How to Choose Which Home Laser/IPL Device to Buy
It is easy to see the appeal of being able to achieve permanent hair removal in the comfort of your own home, at a time convenient to yourself and at a fraction of the cost of professional treatments.
The question is, when choosing to purchase a light based hair removal device for use at home, how does one decide which to go for, given the number of options available and the wide range of prices?
This review aims to give you a few pointers whilst making recommendations based on our research.
To start with, there is some basic information that you need to consider and which relates to all home light-based hair removal devices.
Safety - and FDA Approval
The first thing to be aware of is that any hair laser hair removal device, be it professional or for use at home, should be FDA approved as safe and effective for permanent hair reduction.
At home devices are required by the FDA to operate at lower levels than the powerful lasers used by medically trained professionals. They also need to have appropriate built-in safety mechanisms to gain official approval.
Generally all of the devices that we recommend have been fully FDA approved for sale direct to consumers, and we would advise against purchasing any device which does not have this endorsement, without thorough research.
Laser / IPL
Technically, there is a difference between laser and IPL (intense pulsed light) - strictly speaking devices using IPL are not actually lasers.
In a nutshell, lasers use a light beam of one specific wavelength to target the hair follicle being treated, whereas IPL uses multiple wavelengths. However the technology and results achieved are similar and so we have compared them like for like.
If you would like to understand the differences in more detail see our article:
Who are Home Devices Suitable For?
We have reviewed all the home laser and IPL hair removal devices currently available on the market and all are suitable for those with lighter skin tones (I-IV on the Fitzpatrick Scale - see below) and dark hair.
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
Both men and women can use the devices, but in most cases the treatment may take longer and be required more often for men to see comparable results to women, due to the higher density of hair.
None are suitable for dark skin or fair, grey or red hair.
Currently, if you have darker skin and wish to have laser hair removal it is necessary to seek professional treatment at a clinic with a suitable device.
If you have light, grey or red hair the only permanent hair removal option currently available for you is electrolysis.
For more information about either of these topics see our articles:
There are various features on offer and cost varies considerably from one product to another. Deciding which features are important to you and may therefore be worth paying that little bit extra for can be confusing.
Power Levels / Settings
The efficacy and speed at which desired results can be achieved will be affected by the power level of the device.
Having a range of settings is useful because different parts of the body are more or less sensitive.
Given that some degree of pain will be experienced, it gives the opportunity to start at the lowest level as a test, for each area, and then increase as desired to the maximum comfortable.
The larger the spot size, the larger the area covered by the device in one go so that, you will cover large areas e.g. chest or legs more quickly if your device has a large spot size.
Conversely, if the area you are treating is smaller and more precise e.g. bikini line, a smaller spot size may be preferable.
Spot sizes vary, and range from 1cm to 6 cms.
We have already mentioned that the device should be fully FDA approved for consumer use.
All home devices should include inbuilt safety features which will not allow the light beam to fire unless the handset is held properly against the skin, with full contact. This is to protect your eyes against damage from the powerful light.
Some devices also include special filtered safety glasses.
Some have the additional feature of security codes, which have to be entered each time before it can be used. This may be an attractive point if children are in the household.
Visual Alerts/LED Display
There are various visual alerts available:
- Low Battery light indicator
- Light Cartridge Replacement
- LED displaying various information e.g. power level in use, discharge pattern, pulse duration
These features are good to have, for convenience but only you can decide which, if any, are worth paying extra for.
Most IPL devices require replacement light cartridges, each containing a certain number of flashes. The cost can vary considerably, and it is well worth checking these out prior to purchase.
It may well be that the initial cost is low in comparison to other models on the market, but if the number of flashes in the cartridge is lower and the cost of replacement higher, it could turn out to be a false economy.
We have carried out in-depth product reviews on the best selling devices currently available on the market.
To view see our article::