Hair. It's everywhere — and I mean everywhere. And while some people are fine letting their hair grow as nature intended, others prefer a more manicured look. But achieving that "smooth as a baby's bottom" look and feel isn't as easy as taking a razer and going to town. The hair will only come back thicker, and think of the demanding maintenance schedule not to mention the unsightly stubble, the potential for razor burn and the ingrown hairs.
No, for hair removal like this, you're going to need something a bit more high tech, something like an at-home laser hair removal or intense pulsed light (IPL) system. But which one of these systems is right for you, and which is the best of the bunch?
We've done extensive research combining the top sellers on Amazon as well as recommendations from beauty and publications such as Marie Claire, and these are the best IPL and laser-hair-removal devices you can buy now.
How we picked
Why you can trust Tom's Guide? Our writers and editors spend hours analyzing and reviewing products, services, and apps to help find what's best for you. Find out more about how we test, analyze, and rate.
To round up the best home IPL/laser hair removal devices on the market, we checked lists from all over the web, including Marie Claire, BestReviews.com, GroomandStyle.com, Healthline and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. From there, we researched each product to ensure it's cleared by the FDA. To date, there aren't any home laser/IPL hair removal products that are FDA-approved. Next, we compared the most popular brands on the web with the top-selling models on Amazon.com, weighing in authentic customer feedback.
Here are the best home IPL and laser-hair-removal systems
When it comes to getting rid of hair, the Tria Beauty Hair Removal Laser is at the top of everyone's list. Using the same diode laser technology found in your dermatologist's office, the FDA-cleared Tria is noted for its ability to remove dark, coarse hair on both the face and body. If you go to the site, there's a skin tone-hair color graph that lets you know if the device is safe for you to use. The device is not recommended for medium, dark brown or black skin.
For those who can use the device, its high fluence rate is the secret to its success in removing hair. However, that higher rate could mean more pain for some people, which, paired with Tria's small coverage, could mean a lot of uncomfortable zaps. Still, many users report significant hair reduction when using the device on a bimonthly basis for three months. After that, you'll only need touch-ups every now and then.
Aside from its efficacy, Tria's popularity stems from its small, handheld size and its lack of a cord. The large LCD display at the top of the device makes it easy to track how many treatments you've done, as well as the power level. Tria gives you a recommended number of treatments for each area to ensure you get the best result. Underarms, for example, should get 100 pulse treatments.
At $149, the CosBeauty IPL is the most affordable hair removal system on our list. The device has received top marks for its speedy process, with some users claiming it takes only 8 minutes to do a full arm or a leg. The company says you should start seeing results after two to four sessions.
Unfortunately, the CosBeauty IPL is safe only on lighter skin tones with darker hair. But in case you aren't sure whether about your skin tone, the device has an integrated skin sensor that will not pulse if the skin is too dark. The CosBeauty also ships with a pair of safety glasses. If you are the correct skin tone, the CosBeauty can be used on the upper mouth, arms, armpits, back, legs and bikini area.
In addition to IPL treatments, the CosBeauty has interchangeable heads that the company says can stimulate collagen regeneration. There's also an acne-treatment head that the company says can kill acne-causing bacteria. One of the main complaints about the CosBeauty comes from its cord, which consumers say is is too short. That can be a problem if you're trying to get to a hard-to-reach area.
Finally, a device that plays nice with most skin tones! According to Silk'n, in addition to IPL technology, the Infinity 400,000 uses the company's eHPL technology, which leverages galvanic energy to open pores. This allows the itsy-bitsy device to better deal with coarser hairs at the root better than regular IPL. Another reason Silk'n claims to have a leg up on the competition is the Infinity's quartz bulb, which the company says reloads pulses faster than other brands. That means you'll get more pulses in a shorter time.
Similar to other hair-removal devices, the Infinity has a smart skin sensor installed. If it detects darker skin, it won't allow you to set the intensity setting beyond one or two of the five available settings. The device also comes with a free app so you can schedule reminders for your next treatment. Best of all, you don't have to worry about springing for any refill cartridges since Silk'n promises a lifetime of pulses.
If you're searching for longevity, look no further than the Braun Silk Expert 5. The hair- removal IPL lamp is rated for an incredible 15 years of monthly use. It's highly rated for its efficiency on face and body hair, and Braun claims use of the lamp will result in permanent hair reduction in only four weeks. But it doesn't just give fast results, thanks to Glide Mode the device can pulse more areas at a faster rate. But if you're trying to remove hair on a smaller area, like your lip or bikini line, the precision attachment can take care of all the finer details.
Speaking of finer details, the device works best with shaved skin. To ensure you follow directions, the Silk Expert 5 ships with a Venus razer along with a cute storage bag. Braun designed the Silk Expert 4 with 10 energy levels, making it safe enough to use on your face. However, the device will work only with certain skin tones, so people with darker skin will have to find another option.
For such an expensive product, we were a little surprised that it doesn't have a display so newbies can easily navigate the settings.
We like the Remington iLight Essential for its price and its size. At $189, it's one of the cheaper hair removers on the list. And thanks to its small size, it's easy to maneuver into those tricky areas. The iLight is rated for 15 years of use, and you'll never have to worry about replacement bulbs since Remington claims the quartz lamp can deliver up to 350,000 flashes.
While it should work with most skin tones, the integrated skin tester will let you know if you're cleared for use. If you are, the TriggerLess technology should glide along your skin, delivering three times the flashes of competing devices. Consumer reviews caution that you should exercise patience when using this device, as it may take some time for hair- reduction results to show.
Like most laser hair removers, the Remington isn't all that great on darker skin, and it has a problem picking up red or blonde hairs. However, it doesn't work at all on white or gray hair.
Dark skinned or fair haired, the Iluminage Touch Permanent Hair Reduction Device just doesn't care! The Iluminage Touch is one of the few IPL systems that work with two of the most difficult cases in laser hair removal darker skin and fair hair. That's because the Iluminage doesn't just rely on IPL, it also uses RF (radio frequency) to create the company's "elos" technology, which works on just about everything. The verdict still seems to be out on white hair.
You use the Iluminage like any other IPL device. You can switch between gliding or precision pulses to get the job done. However, unlike competing devices, it may take a little longer to see results. And you have to use the Iluminage more often than other devices (once a week versus bimonthly). However, for people with darker skin or lighter hair, this seems like a fair trade-off since a device that caters to them is few and far between.
That stated, the catering doesn't come cheap at almost $500. And at 64 ounces, the Iluminage is the heaviest device on our list.
Laser vs. IPL
So what’s the difference between lasers and IPL? For some, the word laser conjures up visions of a cartoonish, megalomaniacal villain fiendishly planning your demise. Others might think of Lasik surgery. Laser hair removal is neither of these, at least when it comes to hair removal. Using a precise beam of monochromatic light, laser-hair-removal systems target the melanin in hair follicles. Laser light is coherent, meaning that all the waves within the light are in sync, on the same wavelength and parallel, making for a stronger effect. Think of it like a higher-powered laser power.
IPL does pretty much the same thing, but uses a pulsed light source to get the job done. And while a laser uses monochromatic light, IPL uses many different colors, but it is not coherent light and covers a broader area than laser, making it less effective in hair removal. It's closer to natural light and can take on an orange-red glow, which looks kind of like a camera flash.
But what does laser/IPL actually do?
Targeting the hair's melanin, both systems penetrate the hair's root. When the hair absorbs the light, the follicle and hair shaft heats up. The contact essentially damages the root, leading to an interruption in hair growth. Depending on a number of factors, the damage can be permanent, meaning that hair growth is either completely halted or significantly slowed.
Is a home laser right for me?
That depends. The best results with home systems are typically on fair skin with dark hair. Since both methods target melanin, people with darker skin might be better off with a trip to a professional, as the chances of potentially ruining your skin is lower. However, while professional laser hair removal is likely to be faster, it's definitely going to be more expensive.
If you have darker skin and want to go the home route, your best bet will be a laser with its concentrated beam. IPL covers a broad swath, and the light can be absorbed into the skin at varying depths, which can lead to skin irritation or burns. Ouch!
Does it hurt?
Yes. Both methods can hurt, but how much depends on your pain tolerance and from where the hair is being removed. Areas with less fat (elbows, knees, ankles) might hurt a bit more than meatier areas. Some people describe the pain as a small pinch, while others liken it to getting a tattoo. But as the saying goes, "Beauty is pain."
Here are some essential phrases to keep in mind when researching home IPL or laser- hair-removal devices.
Fluence: Nn energy level measured in joules per square centimeter (J/cm2). The higher the fluence, the stronger the beam.
Pulses: The time between light flashes.
Fitzpatrick scale: Also known as the skin typing test, it's a scale that's used to classify skin types. It works with makeup foundation, concealer and, apparently, laser-hair-removal devices.