There's nothing wrong with having a little body hair, but for those of us looking for the easiest and most convenient ways to remove it at home, there are a number of options to choose from. Shaving your underarms and legs in the shower can be simple, though hair may come back quickly depending on its rate of growth. And while choosing to wax or sugar away targeted areas may ensure smooth results, the actual process can be tricky to pull off solo—which is why increasingly, people are turning to the best at-home laser hair removal devices as more professional-level options. "Because using lasers offers a more targeted treatment, they reduce the potential of irritation or bumps that may be associated with shaving or waxing," Marisa Garshick, M.D., F.A.A.D, tells BAZAAR.com. "Additionally, laser hair removal provides a more long-term solution than shaving or waxing."
Although at-home laser devices can provide highly effective results, experts advise that users shouldn't expect this removal method to get rid of all their body hair overnight. "Complete hair removal is a challenge," Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist and the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, says. "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. As the hair becomes thinner and finer, it's more difficult to completely remove it," he explains. Some at-home devices may be designed specifically for the body or face based on the size of its hand piece, or ease of use in different locations. Garshick notes that using tools on the face should be in an extra-precise manner, with special attention being paid to avoid certain areas like around the eyebrows and general eye area.
SO, HOW DOES THE LASER HAIR REMOVAL PROCESS WORK?
While different hair removal technologies can be found in at-home laser devices, most treatments use IPL (intense pulsed light) to emit multiple wavelengths of light while using heat to destroy hair follicles. "The light energy is converted to heat, which permanently damages and destroys hair follicles," Annie Chiu, a cosmetic and general dermatologist and founder of The Derm Institute in Los Angeles, explains.
According to Garshick, aside from light-based IPL devices, other hair removal options use laser technology (known as diode lasers), which use a single wavelength of light—unlike IPL that uses many wavelengths—to target the pigment of the hair follicle and selectively absorb it while minimizing injury to the surrounding skin. "Since laser hair removal works by targeting the pigment of the hair follicle, dark hairs tend to respond the best to laser hair removal," Garshick says. While burns can happen, Chiu cautions that doubling up on a specific area to lessen hair density won't speed up results and may lead to increased skin trauma.
ARE AT-HOME HAIR REMOVAL DEVICES SAFE FOR ALL SKIN TONES?
Both IPL and diode laser devices rely on the pigment of the hair follicle to lessen or completely remove it from your skin, but diode lasers are generally more precise, making them a safer option for most skin types and tones. However, it's important to use caution when trying out any at-home laser hair removal device. Those with lighter hair or darker skin should carefully consider their options regarding their tool of choice. "I recommend that my clients first test spots in less conspicuous areas, like the arms or legs, to see if burning or hyperpigmentation occurs before proceeding to treat the face or more prominent areas of the body," Anthony Rossi, a dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, says.
Having more pigment in your skin may confuse the laser, Zeichner cautions, leading to discoloration in the skin. "In general, at-home laser hair removal devices are not optimal for those with sensitive skin or skin of color as the potential risk of irritation, hyperpigmentation, or scarring is increased," Garshick adds. "For individuals with sensitive skin and darker skin types, it's especially important to ensure the selected device is appropriate and should always be discussed with a board-certified dermatologist prior to use."
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO TO TREAT THE SKIN POST-HAIR REMOVAL?
Another pro tip? Don't forget to take care of your skin with a soothing moisturizer following each treatment to hydrate and repair the skin barrier. According to Rossi, look for moisturizers without heavy fragrances, as they can contribute to skin inflammation. Garshick agrees, adding that wearing sunscreen with at least SPF 30 is equally important in healing newly treated areas of the skin, since laser treatments can often contribute to increased sun sensitivity. "Generally, moisturizing creams and sun protection are both important after using laser treatment," she explains. "A gentle moisturizer or post-procedure product, such as Vaseline Intensive Care Soothing Hydration with Aloe, can be soothing on the skin. Other options include CeraVe's Moisturizing Cream, Avène Cicalfate+, or EltaMD Laser Enzyme Gel. If the skin feels sensitive at all, it is best to opt for a mineral sunscreen like Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield or Cetaphil's Sheer Mineral Face Liquid Sunscreen."
Whether you're looking to maintain a professional treatment or curious about new options for hair removal at home, these expert-recommended devices are among the safest and most effective tools that get the job done. Here, five of the best at-home laser devices dermatologists always recommend to their clients for body care maintenance.
Here's a dermatologist-recommended device that uses IPL technology and incorporates a sensor that adapts the treatment based on your skin tone. Its glide mode can be helpful to cover larger surface areas and also includes a precision head to help address smaller areas that may be difficult to reach, like the face, bikini line, and underarms.
"This handheld device is easy to hold and use, and uses IPL technology to eliminate hairs. Through high-speed repetition of pulses, it offers fast and effective treatment sessions at home," Garshick says.
This fast-acting, FDA-cleared tool from Silk'n uses a quartz bulb and pulsed light technology to lessen hair density with the press of a button, and works in just 20 minutes to deliver smoother skin.
This tool from Tria is one of most popular products on the market for at-home laser hair removal and has a tip that's small enough to target hard-to-reach areas. "This device uses a diode laser, the same type I use in the office, to target the root of the hair," Zeichner says. "The hand piece 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."
This compact diode laser-based device is ergonomic and designed to use around curves and smaller areas. Since it has a battery life of up to 15 minutes, it's ideal for quick touch-ups between professional visits.
Article written by Tiffany Dodson and Lindy Segal for Harpers Bazar