Diode Laser Hair Removal Versus Home Pulsed Light Devices

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Body and facial hair maintenance can be demanding, to say the least, especially when the warm weather hits. If we want to say our final goodbyes to plucking, waxing, shaving, or depilatory creams, it seems professional laser hair removal is the way to go. With new devices hitting the market each day, though, it can be easy to get stuck on whether the seemingly more economical benefits of an at-home pulsed light hair removal device outweigh the benefits of a professional gold-standard diode laser hair removal treatment plan. What is the best option: home pulsed light devices or diode laser hair removal? 

We’ve rounded up a list of factors and weigh in on which hair removal option may be the better choice.

Pros and Cons: At-Home Hair Removal Devices vs. Professional Diode Laser Hair Removal Treatments

Technology

Most at-home hair removal devices feature Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) technology or lower-level lasers. What makes these IPL hair removal treatments different is that they use a spectrum of light, rather than a single targeted beam, like a laser. These at-home pulsed light hair removal treatments deliver a pulse of broad-spectrum light energy below the skin’s surface, targeting the melanin that gives hair follicles their pigment. In the follicle, light energy transfers to thermal energy, damaging the follicle structure and preventing future hair growth. Because these pulsed light devices target melanin using a broad spectrum, they risk damage to the skin surrounding the hair follicle for those with darker or tanned skin tones. In other words, these treatments work best for those with paler skin and darker hair.

In comparison, professional diode laser hair removal devices are the current gold standard in laser hair removal in terms of both safety and efficacy. These treatments offer a more targeted beam of light energy to melanin in the hair follicle. The longer wavelength limits absorption of the energy by the surrounding skin, minimizing the risk of damage and offering a safer alternative for those with darker or tanned skin tones. As well, these professional devices are often equipped with a cooling technology to improve your comfort during treatment and further protect the skin from damage. For those with darker skin and hair, a 92% rate of hair growth reduction was reported after eight treatment sessions using a diode laser hair removal device.

Conclusion: Based on technology alone, professional diode laser treatments utilize a more powerful laser component for more accurate targeting of the hair follicle and lower risk of skin damage.

Cost

One of the most intriguing elements of an at-home device is the reasonably low cost to get started. While an FDA-approved entry-level device will run you around $200 to start, if you’re an ideal candidate for this technology, it can be a long-term economical choice. However, there are limitations on the number of pulses each device can deliver before its cartridge or the entire device must be replaced. For those treating larger areas long-term, the cost can run-up much higher than you may expect.

In comparison, a professional diode laser hair removal treatment plan certainly costs more to begin and will require the rare additional treatment to maintain results. However, fewer treatment sessions, improved hair growth reduction, and the lack of equipment cost to the patient suggests it may be a more worthwhile investment long-term. Further, professional treatments can help to save any potential cost that may be incurred as a result of skin damage if you don’t properly use the at-home device.

Conclusion: At-home pulsed hair removal devices may come at a lower cost but are not always the most economical option. In many cases, a larger up-front investment with a professional diode laser treatment plan can mean fewer costs long-term.

Efficiency

For the most part, at-home hair removal devices are not adaptable in size; in other words, each pulse will treat a 3 cm2area and that’s it. This can make treating larger areas very time-consuming and may even require multiple sessions to treat just one area, depending on battery life. As well, because you’re using the device on yourself, it may be difficult to properly reach and treat some areas like the backs of the thighs, your back, or other spots that are more difficult to see. Depending on your personal experience, you may be tempted to take more breaks to relieve discomfort, which can lead to missed patches if you forget where you’ve left off or skin burns if you end up overlapping an area that was already treated.  

In comparison, professional treatments offer more customization options. Applicator tips for Venus Velocity™ diode laser hair removal treatments, for example, range from 1.7 cm2to 7.0 cm2, allowing your treatment provider to better select the most efficient size based on your desired treatment area. A larger applicator can make quick work of a larger area like the back or legs, while smaller tips can more accurately target smaller, more sensitive areas like the upper lip or along the beard line. Cooling features on the device and your provider’s ability to adjust settings based on your experience can also improve comfort, leading to more efficient treatment sessions. Finally, with someone else performing the treatment, those hard-to-reach areas aren’t a problem. 

Conclusion: Having a device on hand to complete treatments at home may be useful for treating some areas, but having a professional with a more powerful device can improve comfort and deliver much more efficient and effective treatments on larger areas.

Commitment

Regardless of the device used, you will continue to see hair growth following your first couple of hair removal treatments. This is because hair follicles typically track a cycle of three phases and both types of devices are only able to treat hair that is in the growth stage. This is also the reason you need to be committed to your hair removal treatment schedule and why maintenance treatments may be required with either option. 

For those who find it difficult to commit to appointments that meet their schedule, an at-home pulsed hair removal device may be a more convenient option. However, you will need to ensure that you keep yourself on a timely treatment schedule. For most at-home devices, the optimal amount of time between treatments is two to three weeks. If you miss this gap, you risk having hair follicles cycle into their resting phase and treatments can become ineffective. Further, because the power level of at-home devices is much lower, you’ll need to commit to many more treatments to get the same results as a professional hair removal treatment plan. For these reasons, you can expect the initial at-home treatment plant to span an average of 18 months for best results.

Professional diode laser hair removal treatments, on the other hand, are more powerful, enabling treatments to affect more hair follicles in fewer treatments. As a result, treatment appointments will also be spaced four to six weeks apart with treatment plans concluding in six to eight months’ time, on average. This may vary depending on your needs. Finally, the structure of a scheduled appointment can be a blessing for those with busy schedules who may otherwise be unable to make time or follow through with their commitments.

Conclusion:If you are unable to book appointments during a clinic’s open hours and can hold yourself accountable to a treatment schedule, an at-home pulsed light device may work for you. For those who find scheduled appointments and a short time commitment more appealing, professional diode laser hair removal treatments are ideal.

The Environmental Factor

The environmental impact of our actions is worth considering with every purchase. While an at-home device will use less power per treatment session compared to a professional diode laser device, the shorter life cycle of an at-home device, particularly those that require replacement cartridges after a lower number of pulses, could lead to excessive electronic waste.

Alternatively, professional diode laser hair removal devices utilize a greater amount of energy per treatment session, but electronic waste diminishes as a single device can be used for a multitude of patients. A device like Venus Velocity™ also allows providers to update their software without having to upgrade a device, reducing the need for more frequent replacement devices.

Conclusion:By utilizing the services of a treatment professional, diode laser devices help to cut down on waste via the use of one device as compared to hundreds of personal-use devices. Further, a much more efficient outcome in fewer treatment sessions with diode laser treatments cuts down on additional cartridge waste that would be a result of at-home pulsed light devices.

Safety

Safety is a priority when using at-home devices. It can be difficult to properly define your skin type to know whether or not a device is safe for your use—those with darker skin or lighter hair are more at risk—and some conditions that can be contraindications may be left undiagnosed when treating yourself. Even using the device near a freckle, for example, can require alternative settings to avoid burning the skin. Settings may also have to be altered when treating hair in areas below the belt or on the underarms, as skin is often darker in these areas. Opting for an at-home hair removal device that has an automatic safety lock that scans skin to ensure safe use prior to enabling the device may be a wise choice, but be warned that some anecdotal evidence suggests some users have still experienced skin damage even with this feature. 

While there remain risks with in-clinic diode laser hair removal treatments, your treatment provider’s professional experience, certification, and ongoing training allow them to better diagnose your skin, determine if you are an ideal candidate for the treatment, and effectively adapt the device’s settings to offer safer treatments specific to your skin tone and hair color. A treatment professional is also much more equipped to treat hair around riskier areas. Their in-depth knowledge of their treatment device and how the technology interacts with different types of skin makes these professionals much more equipped to deliver effective treatments with minimal risk of skin damage. 

Conclusion: When it comes to safety, experience trumps cost. While those with lighter skin, darker hair, and zero pigmentation may opt for an at-home device if the proper safety precautions are taken and you start with a test patch, seeking treatment from a certified professional is a much safer option for most patients.

The Bottom Line

There are a variety of factors at play in determining which hair removal option may be best for you and your aesthetic goals, from simple at-home pulsed light devices to an in-clinic customized diode laser hair removal treatment plan. While one option may be best for some, others may find the combination of an initial professional treatment plan followed by maintenance treatments utilizing an at-home device to be the best course for them. Whatever you’re considering, booking a consultation with a hair removal professional can provide a lot of clarity into what your skin needs and the options that may be available to you specifically. Get started today by using the search field below to find a certified provider near you.

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