Can I use IPL and laser hair removal at home?

Most people don’t ask this question until after they’ve bought their home laser or IPL hair removal system.  And there’s a bunch of health and medical reasons that can mean you’re unsuitable. This article shares the guidelines from leading brands. Read it before you choose a machine. If any reasons apply to you and you’re not suitable, it will save you some time.

Health history paper questionaire

Use the warnings, dos and don’t and contraindications listed in the user manuals to complete your own consultation. Do this before you buy to avoid the inconvenience of returning it if you can’t use it.

Professional treatments always start with a comprehensive health history consultation. But when you choose to do your own treatments in your own home, you have to do your own consultation. And it’s very important.

You’ll find warnings, dos and don’t and contraindications listed in the user manuals of home use devices. To give you a head start, I’ve collated this list from various brand user manuals. Read through it and double check none apply to you.

Warnings and contraindications for home laser and IPL hair removal machines

You’ll see from the content below that brands present this information in very different ways. Some use catchall general statements that don’t sound too scary. Others use several very specific examples and, even if none apply to you, they sound overwhelming and make the devices seem unsafe. But please see it for what it really is – the purpose is to protect you. It’s very important to thoroughly check your suitability against the manufacturer’s manual.

Please remember, this isn’t a substitute for doing your own specific research before you buy. The list below may be incomplete so you must read the user manual for your chosen machine, and consult your doctor if you’re unsure about anything at all.

These warnings are relevant to IPL and laser hair removal in general, but not every one is listed in each user manual. If any of these apply to you, it’s best to seek advice from your doctor.

General warnings

Never use if you have epilepsy or light induced seizures, or chronic migraines. The energy flashes might cause severe headaches and migraines.

KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN. Not to be used by or on anyone, under the age of 15.

The device is not intended for children under the age of 15 years. Teenagers aged between 15 and 18 years can use the device with the consent and/or assistance of their parents or the persons who have parental authority over them. Adults of 18 years and older can use the device freely.

Never use if you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant (conceiving) or breastfeeding as there have been no tests on pregnant or breast-feeding women. Hormonal changes could increase skin sensitivity and the risk of skin injury.

Never use on recently tanned or sun burned skin.

DO NOT use if you are sensitive to light (photosensitive).

  • Some diseases are related to photosensitivity including porphyria, polymorphic light eruption, solar urticaria and lupus.
  • Some medications can be related to photosensitivity including: NSAIDS; steroids; antibiotics; phenothiazine; thiazide, diuretics, sulfonyluraes, sulfonamides, DTIC, fluorouracil, vinblastine, griseofulvin, Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), Beta-Hydroxy Acids (BHAs), Retin-A, Accutane® and/or topical retinoids.
  • Undergoing radiation or chemo-therapy treatments.

These conditions can make the skin more sensitive to light and more susceptible to injury. Consult your doctor.

Never use the device on the following body areas:

  • On or around the eyes, eyebrows or eyelashes. Doing so can cause permanent eye damage.
  • On the ears, neck, nipples, inside the nostrils, on genitalia or around the anus. These areas may have a darker skin colour and/or greater hair density. Using the device in these areas may cause discomfort/pain or injure (burn, discolour or scar) your skin causing serious injury.
  • On the scalp.
  • On any area where you may want the hair to grow back. The hair removal results may be permanent.
  • Men must not use it on the scrotum, face, jaw or neck.

Never use the device on the following:

  • Over or near anything artificial like silicone implants, pacemakers, subcutaneous injection ports (insulin dispenser), incontinence device, contraceptive implants, or piercings. There have been no tests on individuals with such implants therefore the effects are unknown.
  • On moles, freckles, large veins, darker pigmented areas, birthmarks, scars, skin anomalies without consulting your doctor. This can result in a burn and a change in skin colour, which makes it potentially harder to identify skin-related diseases.
  • On warts, tattoos or permanent make-up. This can result in a burn and a change in skin color.
  • On areas, where you use long-lasting deodorants. This can result in skin reactions.
  • On an area of recent surgery, deep peel, laser resurfacing, scars or skin that has been damaged with burns or scalds. DO NOT use on damaged skin, including open wounds, cold sores, sunburns, or areas where you have had a skin peel or other skin resurfacing procedure within the last 6-8 weeks.
  • On sunburned skin as this can make the skin more susceptible to injury.
  • On the face if you have a history of cold sores; use of IPL or any treatment that irritates skin can cause a recurrence of cold sores.
  • Over or near fillings or dental implants.

Never use the device if you suffer from any of the diseases or conditions listed below:

  • If you have a history of skin cancer, areas of potential skin malignancies or any other localized cancer in the areas to be treated. There have been no tests in areas with skin cancer or cancer and therefore the effects are unknown.
  • If you have pre-cancerous lesions or multiple atypical moles in the areas to be treated.
  • If you have a history of collagen disorder, including a history of keloid scar formation or a history of poor wound healing.
  • If you have a history of vascular disorder, such as the presence of varicose veins or vascular ectasia in the areas to be treated.
  • If you have had surgery in the areas to be treated in the last three weeks.
  • If you have an active skin condition or infection in the treatment area including acne, sores, psoriasis, eczema, burns, sunburns, inflammation of hair follicles, herpes simplex, open wounds, abrasions, a rash, lesions and haematomas. These conditions can make the skin more sensitive to light and more susceptible to injury.
  • If you have damaged skin, including open wounds, cold sores, sunburns, or areas where you have had a skin peel or other skin resurfacing procedure within the last 6-8 weeks.
  • If you have diabetes, lupus erythematodes, porphyria or congestive heart disease.
  • If you have any bleeding disorder.
  • If you have a history of immunosuppressive disease (including HIV infection or AIDS)

Never use the device if you take any of the medications listed below:

  • If you are taking any medication for a chronic medical condition.
  • If you have had a skin peel treatment on the area you wish to treat/ If your skin is currently being treated with or has recently been treated in the past week with Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), Beta-Hydroxy Acids (BHAs), topical isotretinoin and azelaic acid.
  • If you have taken any form of isotretinoin Accutane or Roaccutane in the last six months. This treatment can make skin more susceptible to tears, wounds and irritations.
  • If you are on painkillers which reduce the skin’s sensitivity to heat.
  • If you have a known sensitivity to sunlight (photosensitivity) or are taking medication that makes the skin more sensitive and causes photosensitivity, e.g. Retin A, Accutane and/or other topical retinoids. Always check the instruction leaflet that comes with your medicinal product, to see if photosensitivity is listed as a side effect or if you have to avoid sun when taking this medicine. If you are still unsure please seek medical advice.
    Smoothskin provide a list of medicines that cause photosensitivity here
  • If you take anticoagulation medications, including heavy use of aspirin, in a manner which does not allow for a minimum 1-week washout period prior to each treatment.
  • If you take immunosuppressive medications.

Sensible device usage

  • DO NOT use on skin with cosmetics applied, as treating in those areas could temporarily cause skin swelling, blisters or could change the colour of your skin. Make sure to thoroughly clean the intended treatment area prior to use.
  • DO NOT flash the same treatment spot multiple times during the same session, as this could
  • temporarily cause skin swelling, blisters, or could change the colour of your skin.
  • DO NOT treat any area more than once per week, as this will not speed up results, but could increase likelihood of skin swelling, blistering or changing the colour of your skin.
  • DO NOT flash against any material other than skin.
  • DO NOT use for any purpose other than hair removal.

So, can I use laser hair removal at home?

If none of the things listed above apply to you then congratulations! It sounds like you’re a good candidate to for IPL / laser hair removal at home.

Be sure to read Your ultimate guide to laser hair removal at home for other important information and questions to ask yourself about IPL and laser hair removal at home. And if you’re looking for your perfect machine it’ll help focus your search too.

Please note, this article does not constitute medical advice. It isn’t a substitute for doing your own specific research before you buy a machine. The list above may be incomplete or contain unintentional inaccuracies, so you must read the user manual for your chosen machine,. Consult your doctor or physician if you’re unsure about anything at all.

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