser hair removal?
A. Clean the area that you plan to treat so it’s free of lotions, creams, and cosmetics. Use a new razor to shave the area so the device can work on the hair inside the follicle that’s under the surface of the skin. Finally, wipe the area down to remove any lingering soap or shaving cream and pat the area dry.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.