Laser hair removal machines have received a bad rap over the years, despite now being one of the most painless ways to get rid of unwanted body hair. Sure, in the past the at-home devices may have been too expensive or complicated to use, but much like the beauty industry itself, they've come a long way since then.
Now, don't get us wrong – hair on your legs, in your armpits and just about everywhere else is *completely* and 100% normal. But if you happen to prefer a silky-smooth and hair-free finish, that's perfectly fine. And that's precisely where the best laser hair removal machines come in.
While other hair removal methods such as shaving, waxing kits and electric trimmers are completely valid, laser hair removal is definitely something you need to try. It's easy to see why they're so popular too. After all, more traditional methods of hair removal have their fair share of side effects, including ingrown hairs, itching, redness and irritation. So, if you're open to experimenting with your beauty routine, we thoroughly recommend casting aside your trusty razor and check out some of the best laser hair removal machines. Luckily for us all, they've improved tenfold over the past five years, and laser devices now allow you to reap the permanent hair reduction benefits of IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) safely – and pretty painlessly – from the comfort of your own home.
No need to be nervous – to make your life easier, we've put together a list of all the very best laser hair removal machines out there. Plus, we've also included some expert opinions and answered your FAQs to ease your mind even further. Enjoy.
Meet the experts:
What does IPL stand for? | What's the difference between IPL and laser? | How laser hair removal works | Is laser hair removal at home safe? | Does it work on everyone? | How can you prepare for a treatment? | The best at home laser hair removal devices.
Best laser hair removal machines at a glance:
- Best laser hair removal machine overall: SmoothSkin Bare+ Ultrafast IPL Device Exclusive Collection, WAS £199 NOW £133, CurrentBody
- Best laser hair removal machine for sensitive skin: Philips Lumea Prestige IPL Hair Removal Device, WAS £459.99 NOW £359.99, Boots
- Best powerful hair removal machine: TRIA Hair Removal Laser 4X, WAS £375 NOW £337.50, LookFantastic
- Best laser hair removal machine for face: JOVS Venus Pro Skin Rejuvenation and IPL Hair Removal Device, £319, CurrentBody
How we tested the best laser hair removal devices:
Each of the devices below scored highly when marked against ease-of-use, versatility, pain felt during use, attachments and how quickly we saw results on different skin types. As well as testing IPL devices like the Silk N' Infinity and Braun Silk Expert Pro 5, we checked customer reviews and spoke to dermatology experts. Below, you'll find the 13 products that made the cut.
Including preparation, cost, and aftercare.
What does IPL stand for?
IPL stands for intense pulsed light. IPL laser hair removal is arguably the most effective hair removal technique around (even more so than your epilator) – namely because it’s a permanent hair removal system for both legs and hard-to-reach areas.
Is IPL better than laser?
There is a difference. “First and foremost IPL is not a laser, but there are similarities between the two technologies in that both their functionalities are based on light and both require several initial sessions to achieve optimum long-lasting results," Chloé told us. “Neither technology can offer permanent hair removal, but both are great options for achieving long term hair reduction.”
"Laser technology is based on a single, concentrated wavelength that precisely penetrates the skin. The light from the laser goes through the melanin (the pigment that colours your hair) in the hair into the root. The light converts to heat and destroys the hair follicle and hair bulb to prevent future growth. Laser treatments are carried out either in salons or by dermatologists and require top-up maintenance sessions.
“IPL on the other hand can be carried out either in salon or in the comfort of your own home with a product like Philips Lumea," Chloé continued. "IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) is made up of a wide spectrum of light, and can treat larger areas at a time vs a laser." IPL also uses lower energy levels in comparison to full laser treatments, so it takes a little longer to work.
“At-home IPL kits do not come with goggles but can differ for each device, which indicates how low the light technology is compared to in-clinic laser hair removal,” Barbara added.
How do laser hair removal machines work?
“With IPL technology, pulses of light are applied to the skin and are absorbed by the roots of hair in the 'growing' phase,” Chloé said. “This light is absorbed by the melanin, which is responsible for the pigmentation in the hair. This light energy becomes warm and stimulates the hair follicle to go into a resting phase, which causes hair to naturally shed and inhibits regrowth. As only the hairs in the growth stage are treated this way, a few sessions are required to target all the hairs to reach the required results.”
Repeated use of this technique means that, over time, regrowth is reduced. Even when it does grow back in the early days of treatment, it will grow back at a significantly slower rate. You can use IPL technology to banish hair on your legs, bikini line and in smaller areas like your underarms.
Are at-home laser hair removal machines safe?
Yes, at-home laser hair removal devices tend to be safe. Take the Philips Lumea, for example. “It has been designed and developed with dermatologists and leading skin scientists. It has a number of in-built safety mechanisms, and when used correctly shouldn't have any implications to the skin health.”
The biggest risk with cheaper devices is scarring – though the best way to avoid this is to avoid zapping sensitive skin, avoid using the treatment for facial hair or over your neck, and do a patch testing on a small area before committing to your larger areas like your legs. Beginners are advised to wait for three-four weeks post-patch test to make sure you experience no side effects.
When you start using an IPL hair removal device, you should add a broad-spectrum sunscreen to your whole-body skincare routine, as your skin will be more sensitive to UV rays. Also, avoid anything that can irritate your skin like deodorant, hot showers, scented body lotions and perfumes for at least 24 hours after a zap.
Does laser hair removal hurt?
IPL is widely considered to be one of the most pain-free hair removal methods, but this ultimately depends on you and the device you're using. Nowadays, many laser hair removal devices has built-in cooling technologies, which makes those quick bursts of light as painless as possible. Naturally, you should also always look to start off on the lowest settings possible to see how you react.
Do laser hair removal machines work on everyone?
Sadly, IPL devices don't work on all skin and hair types. “Hair colours and skin tone influence how suitable IPL treatment will be on an individual level, meaning that it won't be for everyone,” Chloé told us. "IPL is most effective when there is a greater contrast between the hair colour and skin tone.” Individuals with fairer skin and dark hair have a greater contrast meaning more of the light will be absorbed by the hair rather than the skin.
As with all other IPL based treatments, this light energy is absorbed by the melanin in the hair follicle. When there is not enough melanin present in the hair, for example in light blonde, white or grey hair, then IPL will not work. Equally, red hair has a different type of melanin present, which cannot absorb the light so again is not suitable for IPL treatment. IPL treatments are also not recommended for those with the darkest of dark skin tones."
IPL and laser can cause skin discolouration in dark skin if the wrong type of machine is used. In fact, when there is little to no contrast between the hair and the skin, your skin will absorb the light which converts to heat and causes pain, blisters and burns. Ouch.
How should you prepare for laser hair removal at home?
Firstly, “the area must be cleanly shaved within 24 hours prior to the treatment," Barbara told us. “Electric razors are not recommended as the hair is typically left too long. And do not tweeze, wax, or pluck the area being treated between or prior to sessions. Only shave the area."
“Fake tanning products cannot be used for three-four weeks prior to treatment; the area should be thoroughly exfoliated to remove all residues,” Barbara added.
Anything else? Avoid skincare products that can be irritating, such as retinal or brightening ingredients and acidic cleansers prior to your treatment.
After more hair removal content? Head this way for face shavers for women, shaving cream for women and face wax strips. For more from Glamour UK Commerce Editor Sophie Cockett, follow her on Instagram @sophiecockettx. And for more shoppable beauty content from Glamour UK Commerce Writer Denise Primbet, follow her on Twitter @deniseprimbet and Instagram @deniseprimbet.