Take Home Devices Lack the Versatility, Power, and Effectiveness of Professional Laser Hair Removal
At-home hair removal systems are significantly less effective than clinical laser treatments, studies show. As compared to the lasers used at reputable laser hair removal facilities, these devices lack the power and versatility to provide the best results for all skin tones. And while many take-home devices can legally claim permanent hair reduction, the amount of reduction can vary significantly.
One of the few take-home devices that actually uses a laser, Tria, is significantly less effective than the more powerful lasers used in a professional setting. Tria is a diode laser that cannot be used safely on dark skin and is not as effective on light skin as professional lasers, such as Candela’s GentleLASE Alexandrite laser. It’s not legal for take-home devices to be as powerful as professional equipment used by trained personnel, reducing the effectiveness of the do-it-yourself versions. While Tria is one of the most powerful take-home lasers on the market at a maximum setting of 22.0 J/cm2, GentleLASE can go up to 40 J/cm2 for maximum effectiveness on the lightest skin tones.
When comparing long-term results, the difference is clear. In a study published in 2009, more than 2,000 patients in Turkey were studied after laser hair removal treatments from an Alexandrite laser, the type of laser many clinics now use for laser hair removal. Over six months, study participants saw mean hair reduction of 80.6 percent. In a 2007 clinical study on the effectiveness of Tria, six months after their last treatment, clients saw a mean reduction of 40.6 percent. This dropped to 33 percent after a full year.
Devices such as the Silk’n Flash & Go use high intensity light, not a laser, to remove hair. These devices are a home version of the IPL used in some laser hair removal facilities. In a study by Emerson and Town, published in 2009, researchers found a mean of 51 percent hair reduction in the treated areas six months after simulated home use. Another clinical study conducted by Alster and Tanzi found only a 43 percent mean reduction across all areas and noted that the device could not be used on the darkest skin tones (V and VI on the Fitzpatrick Scale). The power of this device is also very weak – just over 4 J/cm2, 82 percent weaker than the GentleLASE clinical laser.
The difference is even more dramatic when considering take-home devices that are not laser or light based, such as the No!no! hair removal device. No!no! and other “hot-wire” devices merely cut and burn the hair without damaging the follicle and reducing re-growth. One 2013 study found that it was no different from regular shaving. Brian Biesman, MD, the author of the study wrote, “Relative to shaving, the hot-wire (no!no!) device does not produce lessened hair density, decreased hair re-growth rate, greater duration of effect, nor induce changes in hair thickness and color. We conclude that the hot-wire device does not offer any benefit as compared to shaving.” The reviews found on online merchants echo these findings. Over 70 percent of product reviews on Amazon are only one-star, with many of the comments citing lack of results.
Dermatologist Joel Schlessinger told Dermatology Times that these take-home devices act as “training wheels” to introduce consumers to these types of treatments. Ultimately, he said, most consumers will end up wanting the “more intense cosmetic experience” that can be provided by a professional.
Biesman, B.S. “Evaluation of a Hot-Wire Hair Removal Device Compared to Razor Shaving.” Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. 2013 Jul;45(5):283-95.
Emerson, R. & Town, G. “Hair Removal with a Novel, Low Fluence, Home-use Intense Pulsed Light Device.” Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy. 2009 Jun;11(2):98-105.
Hilton L. “Help at hand: At-home laser, light devices won’t replace dermatologic expertise, clinician says.” Dermatology Times [serial online]. March 2012;33(3):57-59.
Kutlubay, Z. “Alexandrite Laser Hair Removal Results in 2359 Patients: a Turkish Experience.” Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy. 2009 Jun;11(2):85-93.
Town, G. & Caerwyn, A. “Measurement of Home-use Laser and Intense Pulsed Light Systems for Hair Removal: Preliminary Report.” Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy. 2009 Jun: 11: 157-168.
Wheeler, R.G. “Simulated Consumer Use of a Battery-Powered, Hand-held, Portable Diode Laser (810 nm) for Hair Removal: A Safety, Efficacy and Ease-of-Use Study.” Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. 2007 (39): 476-493.