Laser epilation, also called laser hair removal, uses light to damage the hair follicle, causing body hair to fall out at the root. This procedure was once available only from professional clinics, but hand-held consumer devices now allow you to remove hair at home. These devices are usually less expensive, less powerful, and less dangerous than commercial varieties, with some providing only temporary results. The best laser epilator brands use true lasers instead of pulsed light and have been approved by a government agency. Look for devices that advertise realistic results and which offer a warranty in case of product failure.
Intense light in the right frequency can heat up the dark hair follicle without damaging surrounding skin, causing the hair to fall out. This works best on people with dark hair and light skin and will not work at all on gray, blond, or white hair. Dark-skinned patients often experience reduced effectiveness or undesirable side effects. In most cases, multiple laser epilator treatments are required for permanent removal, since hair must be in the growth phase for effective treatment.
Clinic-based laser hair removal first became publicly available in the 1990s, with home laser epilators appearing in the late 2000s. These devices use less power and a smaller treatment head than professional models, requiring longer treatment periods for effective hair removal. They often include extra safety features, such as skin tone sensors, which reduce the danger of burns, pigmentation irregularities, and other side effects associated with poor hair-skin contrast.
At-home epilation devices may use either intense pulsed light (IPL) technology or true lasers. An IPL-based laser epilator produces greater immediate results, but cannot remove hair permanently. Any hair removed will come back during the next growth cycle, so keep this in mind if considering this type. Devices with true lasers tend to cost more and require more careful treatment, but produce longer-lasting effects. Many advertise only permanent hair reduction, since they may leave a few stray hairs or lighter, slower-growing hair that can't permanently be removed.
Some laser epilators carry certification by a government health or medical body. These devices and the technology behind them have been tested for consumer use, but may not be approved for use on the face, genitals, or other sensitive parts of the body. Devices without a certification use unapproved technology and may not be as safe or effective.
Good laser epilator manufacturers advertise their products realistically, and will tell you if their devices don't work with certain skin or hair types. Avoid products that don't mention disadvantages or which do not offer a replacement plan in case of problems. Read all warranty and guarantee documentation carefully before purchasing, as the battery and light source in many laser epilator devices are good for only a certain number of pulses. The manufacturer may not replace devices that fail after this point.