It's not as scary as it sounds.

By Alexa Erickson
May 26, 2020
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If you were a typical pre-teen, shaving was a milestone. The seal of approval from mom and dad to finally rid your body of body hair felt like years in the making. I should have known that excitement was as short-lived as my first crush. Shaving has since become a tedious task often involving razor burn and years of spending far too much money trying to find the right razor. At 31 years old, I’ve finally thrown in the towel, and become a laser hair removal convert, and I’m so glad I did. The difference, however, is that I did it in the comfort of my own home.

When laser hair removal comes to mind, you likely think of booking an appointment at a specialist’s office, having to take valuable time out of your day to expose intimate parts of your body to a stranger over a series of sessions. But what I did was far from that.

The demand for at-home beauty treatments, from eyelash extensions to gel manicures and everything in between, has created a new wave of products once thought to be out of reach for DIYers. Are they safe? Are they easy? Are they pricey? I’ve tried the DIY lashes, I’ve attempted the gel manicures. But it’s at-home laser hair removal that has my heart.

While I love self-care, the last thing I want to feel while treating myself is frustration and pain. My experience with at-home laser hair removal has been anything but. Instead, I have found an extremely easy and effective solution for skipping the razor blade once and for all.

Here’s everything you need to know about at-home laser hair removal from a first-timer’s perspective.

How does at-home laser hair removal differ from the type you get in-office?

Before getting started with at-home laser hair removal, it was important for me to know the process I was about to put myself through, so I tapped an expert from the brand I was interested in using.

“Energy-based hair removal methods like laser and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) are methods of hair removal that provide long lasting results,” says Miriam Rietzler, head of Braun Female Beauty Research and Development. “The most important difference is the type of light used to achieve results. IPL has a broad range of wavelengths and a wider beam of light versus laser light’s narrow focus, single wavelength beam of light. IPL effectively reduces hair regrowth, giving you permanently visible hair removal.” 

Who is at-home laser hair removal right for?

Before you even concern yourself with buying a device, it’s important to understand that laser hair removal isn’t for all skin and hair types.

“IPL is most effective on light to medium skin tones, with hair ranging from dark blonde to brown to black,” says Dr. Rietzler. “The technology is not effective on very blonde, red, gray, or white hair where this is less or no melanin to absorb the light.”

How to prep for at-home laser hair removal

Did I really trust myself to try at-home laser hair removal? At first, not really, but after watching various YouTube videos on the process, it looked simpler than applying mascara. But even more than that, I was intrigued by its value and convenience.

I ended up choosing the Braun Silk Expert Pro 5 ($330; bedbathandbeyond.com), the third and latest generation of IPL devices from the brand. The device says you’ll see permanent reduction in hair regrowth beginning in just four weeks.

The hardest part of at-home laser hair removal is sitting yourself down to read the instructions. I was worried it would hurt and that I’d have no idea how to do it. I feared I would find a way to break the product on the first try. But once I got myself to finally open the package, I realized everything was incredibly straightforward.

“There’s no commute, no need to make an appointment, no concern about hygiene at the salon, and for some, it’s uncomfortable having to expose their body to a potential stranger,” explains Rietzler.

Even though the whole point of laser hair removal is to keep you from ever having to shave, pluck, or wax again, you’ll actually need to shave prior to each session. Whereas waxing and plucking remove the root of the hair, shaving merely cuts the hair to the surface of the skin. And because laser hair removal requires targeting the root to effectively remove it, you’ll need to shave to ensure the follicle remains.

“Both IPL light and laser impulses reach the root of the hair via the melanin,” explains Rietzler. “This stimulation has a ‘damaging’ effect on the root, and after a few treatment sessions, will inhibit the root to produce new hair.”

What to expect when using at-home laser hair removal

The Braun Silk Expert Pro 5 offers very easy-to-follow instructions. You begin by connecting the device to an electrical outlet, then pressing any button to activate it. Once you press the device firmly to your skin, you’ll notice LEDs igniting on the power bar. White LEDS indicate that valid skin tone has been detected. If there is no light, there’s no skin contact. If you see red LED, this indicates invalid skin tone, or that full skin contact has not been detected. There are two methods you can try. For smaller areas like the underarms, I suggest the stamping technique, in which you press and release the treatment button, and lift off after each flash to move it to the next adjacent spot. For larger areas, like the legs, try the gliding method, which involves pressing the treatment button and holding down while gliding along the area.

Does price matter?

When I first began looking for at-home laser hair removal devices, I noticed some were marketed as low as $50, and others around $400.

The device I selected, which is accredited by the Skin Health Alliance and cleared by the FDA, uses a special technology that measures skin tone at 80 times per second. “So throughout your treatment, the energy level is adjusted to the optimal level," says Rietzler. "Additionally, the highest power factor of Silk Expert Pro 5 (i.e., the fastest repetition rate, the lowest time between individual flashes at high energy) results in fast treatment times and an almost continuous motion when the device is used in gliding mode."

Other devices can take seconds from one flash to the next, resulting in uneven coverage if the device is moved too fast, Rietzler adds.

The most important question: does it hurt?

Truthfully, no! The Silk Expert Pro 5 has three settings. Three indicator lights for standard, two lights for gentle, and one light, which is the lowest light intensity with fast flash rate, for extra gentle. I started on the extra gentle setting because I was so worried it would hurt. It didn’t. After the first flash, I upped it to the second setting, but again, felt next to nothing. The standard setting offers a warming sensation to the area that is being flashed.

I used the device on my underarms, bikini line, upper lip, and legs. My upper lip felt the most sensation out of any area, followed by my bikini line, which resembled a noticeable tingling sensation as opposed to the warming sensation on my legs or underarms. But I never felt any pain.

I couldn’t believe how quick the process was. Using the device on all four areas collectively took me less than 10 minutes per week.

How long does at-home laser hair removal take?

For each area you treat, you’ll need to wait one week before treating again. For the start-up phase, expect to see results within the first four to 12 weeks. I noticed after three treatments that my upper lip was almost completely void of the mild mustache that once lived there. My underarms, bikini line, and legs saw a more gradual decline in hair. Where it was once dark and coarse, after each treatment I noticed it got lighter and finer, until by week eight almost all the hair was gone.

If it takes longer than expected, don’t assume it doesn’t work. If you still see some hairs growing after a given number of sessions, these are likely hairs that were missed because they were lying dormant and not in their growth phase.

As for maintenance, continue based on your needs every one to two months.

To buy: $330; bedbathandbeyond.com.