ARE HOME LASER HAIR REMOVAL DEVICES REALLY WORTH IT?

Laser hair removal is becoming more and more common as the accessibility and affordability of salon laser hair removal services have risen, and with it, so have laser hair removal devices you can use yourself in the comfort of your own home. While the initial outlay of these devices is usually pretty big, most see it as a more viable way to make themselves permanently hair-free without leaving the house. But are these devices really worth it? In this post I’ll give you my thoughts and experiences using the Remington i-LIGHT Smooth Sense IPL Permanent Hair Removal Device* in comparison to professional laser treatments.

A while ago, I was asked to trial this device for Beauty Heaven for two months and write up a review, but I have been using it since and want to give my thoughts on it after longer term use and how it compares to my experiences of salon laser treatments. I also want to give you a bit of a rundown about the major difference between these at-home devices, and salon laser hair removal devices. There’s a reason you need to be qualified to use a salon-strength laser device!

Remington I-LIGHT Smooth Sense IPL Device

LASER VS IPL

Both ‘laser’ and ‘IPL’ both utilise non-ionising radiation for hair removal; this type of energy does not induce DNA damage. The at-home laser hair removal devices you usually see use what is called Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) as their laser source. This encompasses a broad spectrum of light sources/wavelengths (in the range of about 510 to 1200 nm), as opposed to monochromatic lasers which emit lasers at one wavelength only (generally around 800 nm). This is the main difference when one refers to ‘laser’ as opposed to ‘IPL’ for hair removal (even though they are both laser treatments). The advantage of using IPL is in the broad spectrum of wavelengths it emits, which can be filtered for different emission spectra and thus, different penetrating strengths for different purposes other than hair removal e.g. treating sun damage or rosacea. While versatile, the resulting wavelength selective for hair removal using IPL is not as strong as a monochromatic laser source which is specifically designed for hair removal and thus is less effective at killing the hair follicle than laser. This professional laser treatment is more selective on the hair, and a higher energy is focused onto the follicle rather than surrounding skin. Because of this, you can expect faster results with monochromatic laser treatment compared to IPL.

However, both types are effective in hair reduction over a course of treatments. They both target melanin (the pigment that makes up the colour of your skin and hair), and both will result in permanent hair removal albeit the different numbers of treatments required to achieve this. The way laser acts on the hair follicle is by ‘photothermolysis’ of the hair structure. Melanin chromospheres absorb the laser energy, which is converted into heat that results in thermal damage of the surrounding hair structure such as the shaft and root, and thus destroys the hair follicle. A good way to think about it is how black clothing absorbs heat on a hot day, whereas lighter clothing reflects it. The number of treatments it takes for either to achieve hair removal depends on where you sit on the Fitzpatrick Skin Type Scale which takes into account your skin, hair and eye colour; basically, it’s your pigmentation scale. Darker hairs on lighter skin work better with laser than say, deeper skin tones with dark hair but the lasers can be slightly adjusted to suit the skin tones. Most people with blonde or red hair aren’t usually suitable for laser hair removal since they don’t have enough melanin pigment for the laser to target.

Typical FeaturesSkin Tanning Response (to sun)
Fitzpatrick Skin Type
Pale white skin. Eyes are usually blue, green or hazel. Hair is blond or red. Includes albino-types.
Highly sensitive. Always burns and never tans.
I
Fair skin, usually with blue, green or hazel eyes. Sandy or red hair.
Very sun sensitive. Burns easily, tans with difficulty.
II
Darker white skin. No particular eye or hair colour associated.
Sun sensitive skin. Tans after initial burning.
III
Light brown or olive skin. Usually dark coloured hair with brown eyes, but may have blue or green eyes.
Minimally sun sensitive. Burns minimally, tans easily.
IV
Brown skin or dark olive skin. Almost always has black or dark brown hair, with brown eyes, but may have blue or green eyes.
Sun-insensitive skin. Usually does not burn, and readily tans to a darker colour. 
V
Dark brown or black skin. Almost always with black hair and dark brown eyes.
Sun-insensitive and deeply pigmented. Never burns, always tans darkly.
VI

THE REMINGTON i-LIGHT SMOOTH SENSE IPL DEVICE

The Remington Smooth Sense device is one based on IPL for reducing and eventually removing hair. At a retail price of $899.95, it’s a huge outlay for most people and isn’t accessible financially for most. This is probably my biggest gripe with this device, because a treatment price in salon for say, $59, every 6 weeks seems much more manageable than 900 bucks in one go. In saying that, I have noticed it on sale a few times for much better prices so keep a look out.

Remington I-LIGHT Smooth Sense IPL Device

Specs

For the specs, it has a few different features which makes this device pretty snazzy. For one, it has an integrated skin tone sensor that adjusts the laser based on what your skin tone is (based on the Fitzpatrick Scale above), but this particular device can only be used on skin types I-V. It has two different sized heads for regular or smaller areas, an infinity bulb so you never need to replace it, and a skin contact sensor that means a laser source will only be emitted if the full head is in contact with the skin as a safety precaution. It also has three modes: Power, Express, and Sensitive which each have different intensities for different pain tolerances. Those who feel too much pain can opt for the Sensitive mode, or those that can easily put up with the slight zapping sensation can go for the Power mode.

Three modes of the Remington I-LIGHT Smooth Sense IPL Device

Ease of Use

I must admit, the first time I went to use this I was overwhelmed with it all, and got really anxious about using it properly. The included instructions are helpful to an extent, but I would definitely suggest looking this up on Youtube to get a better idea of how to operate it so it’s not as scary. When it comes to using it over an entire area, it’s not a quick process. I’ve been using it mostly on my legs, which is a larger area but it does take quite a long time to cover the whole area, and this has to do with the size of the attachment. The biggest attachment still only has quite a small surface area to hit, and I really wished for a larger attachment to cover big areas like my legs. You will need to set quite a bit of time aside if you are doing your legs or large areas, but it’s quick for smaller areas like your underarm or lip/chin.

Pain

What’s the pain factor I hear you asking? Well, if you’re someone like me who has had professional laser performed in a clinic, this is a lot easier to tolerate. I have had laser done on my bikini and underarm areas. I am known to squeal a little in the clinic… There are some areas that are more tender to the laser, say the back of my knees, but for the most part it’s quite easy to tolerate. It just feels like a zap on your skin, some people liken it to the flicking of a rubber band against your skin. If the pain is too much, you can opt for the Sensitive mode. I didn’t get any lingering pain or discomfort, suffered no burns and had adverse reactions to it, so for me, I’m happy to claim that it’s safe for use. However, I can’t speak for everyone there. Some rules to stick by when using an at-home IPL device is to clean shave before every use so that the laser can be focused on your hair root rather than your whole hair shaft and lose effectiveness. Make sure the skin is clear of any moisturisers or oils helps too, and do not have any fake tan applied onto your skin.

Results

As for the results, I’ve been using it for over 3 months now but not sticking religiously to the ‘once a fortnight’ schedule. So in reality I might not have used it as much as recommended. I didn’t really notice any results in hair growing back after the first or second use, but by the third use I did see some patches start to form on my legs where hair would usually grow. While a slight difference at this point, it’s only getting more noticeable with each use. Up until now I definitely wouldn’t go as far to say I’m hair-free on my legs, I think it would probably require another few months to completely eliminate my hair. In comparison, after my first session of professional laser I couldn’t believe the immediate results I got. The hairs grew back so much more sparse, and much thinner than they were originally, and that was just after one use. I do expect this however, given how much more powerful professional laser is as opposed to IPL. So performing more treatments and waiting longer for similar results is not a shock to me. I also wonder about the long term effects of the at-home IPL devices. I’m more inclined to think they are great for maintenance post-laser treatments, but might not be as effective long-term.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Given my experiences with professional laser treatments, my honest thoughts are to invest in clinic treatments instead of an at-home IPL device. Granted, some people may have anxiety or are uncomfortable with going to a salon to have a laser treatment so for those people something like the IPL devices you can use at home are probably a better bet. But for me, I found the device too tedious, cumbersome, and too long to use. I much prefer to take myself to a salon and get it done using a stronger laser administered by a professional. I think the device will come in handy for maintaining my laser-treated areas for any rogue hairs that grow back, but for routine use to eliminate hair from scratch? I’d probably give it a miss. Plus, I just can’t get past the $900 price tag for it! $900 blown in one go feels like it would be much more of a stab in your bank account than it split across payments for a treatment every 6 weeks.

Have you ever had laser hair removal? Do you get it done professionally or do you have a similar IPL device at home? Let me know your experiences in the comments below!

AT-HOME IPL DEVICES: ARE THEY WORTH IT?

Further Reading:

Gupta, G. Diode Laser: Permanent hair “reduction” not “removal”. 2014. Int J Tricholoy, 6, 34.

Zins, J.E., Alghoul, M., Gonzalez, A.M., Strumble, P. 2008. Self-reported outcome after diode laser hair removal. Ann Plast Surg, 60, 233–8.

Ash, C., Town, G., Whittall, R., Tooze, L., Phillips, J. 2017. Lasers and intense pulsed light (IPL) association with cancerous lesions. Lasers Med Sci, 32, 1927-33.

*Product was kindly provided for review. All views, experiences and opinions are 100% genuine and my own. The Beauty & the Geek AU is no expert so please do not substitute my opinions with professional advice. See more on my policies here.

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