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Patient Buzz: At-Home Laser Hair Removal – The Expert Weighs In

Marie Clairerecently posted a list of the magazine’s top devices for at-home laser hair removal, noting their budget-friendly appeal. But are these devices safe and effective? How should you counsel your patients?

For an expert opinion, I consulted dermatologist Eliot F. Battle Jr., MD, CEO and co-founder of Cultura Dermatology & Laser Center in Washington, D.C., clinical instructor in the Howard University Department of Dermatology, and Co-Chair of the Skin of Color Update.

How do at-home laser hair removal devices compare in effectiveness with in-office laser hair removal?

At-home laser hair removal devices have now been available for more than a decade. Just like most gadgets, you get what you pay for, so buyer beware. The devices range from using an intense pulsed light source to using actual diode lasers, although with a much lower energy source then office-based devices. Regardless of which device patients choose, at-home devices do not compare with the efficacy and speed of office-based laser systems. At-home devices are very slow. Because of the amount of time it takes to treat an area and their decrease in efficacy as compared with office-based lasers, I view at-home devices more as “hair-growth delay” devices than “hair-reduction” devices. They can be used alone or as maintenance treatments to office-based hair removal. The main limitations are they are best utilized on smaller areas and are contraindicated on patients with skin of color or tanned skin.

Are there any safety concerns with using at-home laser hair removal devices?

Most of these devices are so low powered that they usually don’t have any safety concerns. Sensitive areas can become red for a few hours. Most of these devices have built-in monitors that will prevent them from being used on darker skin types.

How should dermatologists counsel their patients who are interested in at-home laser hair removal devices?

Either the doctor or the patient needs to do their homework and choose a device carefully.

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