We’ve got all the facts and figures.
It’s about this exact point every year that we all start considering laser hair removal. Summer is just getting started, and the amount of hair maintenance required is already ticking you off. After manic Googling sessions of other hair removal options, we’re right back to where we were: lasers. That said, we understand why you might be hesitant. Setting pain factors aside for a moment, waxing and shaving offer immediate results, while laser hair removal, whether at-home or at a derm’s office, is an investment requiring multiple sessions and, typically, a high price tag. It all raises the question: What’s most worth your money? We’ve done the math for you, and here’s what we found.
Price: There’s no getting away from the initial hit ranging from $250-$500, but in the long run it’s much more cost-effective. For example, professional appointments for both legs on average cost $400, and it’s recommended you seek six to eight appointments, so that’s roughly a $2,000 savings in total if you use an at-home device. That’s a lot of money. A good place to start is with the Silk’n Flash&Go Express, as it’s super quick and straightforward to use. Since it can be used on face and body, we love the $549 LumaRx Pro, which has a special Precision Treatment Cap attachment with a smaller window, ideal for facial contours.
Staying Power: For its best results, the LumaRx Pro can give 94 percent removal in as few as three treatments and, on average, participants had 66 percent fewer hairs after three treatments when they were evaluated a year later. The Illuminage Touch Permanent Hair Reduction System costs $445 but says it can reduce hair by up to 94 percent if you use it once a week for seven weeks (the same amount of sessions a professional course averagely recommends). That’s $64 per at-home session—much cheaper than professional visits. It also allows you to do touch-ups when you need to rather than paying a premium by seeking a professional (there is, however, the argument that when you see a derm, you won’t need top-ups, but more on that later).
Accuracy: Just like at-home waxing, where you notice tufts of hair you missed, it’s hard to be as accurate as a professional with at-home laser devices (understandably). So if you are doing large or hard-to-reach areas like legs, back, or bikini line, at-home devices can leave you frustrated and returning back to your razor for the bits you’ve missed.
Time-consuming: It’s not just fiddling about with accuracy that makes at-home devices time-consuming, but, as Dr. Shereene Idriss of Union Square Laser Dermatology also explains, “Don’t underestimate the self-inflicted pain from at-home sessions, which also adds more time to each treatment.” We second that. As opposed to having a professional help you power through it, you may find yourself having to take frequent breaks (we sure did), which means you often lose your placing, miss patches, and add minutes to each session.
Commitment: If you have a graveyard cabinet full of half-used beauty products and discarded tools, then we’d suggest thinking twice before committing to an at-home laser hair removal device. To see results, you must use them at least once a week for seven weeks in a row. Dr. Idriss also tells us that at-home treatments will require many more treatments compared to in-office sessions because the power level is lower on at-home devices, so you need to be prepared to be in it for the long haul. If you tend to have beauty commitment issues, it probably isn’t worth investing.
Skin Safety: “At-home devices aren’t as sophisticated as in-office lasers, so they’re not necessarily safe for darker skin types. The risk of burning is always the number one risk you should always be aware of,” advices Dr Idriss. For example, while more devices are very effective for dark hair on pale skin (the laser can “see” the contrast of color), they don’t always cater for black skin or grey hair.
While at-home devices have been proven effective, they are best for a very narrow window of people and don’t cater for specific skin types and hair colors. Dermatologists, on the other hand, “will have sophisticated enough lasers to target all skin types,” explains Dr. Idriss. That said, if you do have light skin and dark hair, they are a great alternative if you are prepared to commit and put in the hours. As a rule of thumb, we’d say at-home lasers are worth the investment if you want to target small areas (face and armpits), as they’re easy to use accurately and quickly. Particularly true when you consider it can take as little as under 60 seconds for a derm to do your top lip, so not worth the trek down there, or the money. But for larger areas like legs and bikini line, we’d recommend seeking a professional appointment, as it requires a lot of skill to get the results you want.