Will Numbing Creams Work For Me? Which Ones Work Best? Your Guide to Numbing Creams for Hair Removal
Alright, so you have picked out a great epilator and are finally ready to have a hair removal experience that doesn’t involve having to repeat every 3 days (like shaving) or having to worry about ruining your bathroom countertop/floor by spilling hot wax everywhere. But when you turned on the epilator and tried your first swipe on your hair… ouch! It hurts!
Is it supposed to hurt this much, you wonder? Can I do anything about it?
Enter stage left: numbing creams for epilators, laser hair removal, and even for getting tattoos
In this guide:
Wait, I thought you said that epilators don’t hurt?
Most people have no trouble when they use a high quality epilator on their legs, underarms, or even face. However, some may find that they have extra sensitive skin all over their body or you might find that you can easily epilate your legs, but not your face or bikini area. For you, a numbing cream can help alleviate some of the discomfort so that you can use the epilator for ALL of your hair removal as it was intended.
You can also read more about epilator pain in our article on epilator pain on legs, underarms, and face.
Generally some areas of our body are slightly more sensitive than others. Whether or not you can use an epilator really depends on your personal pain tolerance level, but if you’re worried that yours is too low, try a numbing cream.
What are numbing creams? How do they work?
Numbing creams are topical creams or solutions that help temporarily numb the surface of your skin.
Your skin surface is made up of 2 top layers – the epidermis and below that is the dermis. You feel pain when the pain receptors in your skin’s dermis are activated by trauma (like pulling out a hair) and that pain travels from the pain receptors which are actually nerve endings, up the attached nerves, and then to your spinal cord and then to your brain, and you think ouch!
Numbing creams act on the dermis and its embedded pain receptors so that for a short while, the receptors do not send pain signals to the brain. The effect is short lived and works really well for epilators and hair removal.
There are many numbing creams that promise results, but not all of them work well enough to counter epilator pain. Some of them are meant for general non direct muscle pains or other similar issues and not for the specific sharper pains you feel when you yank out hairs. So what are your options?
Which numbing creams can I use to reduce epilator and hair removal pain?
Here are our recommendations for OTC (over the counter) numbing creams that work well when you use them with epilators or another type of hair removal that can hurt, like laser hair removal.
Lidocaine is clinically proven to temporarily deaden the nerves endings in skin and surrounding tissue, so it’s great for desensitizing skin just before using your epilator or laser hair removal to minimize pain. You can also use it to numb skin before tattoos, tattoo removal, and skin piercings.
LMX Anesthetic Cream also comes highly recommended by the Department of Dermatology at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, USA as an effective anesthetic for numbing skin and reducing pain during skin treatments. In a 2012 medical journal article, “Anesthesia Methods in Laser Resurfacing”, two Baylor College of Medicine doctors mention LMX as a viable noninvasive OTC topical cream that showed effective results for reducing pain in skin resurfacing treatments, a skin procedure that is also painful. They also wrote:
“Topical anesthetics have a long history of use and proven efficacy in decreasing pain with common dermatologic procedures such as shave biopsies, punch biopsies, curettage, and electrosurgery, allowing their easy introduction during laser procedures. Studies have already shown that commonly used lidocaine preparations reduce discomfort associated with … (Nd:YAG) laser hair removal. Topical lidocaine has also been successful in reducing intense sensation during Q-switched laser tattoo removal, and the discomfort associated with the laser treatment of vascular and pigmented lesions.” [source: Sergio Gaitan, Ramsey Markus. (2012) Semin Plast Surg.]
So LMX is a scientifically endorsed numbing cream that can be used for several skin treatments and hair removal procedures that can be painful.
We have used both with great success. It has a non greasy, non oily feel and works for about 2 hours. You can use it anywhere on your body except around your eyes. And it’s easily accessible over the counter and online.
Ebanel 5% Lidocaine is another over the counter lidocaine topical cream that has a similar percentage lidocaine as LMX5 but is about half the price, so it’s our pick for most economical numbing cream.
Like LMX, Ebanel has an elegant cream feel, isn’t greasy or oil, and can be used anywhere except near your eyes. It lasts for about 2 hours and is made in the US. It can be used to reduce pain before hair removal, for getting tattoos or piercings, and has a wide range of other pain reduction applications.
Don’t like how lidocaine creams feel? Relax & Wax’s No Scream Cream is a topical anesthetic cream that relies on 20% Benzocaine to numb your skin. It works similar to lidocaine but is much gentler. 20% Benzocaine is about the equivalent of 2% Lidocaine.
No Scream Cream is marketed as a numbing cream for waxing hair removal but it can be used for laser hair removal and for epilator hair removal. It takes about 20 minutes to start to work and lasts for about 2 hours.
Numbing creams are great for numbing small areas like your upper lip, under arms, or bikini/brazilian area. You do not want to use it in large areas like full arms or legs. According to the FDA, lidocaine is not safe to use in large quantities so you do not want to use it in large areas like full arms or legs. Lidocaine is absorbed into your blood via your skin. It is still safe to use in small quantities but too much of it at once can have adverse effects. We do not recommend that you do not use more than one 15g tube of LMX or Lidocaine cream at a time.
Here is how to use a numbing cream:
1. Clean your skin
Before applying any numbing cream, make sure your skin is clean and dry. You don’t want any lotions or moisturizers or any other kind of skincare or makeup on your skin. If you have anything on your skin, wash with warm water and soap and pat dry. Lidocaine needs to make complete contact with your skin so that it can numb your skins epidermis and more importantly, numb the layer right below called the dermis because that’s where your pain receptors live.
Remember, use numbing cream only on skin that is intact. If your skin has any cuts or rashes, do not use numbing cream until your skin heals.
2. Put on gloves
We recommend also putting on a pair of clean disposable gloves before you start applying numbing cream. (We like to use these biodegradable disposable gloves, but you can use any kind you have.) Some people report that their finger tips also start getting numb or start tingling and you don’t want that to happen especially if you’re going to be doing your own hair removal shortly.
3. Apply a thin layer
Apply a thin layer in the direction AGAINST your hair growth and begin rubbing it into your skin for about 30 to 40 seconds. This first thin layer helps the cream penetrate the first layer of skin.
4. Apply a thick layer
Now, apply a thick layer to cover the previous thinner layers. You should layer it on about ⅛ inch to ¼ inch thick.
5. Cover with clingwrap
Usually in a hospital setting, a medical professional will cover lidocaine cream with a medically dressing called Tegaderm or a similar bandage. However, you can just use clingwrap at home. You can also use these wound dressing bandages if you want to make sure it stays sanitary in case your clingwrap is in use in your kitchen and you’re not sure where it’s been.
When you’re covering the cream, make sure you dont flatten it. It should stay thick on your skin.
6. Wait for it work
Now you wait for 30 minutes. At this point, you’ll start notice some numbing and you can remove the cream if you want to. However, you can also wait up to 60 minutes if you want to get the full effects of the numbing cream.
After 60 minutes, you’ll have reached peak numbess. At this point, there is no benefit to leaving the cream on for longer. Also, rubbing the cream in will not increase its effect on your skin.
7. Wipe the area
You can now wipe the cream off your skin with a wet paper towel or wash it off gently. Obviously, you don’t want the cream on your skin when you attempt hair removal.
The numbing effect will last another 60 minutes.
8. Continue with hair removal
You have an hour to continue with hair removal with an epilator, laser hair removal device, or waxing while only feeling minimal pain.
For years, laser hair removal was inconveniently expensive. Laser hair removal used to be an option only available at dermatology or licensed offices, costing hundreds of dollars per treatment.
However, in the last few years, there are now an increasing number of at-home laser hair removal options. These at-home laser hair removal systems are now another DIY hair removal method like at home waxing or shaving, and last longer. While initially, these systems only worked for dark hair on light skin, now there are options for a wider range of skin and hair colors available.
Many of these laser hair removal systems for home use are reasonably priced and highly effective, and a great solution for anyone looking for long term hair removal. USe this guide to help determine if at home laser hair removal can work for you and reviewed the best systems available today. To skip ahead in this guide, please expand the table of contents below.
In this guide:
Reviews for 5 of the best at-home laser hair removal devices
We have been using various at home laser hair removal devices for several years now, starting with a Remington system, then a Silk’n, and later a Tria. There have been so many advancements especially in the last 3-4 years and the systems available today are easier to use and more efficient than ever. Let us take a look at the best 5 laser hair removal systems available for at home use today.
The Tria Laser Hair Removal 4X beats other at home laser hair removal systems and devices on more than one front, easily taking the top spot. Let’s break it down.
Only FDA approved laser hair removal system
No replacement cartridges needed
Same technology as dermatologists (Advanced Diode laser)
High precision design
Can be used on face
The Tria Laser Hair Removal 4X is a laser hair removal not an IPL hair removal system. Not sure what the difference is? Backtrack to learn more.
This means the Tria Laser Hair Removal 4x uses the same technology as dermatologists, specifically an Advanced Diode Laser. The Tria Laser Hair Removal 4X was the first true laser hair removal system approved by the FDA. And it is still the ONLY laser hair removal system approved by the FDA for at home use. The other systems we review later are IPL laser hair removal systems. So if you have done your research, or want to try a laser hair removal system not an IPL system, this is the best and only option aside from visiting a dermatologist.
Every other at home laser hair removal system requires cartridge replacements after a certain number of laser flashes. The Tria Laser 4x is the only machine on the market that requires no cartridge replacement. What this means is that the Tria Laser 4x has no recurring costs. The initial cost is the only investment and after that there is $0 in ongoing costs for life. There are cheaper at home laser hair removal systems available but if you plan on using your system or device for a long time, then the initially pricey Tria Laser hair removal 4x averages out to a similar dollar investment.
So how does it avoid new cartridges? It is a cordless handheld at home laser hair removal system that uses a recharging station. Each session with the Tria Laser Hair Removal 4X lasts 40 minutes and then you recharge it for your next session.
The Tria Laser Hair Removal 4X comes with an LED display that shows you battery levels and how many pulses you have used during your session. It also comes with a Skin Sensor that unlocks the Tria for use, if you have the correct skin tone, and relocks the system after you are done with your hair removal session.
We and countless other users have found that the Tria Laser Hair Removal 4X is more effective on facial hair than any other at home laser hair removal device on the market. This is in part due to the technology and in part due to the design of the Tria Laser Hair Removal 4X. The handle and the applicator allow for precision while emitting a large amount of laser energy. This make the Tria Laser Hair Removal 4X a top choice for best at home laser hair removal for brazilians, face, underarms or another smaller area with lots of hair that needs a great attention to detail.
To read more customer verified Tria 4X reviews, click here.
Note: Many of the other great at home laser hair removal devices cannot be used on the face. You can use the Tria anywhere on your body, not just in high density hair areas or small areas. But the portability of this device makes it great for areas where you need to very careful (like your eyes… keep away!), making the Tria Laser Hair Removal 4X the best at home laser hair removal for face and body.
This device will not successfully treat dark skin or very light hair, like blonde, grey, or white hair. We have reviewed at home laser hair removal devices that work on dark skin – skip ahead to the Tanda Me or Illuminage at home laser hair systems if you have dark skin.
It cames in a variety of colors, like turquoise, graphite, fuschia, and more. And compared to some at home laser hair systems, it is minimal in size. You can charge it and even take it along during travel.
To read more about Tria 4X product specifications, click here.
Despite the initial cost, the Tria Laser Hair Removal 4X comes out ahead when you factor in its other features. And it uses the same laser used during costlier dermatology sessions. So if you’re looking for a professional grade hair removal system for at home use (especially for facial hair), there isn’t a better option available on the market than the Tria Laser Hair Removal 4X.
Remington was one of the first to introduce a laser treatment system for home use to the public. Despite the competition, the Remington iLight Pro is still one of the most reviewed and dependable hair removal system available.
FDA approved IPL
Permanent hair reduction after 3 treatments
Long lasting cartridges
Replacement cartridges reasonably priced
Large flash applicator face makes this great for large areas
The Remington iLight Pro Hair Removal System is an IPL hair removal system and was one of the first of its kind on the market. Since it’s debut, Remington has introduced several iterations of the iLight Pro and we will cover some of them too.
The Remington iLight Pro Hair Removal System that shows a reduction in hair in only 3 treatments. The cartridge has 6000 flashes, which is enough for 10 full body treatments. And there is one replacement cartridges included, so there are 20 treatments in the Remington iLight Pro Hair Removal System total. Need more? Replacement cartridges for this system are highly affordable, usually $30-40 per cartridge.
There is a skin sensor on the iLight that is touch sensitive and detects your skin color. It only operates if you have it pressed up against your skin and your skin is in range for this machine. If you are not yet holding it against your skin or your skin is too dark, then it will not flash.
This is a great safety precaution because the flashes can affect your eyes, and even cause long term blindness. So you only want the machine flashing if it is pressed on skin and not near your eyes. If your skin is out of range for this machine you can end up with skin burns, so the machine will refuse to operate so you do not end up with accidental burns on your skin.
iLight is corded and needs to be plugged in to use, which makes this system bulky. So it is not as travel friendly as certain other more compact options.
The larger applicator face of this device makes this a great choice for larger areas like legs, arms, and bikini hair removal. IPL technology also helps target more hairs with each flash because IPL uses diffused light. So you will notice that that applicator screens on most IPL machines are larger.
To read more about Remington iLight Pro product specifications, click here.
However, for this reason, do not use the Remington iLight Pro Hair Removal System on your face or anywhere near your eyes! The diffused light targets a larger area and even if your eyes are closed, it can hurt your eyes. If you need facial hair removal, use a device with a more controlled liked the Tria Laser Removal 4X reviewed above or the Tria Hair Removal Precision reviewed below. Do not use this on your face! Use the Remington iLight Pro Hair Removal System anywhere, except on or near your face and eyes.
To read more customer verified Remington iLight Pro reviews, click here.
Amongst at-home laser hair removal systems, this is our favorite for whole body laser treatment. While the Tria products use a different kind of technology and travel friendly, each flash only treats a small area. The Remington iLight Pro Hair Removal System has a larger treatment area with each flash and is a more convenient option for treating bigger areas like full arms or full legs. So if your primary goal with laser hair removal is removing hair from your body and not your face, the Remington iLight Pro Hair Removal System should be your first choice.
Silk’n is another veteran maker of at home laser hair removal devices, and there are variety of models available to purchase. Many of them are similar to the Remington review ed above with bulky recharge stations. However, the Silk’n Flash & Go is a at home hair removal system that is not bulky and can be used on both face AND body at home hair removal.
Can be used on both face and body
Large flash applicator face makes this great for large areas
FDA approved IPL
No replacement cartridges needed
The Silk’n Flash & Go is a versatile at home laser hair removal system. Unlike the Tria’s small flash face or Remington’s limitation to using it only on the face, the Silk’n Flash & Go can be used for both body and face at home laser hair removal. If you want to removal hair from all over your body, this may be the best of both worlds for you.
Like the Tria, the Silk’n Flash & Go is also cordless. There is a corded charging station, which is also small and easily packable. This makes the Silk’n Flash & Go a good system for those of us on the go, who need a system that can be charged and used from anywhere, and minimal in size.
Also like the Tria, the Silk’n Flash & Go needs no cartridges or refills for the IPL flashes. So there is no recurring cost after the initial purchase.
Many laser hair removal systems have a short delay between each flash, varying from 1 to 5 seconds. This means that after each flash, you need to wait a short interval before you can push the flash button again. The Remington machine has this delay, as does the Silk’n Flash & Go.
However, the Silk’n Flash & Go has upgraded it’s technology to minimize this delay to less than a second. This makes this a faster machine to use. But its flash applicator face is a bit smaller than Remington. So, if you are covering a large expansive area, you may find that it takes about the same time to treat with either the Remington or the Silk’n Flash & Go. However, the Silk’n Flash & Go will definitely treat a smaller area much faster due to it’s shorter interval between flashes.
Does it treat dark or tanned skin, or grey and blonde hair? No.
To read more about Silk’n Flash & Go product specifications, click here.
So why isn’t it our number one? The flash applicator face is still smaller than the Remington device. If this had a larger head that could cover larger areas faster, this would easily head the pack. Still, for at home laser hair removal of brazilians and bikini or underarms, the Silk’n Flash & Go offers the speediest treatment.
The Silk’n Flash & Go is a great “medium” for at home laser hair removal that can treat both face and body. However, if you’re looking for the most effective and well designed at home laser hair removal device for face or for body, we’d recommend going for a Remington or a Tria instead. If cost is the main driving factor, then the Silk’n Flash & Go is worth a try before you go for a more expensive machine.
To read more customer verified Silk’n Flash & Go reviews, click here.
The Silk’n Flash & Go has Tria’s efficiency and good design, and the Remington’s ability to treat larger areas on your body. Combined, this is a good at home laser hair removal product for face AND body treatment. With no added costs, improved technology, this IPL at home hair removal system is a contender for the top spot in this list. But if you intend to treat your face or your body, investing in the pricier Tria or a Remington might pay off more in the long term.
The Tria Hair Removal Precision is the Tria 4X boiled down into an even more compact and lightweight design. Need to travel light? You can easily pack this in your toiletries bag or luggage. Need a smaller at home laser hair removal device for a small treatment area? The Tria Hair Removal Precision fits the bill.
FDA approved laser hair removal system
No replacement cartridges needed
Same technology as dermatologists (Advanced Diode laser)
Can be used on face
The Tria Hair Removal Precision is essentially the same at home laser hair removal device as the Tria Laser Hair Removal 4X condensed into a smaller size.
Tria intended for the Tria Hair Removal Precision to be used in areas that harder to reach with the larger flash screen of the Tria 4X. Remember, the flash applicator of whatever at home laser hair removal system you decide to try, must be completely flat against the surface of the skin to treat the hair follicles. So in certain areas with curves and bends, like your groin or your breast, it may be difficult to get the entire flash applicator face flat on your skin. In these areas, you may find that a smaller at home laser hair device like the Tria Hair Removal Precision helps treat more effectively.
Like the Tria 4X, this device does not treat dark skin or very light hair.
Another potential benefit of the Tria Hair Removal Precision is its minimal size. It can fit in your toiletries kit or a purse, as it is about the size of an electronic toothbrush. So if you travel often and travel light, the Tria Hair Removal Precision’s size could be a huge benefit.
To read more customer verified Tria Hair Removal Precision reviews, click here.
Otherwise, if you do not need a smaller flash applicator or can work with the slightly bigger size of the other devices we have reviewed, we recommend going with the Tria 4X, the Remington, or the Silk’n Flash & Go first. Then if you find that you are still missing patches of hair in curvy areas, then you can try to treat those sections with this handy Tria Hair Removal Precision.
The Tanda Me Smooth, also called Elos Professional, is the first of the two best at home laser hair removal systems for dark skin that we reviewed for you. Laser hair removal for dark skin is still a very novel industry, as historically if you had dark skin, you were immediately disqualified from this particular method of hair removal.
The Tanda Me Smooth also works on lighter hair, like blonde hair. And it is the only at home laser hair removal system for blonde and red hair that is effective. It does not work on white hair.
However, with new research advancements in laser technology, at home laser hair removal systems for dark skin and light hair hitting the market, with the Tanda Me Smooth currently leading in effectiveness and good design.
Can be used on olive to dark skin
Can be used on blonde and red hair
Reasonably priced replacement cartridges
Can be used on face
FDA approved IPL hair removal system
The Tanda Me Smooth (Elos Professional) was one of the first at home laser hair removal devices that had a wide enough range of acceptable skin and hair colors to include dark skin and light hair. It effectively treats hair that light like blonde as well as skin tones that range from olive to dark. These normally fall outside of the range for the other laser and IPL systems that we have reviewed.
The Tanda Me Smooth (Elos Professional) is a corded system that needs to be plugged in to use. It has 5 different intensity levels for the IPL laser light, and you can tailor your treatment to use any of the 5 levels or build up from the lowest level.
This system also requires replacement cartridges. However, each cartridge lasts for 100,000 flashes, or several full body treatments before you need a new one. The replacement cartridges are also very reasonably priced, ranging from $30-40 each.
The Tanda Me Smooth (Elos Professional) can be used on both face and body. It is also very efficient system that allows you to treat a full leg in 10 minutes and full body including face, in only 20 minutes.
To read more customer verified (Elos Professional) Tanda Me Smooth reviews, click here.
For anyone looking for an at home laser hair removal system for blonde hair or red hair, the Tanda Me Smooth Elos Professional is the only machine available today that shows results. The Tanda Me Smooth is also one of two machines available for use on darker skin tones that were previously disqualified from laser hair removal. It is the best at home laser hair removal system for indian skin, african skin, or anyone else with olive to dark skin.
We only intended to review the top 5 at home laser hair removal systems, but the introduction of the Illuminage Touch as another best at home laser hair removal system for dark skin made it a convincing addition to our must review list.
Prior to these systems debuting on the market, there was little option for anyone looking for best at home laser hair removal system for african skin or another type of olive or darker skin. But with the Tanda Me and the Illuminage Touch, the at home laser hair removal market has become more democratic in terms of skin color.
Can be used on olive to dark skin
Can be used on blonde and red hair
FDA approved IPL hair removal system
Can be used on face
Like the Tanda Me Smooth, the Illuminage Touch works for the normal ranges of skin and hair color. It also is a second option for at home laser hair removal device for blonde hair, red hair, and olive to dark skin…. all of which are normally are outside the capacities of many of the popular laser hair removal systems.
The Illuminage Touch is a corded machine, so you need an outlet to use this machine to treat your skin. It uses IPL laser to permanently reduce your hair by 94% in 7 weeks, if you treat once each week.
It can be used on face and body.
Like some of the other at home laser hair removal system we have reviewed, here, the Illuminage Touch also requires replacement cartridges for long term use. But unlike the other devices we have reviewed, the cartridges for the Illuminage Touch seem to be quite expensive, ranging $110-140. For more Illuminage Touch product specifications, click here.
Note: Normally, this price would disqualify this system from this list. But given the scarcity of at home laser hair removal devices that treat dark skin, we still wanted to include the Illuminage Touch as a bonus review. For many systems, you may find that you never end up needing a second cartridge. So if this system meets your needs in all of its other features, it may still be a good investment until that first included cartridge is used up.
To read more customer verified Illuminage Touch reviews, click here.
The Illuminage Touch is a second effective option for at home laser hair removal for dark skin (olive to dark) and light hair (red, blonde). The price of the replacement cartridges make this less accessible than the other systems we have reviewed, but still keep this whole unit less than the cost of laser hair removal treatments from a dermatologist. We recommend trying the Tanda Me Smooth system first, but we wanted to offer this as an option for those of us with darker skin.
There are two types of light based hair removal – IPL and laser hair removal. Usually both are referred to as laser hair removal but there are some differences.
IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light. Sometimes you hear IPL referred to as IPL laser treatment, but that is a misnomer. IPL is not a laser, but rather a wide spectrum of diffused light. This diffused light does not go very deep into the skin.
Dark hair absorbs many of the wavelengths of the Intense Pulsed Light, which disrupts the growth of the hair and the follicle. IPL hair removal needs some contrast between skin color and hair color so that the darker of the two, the hair, can absorb the light. So for example, IPL works well on dark haired and light skinned people and not so well on people with light skin and blonde hair or those with dark skin and dark hair.
Laser hair removal involves a single and concentrated wavelength of light that also disrupts hair follicles. Specifically, the laser treatment targets melanin in hair follicle to differentiate between skin and hair. Because this is concentrated light, it penetrates the skin much more than IPL. This type of light is much much effective for very coarse or thick hair follicles.
Both are effective for hair in different stages of growth and thickness. So which one to use? It may depend on your skin color and hair.
Skin color and Hair color
There was a time when laser hair removal was only available for people with very light skin and very dark hair. However, now there are options for people who do not have as much contrast between your skin color and hair color. Still, because this type of hair removal targets pigment or melanin, it works better for certain phenotypes. Will it work for you? Let’s take a look.
The first question is what color is your hair?
Laser hair removal targets the root of each hair so look at the color that is closest to the root to determine the color of your hair. Is your hair color is one of the following colors or is in between the following colors?
If your hair is between light brown to black, then you are probably a good candidate for laser hair removal.
Is your hair color one of the following shades or in between one of the following hair colors?
If your hair is blonde or a true red, or in between, you can still use laser hair removal. However, it may be less effective or take more treatments for you to see a difference. This is especially true if you are tanned.
Many people with red or blonde hair have lighter tips and darker roots. If your blonde or red hair is a darker “dirty blonde” or deeper red at your roots, hair removal by laser is still a great option because it will be able to detect the dark hair follicles.
Do you have grey or white hair?
Grey or white hair makes it very hard for the light in laser hair systems to hone in the hair follicle. If your hair color is grey or white, laser hair removal will not be effective for you.
Usually people have grey or white roots, but you may have a mix of white and darker hair. In this case, the laser hair removal systems will detect and kill the darker hair follicles. So while you may not be able to disrupt all of the hair follicles, you will see a reduction in hair as the darker hair follicles are eliminated.
The second important question to ask is what is your skin color?
The lighter your skin color, the easier it is for the light wavelengths to zone in on your hair follicles. Light skin colors include:
If your skin color is pale white to light brown or light olive, then you are a great candidate for laser hair removal.
Just like very light hair makes it hard for the laser hair removal light to differentiate between hair and skin, darker skin also makes it harder to differentiate between hair and skin.
If you have dark skin like any of the above, then most laser hair removal systems may not work very well for you. As of a year ago, there were no options for darker skinned people. Now there is 1 system on the market that shows a great reduction in hair for a wider range of skin colors, including dark skin – the Tanda Me Smooth and Iluminage Touch.
There are a few facts and realities to keep in mind before you start using an IPL or laser hair removal system. Usually, you do not see this kind of section in a product guide. But understanding the limitations of laser hair removal will help you make a better choice in your hair removal journey.
Many IPL and laser hair removal systems have been cleared by the FDA for home use. A key term you may see in the marketing language of many of these systems is “permanent reduction” in hair. Notice that it does not say permanent removal.
This applies to both the systems approved for home use and those used in licensed medical offices. Neither can be marketed as permanent hair removal solutions. Be wary of laser hair removal providers that promise permanent hair removal. Many of these providers even offer extra sessions if you do not get permanent results, which could be a great insurance plan. However, please know that none of these options are cleared by the FDA as permanent hair removal solutions because they did not find that IPL or laser hair removal systems could accomplish that for every user.
This is because each of these systems show varying results in various people. Some people are able to use them with great results like permanent hair removal. Others notice a permanent reduction in the hair that regrows after a few sessions.
So you may also get varying results with these systems. Normally, people with high contrast skin and hair – light skin and dark hair – see tremendous results with these machines with either an almost or a total permanent hair loss in the treated areas. You may also get varying results on various parts of your body, with finer hair disappearing faster.
Even if you do not quickly accomplish total hair removal, you may be interested in extending the times between how often you have to remove hair. Many people find that way less hair grows in the treated areas, and they only need to use the laser hair removal system or another method of hair removal a few times a year. Cutting back how much time you spend on removing hair may make laser hair systems a worthy investment. With both IPL and laser hair removal, users notice increasingly positive results with each use. However, the number many treatments needed to see the results will vary person to person.
So is there an FDA approved total hair removal system? Yes, electrolysis.
Electrolysis is approved by the FDA as a permanent hair removal solution. It treats 1 hair at a time, and so can be a time consuming process. For this reason, it is also a costly option at dermatologists and hair removal salons. For much larger areas like arms or legs, it can cost thousands of dollars.
Ultimately, laser hair removal systems are an accessible and easy way to remove hair for long periods of time, if not forever. If you find yourself shaving or waxing frequently, laser hair removal will greatly reduce how often you have to remove hair. With continued treatments, less and finer hair will regrow and with less frequency until there is little to no hair left to remove.
So if you’re looking for a hair removal method that is more permanent and long lasting than shaving, sugaring, waxing or epilating, laser hair removal is an excellent option to try. There are countless laser hair removal systems available now. Many of them cost about the same as a good wax kit or an epilator, so there is no reason to not try a laser hair removal system if you don’t already wax or use an epilator. Imagine not having to wax, shave, or epilate for weeks instead of only days!
Features of at-home laser hair removal
There are several laser and IPL systems available in the at home laser hair removal systems. Some of the best options use the same technology as those in professional settings, and others use different laser technology that works equally well.
But since these laser hair removal systems have entered the consumer market, there have been many advancements in technology. A good laser hair removal system should be equipped with an up to date laser technology.
Added Cost of Cartridges
Many at home laser hair removal systems require cartridges to work and come with a set number of cartridges to use as you need. These cartridges hold a certain number of flashes that disrupt the hair follicle and kill the hair before they need replacement.
If you plan on purchasing an at home laser hair removal system with the intention of removing as much hair all over our body and face as tolerable, you will need more cartridges at some point. So it is important to take note of how much surface area a cartridge might cover and if replacement cartridges are easily available. Replacement cartridges are an added cost.
Of course, if you only plan on using your at home laser hair removal system for a small area like underarms or the upper lip, then you may never need to look for replacement cartridges.
Battery or Corded
Some at home laser hair removal systems are battery operated or rechargeable. Others are corded and can only be used when they are plugged in.
Depending on where you plan on using this device, or your lifestyle needs, this feature may be another key to making a decision.
The laser removal systems that require an outlet or are corded tend to be bulkier and would be hard to take along while traveling. You’ll also need to use them near an outlet.
Rechargable at home laser hair removal systems are usually lightweight, easy to handle, and you can use them easily at home or while traveling. You may find that it is hard to do a full treatment of a large area, like both legs, with a rechargeable device. But if you want a more accessible device that you can take with you anywhere to touch up your face or underarms, then a rechargeable or battery operated device is more ideal than a bulky corded machine.
Color of skin and hair
The range of skin color and hair colors for each laser hair removal device is probably the most important feature to note. A good at home laser hair removal system will work on a wider range of skin and hair colors. Skin color can change from body part to body part and even over the course of the seasons if you tan easily, so even the traditionally ideal candidate – light skin and dark hair – can benefit from a wider range.
If you have less contrast between your skin and hair, this feature is especially important. Blonde or red hair and light skin, or dark hair and dark brown skin, make the hair follicles harder to detect for the laser hair removal system. Make sure to pick a laser hair removal system you choose has a wide range of acceptable skin and hair colors.
What about pain? How painful is laser hair removal?
Or a better question: What is the highest level of pain you can experience during laser hair removal at home or at a professional office? If you have a low tolerance to pain and very sensitive skin, you can compare it to the pain of snapping a rubber band against your skin.
Personally, we do not find it nearly as painful. For someone with average sensitivity, it may feel more like a light pinch and a warm sensation. Everyone also has various areas of the body with less or more sensitivity. Some people find that less sensitive areas register no pain at all.
Compared to other methods of hair removal, laser hair removal is less painful than both epilating and waxing, and more painful than just shaving.
How to prepare for a laser hair removal session
1. Shave the area you are going to treat of any hairs that might be present
You have to shave before every laser hair removal session. Laser works best if the hair has been cut down so that it can treat as close to the hair root as possible, and kill the root.
2. Pat the area dry
Helpful Tip: For IPL hair removal systems, we recommend wearing a pair of laser protection eye glasses. Because IPL is diffused light, there is greater risk of laser hitting sensitive areas like eyes and resulting in irreversible damage.
3. Begin laser hair removal
Helpful Tip: For larger areas, use a white eyeliner pencil to create a grid so that you know exactly where you have treated and can cover the whole skin surface without leaving untreated patches.
Remember to use a white eyeliner pencil because the laser hair removal system will pick up a darker color as a hair follicle where there is none, and that can lead to a skin burn.
4. Wash area again to remove singed hair smell (if present) and white pencil marks. Apply a noncomedogenic lotion.
Helpful Tip: Some may smell singed hair after treatment in certain areas of your body. We have found that coarser hair tends to lead to this singed hair smell. It is nothing to be concerned about. To get rid of the smell, just wash the newly treated area and carry on your skincare routine.
Laser Hair Removal FAQ – Questions from our readers
Below are some questions from our friends and readers about laser hair removal, at home devices and options, and general concerns about hair removal.
Is it safe to do laser hair removal at home?
Laser hair removal is completely safe to do at home. All of the laser hair removal devices we recommend (at the top of this article) are FDA approved for hair removal. Remember, always follow the directions for each device, patch test in small area on your body to make sure you dont have any negative reactions before you begin to use it on a larger area like face, arms, or legs, and start at the lowest setting before working your way up.
Is laser hair removal permanent?
Technically, laser hair removal is not permanent. Laser hair removal uses a concentrated ray of light to target and damage the hair follicle. After this damage is done, the hair either can’t grow back at all or doesn’t grow back for a long period. Many people with high contrast between their hair and skin (dark hair and light skin) report that laser hair removal is permanent for them. That is because the light was able to target and damage their hair follicles so that their hair would never grow back again.
So while technically hair removal is not considered to be permanent because it works differently depending on your skin and hair color , if you have good skin to hair contrast, you will find that it has permanent results.
Does at home laser hair removal hurt?
At home laser hair removal hurts much less than other forms of hair removal like waxing. People report that each “flash” of laser hair removal feels as anywhere between a sharp tickle to a rubber band snap.
There are several intensities available on laser hair removal devices, so if the highest setting is too much to tolerate, you can always continue treatment on a lower setting.
Do you have to shave before laser? What happens if you don’t shave before laser hair removal? Why do you have to shave before laser?
It’s best if you shave before laser hair removal treatment. The laser removal device uses a focused bean of light that targets the melanin in your hair to differentiate between skin and hair and shoot the light at the hair follicle. If your hair is long, then the laser will think the whole hair length is the hair follicle and then try to focus its light on all of it. This can result in the laser burning your skin as the light tries to burn the hair length in an effort to kill the hair follicle that it thinks is in your skin.
So moral of the story is shave before laser hair removal so you don’t end up with skin burns.
Can I shave the day of laser hair removal?
Yes, you can shave the day of laser hair removal. If your hair grows back in very quickly, it may be best to shave in the 24 hours right before laser hair treatment. Shaving your hair helps the laser focus on your hair follicles better without also burning your skin.
Can you shave in between laser treatments?
You can and should shave in between laser treatments. Shaving has no adverse effect on laser hair removal, and shaving just before your next hair removal session will help the laser’s light better focus on just your hair follicles instead of long hairs.
Do hair grow back after laser removal?
Yes, you will see some hair grow back after laser removal. This is because hair grows in cycles and so it takes 6 to 8 sessions of laser hair removal before hair stops grows.
If you continue to see a few hairs come back in the months or years after the 8th treatment, you can treat those with a single followup treatment.
What are the negatives of laser hair removal?
Here are some negatives of laser hair removal:
Time: If you’re treating large areas like your legs, it can take quite a bit of time to cover the whole space. We recommend breaking it up into smaller areas to make it easier. Also, while it may seem like a lot of time, it certainly is not much time if you compare it to all the minutes you may have spent shaving or waxing in your life so far.
Initial cost: Hair removal devices are a bit more expensive than at home waxing kits or razers for shaving so the initial cost is more than other forms of hair removal.
Pain: Laser hair removal can hurt as much as a rubber band snap, but there adjustable intensity levels on all hair removal devices. So if you have low pain tolerance, try using the hair removal device at a lower intensity.
All in all, not too many negatives. Check out our top picks for at home hair removal at the top of this article.
What is the best at home laser hair removal?
Here is our rankings of the best top at homr laser hair removal devices:
You can read the reviews of each device, it’s pros and cons, and how to use it in our reviews here.
Does hair grow back thicker after laser hair removal?
Hair does not grow back thicker after laser hair removal. In fact, the opposite happens where either the hair does not grow back at all or it grows back much finer and thinner. This is because laser hair removal works by damaging the hair’s follicle root. If it fully damages the root, then that hair will not come back. Otherwise, sometimes you may notice a much thinner hair come back because the follicle was not completely damaged.
You should not notice hair growing back thicker after laser hair removal.
How can I speed up the shedding after laser hair removal?
Shedding is great sign because it means the laser succesfully targeted the hair follicle. To speed up the shedding after laser hair removal, you can use a physical exfoliator like exfoliating gloves or an exfoliating scrub.