These days, beauty-savvy consumers are all about getting salon-quality results at home. You can buy gel nail polish at the drugstore or microdermabrasion kits at the pharmacy and, really, it makes sense. Why bother with all the hassle of juggling appointments and driving back-and-forth when you could just pour a glass of wine at home, turn on Netflix and give yourself a quality facial or pedicure, all while saving money?
Given this trend, it’s not surprising that you can also purchase at-home laser hair removal kits. For a few hundred bucks, these portable gadgets promise you all the perks of professional laser hair removal, including permanent hair loss, smooth skin, plus the convenience of doing it whenever – and wherever – you want to.
So, this obviously begs the question: Is it worth it to outsource your laser hair removal to, well, yourself? Do these at-home tools really do the job? Are they safe? Are professional clinics really just a money grab?
If you’re thinking of skipping the professional treatments and going the DIY route, here are some things you should take into consideration before taking the plunge.
Comfort is key
It’s true that laser technology has come a long way in the past decade and one definite benefit of that is that it’s not nearly as painful as it was when it became a mainstream treatment option.
However, professional clinics have the resources to employ cooling measures before, during or after sessions, which can make a big difference in your comfort and healing. These typically take the form of gels, medical-grade Cyrogen spray or cold air, which can actually be attached directly to the laser itself so your entire treatment is much more comfortable.
At-home setups are not only higher on the “ouch” spectrum, but can be more time-consuming if you’re constantly taking breaks to give your skin – and pain receptors – a bit of a breather. A comfortable treatment chair and medical-grade skin soothers sound like great reasons to visit a professional!
Two hands make everything easier
Another benefit of getting laser hair removal at a certified clinic has to do with accuracy. Just like DIY waxing or self-tanning, it can be quite the undertaking to handle large or awkward parts of your body yourself. Laser in particular requires quite a bit of accuracy to target each follicle and if you’re treating hard-to-reach parts of your body like the back of your legs or your bikini line, it’s going to take quite a bit longer.
In the end, if you aren’t able to consistently laser each part of your skin equally, your DIY kit might not get you the results you’re looking for at all, which means you’re putting in a lot of work for nothing. A professional not only treats hard-to-reach locations on a regular basis, but he or she will have the luxury of two free hands, making your appointments faster, more comfortable and ultimately more effective.
Not only that, but you don’t have to do anything at all during your treatment. Read a magazine, listen to your favorite podcast, or do whatever you need to distract yourself instead of trying to zap the hairs in a place you can’t even see.
There’s money to be saved … but you get what you pay for
One very obvious plus to the idea of a home-based laser kit is that it can cost less money upfront. The initial purchase price for a DIY version can be as low as a couple hundred dollars, while a full treatment cycle in a New York laser hair removal clinic – which can take up to a year – can be several times that.
If your main concern about hair removal has to do with pricing, and if you’re willing to put in the time it takes to do it on your own terms, well, that’s one thing. However, you also need to take into consideration how much value you’re placing on your time. Seeing a professional laser hair removal specialist is typically quicker, more effective and less painful, which leaves you more time to do the things you love.
After all, if you’re committed to handling it yourself, don’t forget that a full cycle takes several sessions, scheduled weeks or months apart. If you’re the kind of person who has a closet full of half-finished DIY projects (no judgement!) take that time investment into consideration.
Safety and effectiveness … are you willing to compromise?
Store-bought devices tend to use IPL technology, also called Intense Pulse Light. This is an earlier form of laser technology that many reputable clinics believe is on its way out, as its usefulness is quite limited. The problem with IPL is that it comes with a higher risk of tissue damage and is most effective on those with fair skin. If you have darker skin or tan easily, it’s unlikely to work its magic as well on you.
Most high-end clinics today opt to not use IPL, as there are many other forms of laser that are more effective and can be used on patients of any skin tone. A reputable clinic is likely to have a range of sophisticated devices that are significantly more versatile and safer for your skin. IPL can cause you to be even more susceptible to sun damage after a session.
The verdict? Sometimes you really do get what you pay for and laser hair removal tends to fall into that category. The DIY craze is great for some things, but when you’re dealing with something as delicate and precise as zapping individual hair follicles, you’re taking a big risk by handling it yourself. You might save a couple hundred dollars, but you’re putting your skin at risk, limiting your options and setting yourself up for a less effective treatment cycle. Some things are worth the bargain, but your skin? Definitely not something you should be jeopardizing.