Home Laser / IPL Hair Removal Frequently Asked Questions
There's a lot of misinformation online about home laser hair removal devices, so we've created an FAQ page where you can find the answers to all your questions in one place.
Does Home Laser Hair Removal Work?
Based on a sizeable volume of scientific studies that looked at the efficacy of home laser / IPL hair removal devices, the answer is that they do work to a certain degree.
To learn more about this in detail, you may want to check out our post: "The truth about home laser hair removal"
Some important notes about the efficacy of home laser hair removal devices:-
- They don't work for everyone. In fact, laser hair removal in general (with professionally done or not) doesn't work for everyone. For people that fit the correct profile, the chances are very good that it will work, though.
- Results aren't as impressive as the lasers used by professionals. Less impressive means less hair reduction and less permanence after the treatment ends.
- For some people they work really well - scientists don't yet fully understand why laser hair removal works really well for some people and not for others. Some studies have shown complete hair removal up to 12 months after the final treatment.
- Consistent use - Studies show that the best results are obtained through consistent use of the device. Typically, in such studies, patients performed laser hair removal on themselves every two weeks. During these times, hair reduction reached up to 70%. Hair regrowth occurred usually more than one month after the last treatment performed.
Are Home Laser Hair Removal Devices Safe?
In our the truth about home laser hair removal article, we looked at a number of scientific studies all concluding that home laser kits are safe for use.
Both devices come with numerous safety features:-
- Skin sensor - They have a skin sensor that detects the colour of skin. If the colour of skin is too dark for safe usage then the laser can't be unlocked for use
- Solid surface detector - They won't emit light unless the unit is pressed up against a hard surface in order to prevent eye damage from looking directly at the light.
Is Treatment Painful?
There is a certain level of discomfort during treatment, however in a recent study all patients described the feeling of treatment as being at least "tolerable".
Some people describe the feeling of a slight burn and that it feels like an elastic band being hit against the skin repetitively.
Home laser hair removal devices typically operate at a fluence (power setting) of less than 20 J/cm (2) whereas lasers that are used professionally have a lot more power at their disposal. A recent study showed that the lower the fluence setting, the less discomfort. This is why home laser hair removal treatments cause less discomfort than professional laser hair removal.
What Skin Types does Home Laser Hair Removal Work on?
Home laser hair removal kits are only good for skin types I - IV on the Fitzpatrick scale. People with darker skin than IV will either need to consider professional laser hair removal with the Nd:YAG laser or electrolysis.
The Fitzpatrick Scale
The Fitzpatrick scale is used to classify skin types. You can use the chart below to determine your Fitzpatrick number:-
Hair Color (darkest)
White or very pale
Blue, grey, green
Always burns, never tans
Pale white with beige tint
Chestnut or dark blond
Always burns, sometimes tans
Beige to light brown (olive)
Sometimes burns, always tans
Light to moderate brown
Rarely Burns, always tans
Medium to Dark Brown
Rarely burns, tans more than average
Dark brown to black
What's the Difference between a Home Laser and Home IPL Machine?
In terms of efficacy and safety, there haven't been any conclusive studies that have shown one type to be better for hair removal purposes than the other.
There is, however, a difference in the underlying technology and how these devices work. Home laser hair removal machines use a diode laser that operates at specific wavelength whereas IPL machines apply pulses of light at different wavelengths (you can consider it as being like a shotgun approach to hair removal).
For a more complete look at the differences between an IPL and laser, read our article about it here.
How Often Should I Perform Treatments?
Manufacturers provide specific guidelines regarding the regularity of treatments. In most instances, you should apply treatment bi-weekly.
One of the most popular brands, the Silk'n SensEpil advises the following:-
"Schedule your first 3 - 4 sessions are two weeks apart. The following three sessions should be approximately 4 weeks apart and thereafter you should use the product if and when needed until long-term results are achieved."
What are the Possible Side Effects?
A recent study analysed the side effects experienced by patients that self administered home laser hair removal treatments. These were the results:-
As you can see from the chart, most people will experience redness (erythema) in the treatment area in the hour following a laser session. In some instances swelling can occur (edema).
Other less common side effects include hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin), crusting, hypopigmentation (lightening of the skin) and blistering.
It should be noted that all the side effects listed in the study were transient and were all resolved 12 weeks after the final treatment.
Here is a full list of side effects as listed in the user instruction guide for the Silk'n SensEpil
Side effects are less than professional laser hair removal due to the lower power ratings of the home devices.
Are Home Devices Difficult to Use?
No, they are incredibly easy and no training is required. Each device comes with operating instructions that are easy to follow.
How Long do Treatments Take?
It's a difficult question to answer because it depends on both the size of the treatment area and the device that's being used.
Some devices, such as the Silk'n Flash and Go have been specifically designed for smaller treatment areas. The head size is much smaller and it allows the patient to achieve accuracy that would be required for treating areas such as the bikini area.
"The time can vary depending on the area of the body treated. A two full legs can take up to 30 minutes, or two underarms could take less than 10 minutes. Since the device runs on regular electric power it can be used for as long as needed to complete a full treatment of the desired area(s) for hair removal."
Source: Silk'n web site
Does Home Laser Hair Removal Work on All Hair Types?
Laser hair removal (whether done professionally or at home) only works on hairs that contain melanin. White, blonde and grey hairs don't contain enough melanin for the laser to target and therefore the treatment is ineffective.
If you have light hair with low melanin levels, then laser hair removal as a whole will not work for you and you may want to consider electrolysis as an alternative.
Can I shave Between Treatments?
Yes, you can shave the treatment area between treatments however, for best results, we recommend that you don't do any form of waxing.
Waxing removes hair from the root and by waxing before a laser hair removal session there is less chance for the light energy to be absorbed by the hair in the follicle. Shaving, however, doesn't remove hair from the root, only from the surface, and so can be used between treatments without jeopardising laser results.
How Long Before I see Results?
Typically results will be seen within 2 - 4 weeks of your first treatment. Here is a chart that shows the hair reduction percentage from home laser hair removal over time:-
As you can see, patients saw a 21% reduction after week 1, 38% after week 2 and 58% after week 3.
In this particular study, patients self administered laser hair removal treatments each week for 8 weeks.
Can Both Men and Women use Home Laser Hair Removal Devices?
Yes. In some instance, like chest hair on men, hairs are more resilient so more sessions are required. However, in terms of safety and efficacy, home lasers can be used successfully by both men and women.
Can I do Home Laser Hair Removal if I'm Tanned?
If you've had recent exposure to sunlight and are tanned as a result then it's highly recommended that you don't do home laser hair removal.
It's also worth noting that you should try to avoid too much giving the treatment area direct exposure to sunlight in the 24-48 hours following a treatment
Can I Treat the Upper Lip Area with a Home Laser?
You can however you should take precautions to make sure that your lips aren't exposed to the light from the laser device.
Lips contain a large amount of melanin and if not covered during treatment can be burnt from the laser. We recommend that you cover your lips with white surgical tape to ensure they aren't affected by the laser.