Home laser or IPL hair removal machines can be daunting. The idea that a little handheld contraption has the power to permanently remove the natural hair we’re born with is enough to make many people steer clear, worried about the pitfalls. But over the years technology has improved so that these devices have in fact become effective in reducing both body and facial hair and prices are more reasonable than before.
How do the machines work? Both IPLs and lasers manipulate the use of light, which is absorbed by melanin in the hair and this damages the follicle. Over time the hair becomes weaker and eventually stops growing. One thing to note is the distinction between a laser and an IPL device. IPL, or intense pulsed light, is not a laser, but emits a spectrum of colours and wavelengths that reduces hair growth unlike a laser, which delivers one single wave of red light and permanently removes the hair follicle. The majority of home hair-removal machines, except one, use IPL.
Anyone using an IPL machine will find that there will be some regrowth, so areas would need to be redone, possibly every six to 12 months.
Before opting for this type of hair removal, check the brand’s skin and hair charts, which indicate if your skin is too dark, or your hair is too light for the machines to be effective. The ideal combination for these devices is dark hair and fair skin. Most laser devices do not work if skin is dark or hair is too light (blonde, grey, white or red).
Some of the devices simply won’t work if skin is too dark or hair is too light, as they are designed to lock if it is not safe to use. Most machines have at least three intensity levels and the one you choose is mainly based on your pain threshold, although some devices come with advice as to which power setting to use, which is based on your skin tone. Experts advise starting low and working your way up.
Skin must be freshly shaved before use, and no waxing as the follicle must be left under the skin. These machines are also not to be used on intimate areas, including genitals and nipples, nor above the upper lip.
Dr Raj Mallipeddi, leading consultant dermatologist, said: “Generally those with darker skin should be more cautious as there is more risk of discolouring and pigmentation. A trained specialist in a clinical setting will be able to tailor settings for an individual’s requirements. There is less flexibility with a home device, which needs to be simpler to use but it may suit individuals who prefer the convenience of home treatment over effectiveness; it may also be less expensive.”
We tested these machines over three months, on men and women, aged from 20 to 50, of all skin tones. All the machines on this list resulted in a significant reduction in hair.