At-home laser & IPL hair removal vs Professional: which is best?

At home laser hair removal vs professional – which is best?

I remember the chore of daily shaving. Then, just a few hours later, my cactus legs and sandpaper pits. I spent hundreds on salon waxing just to see pesky dark hairs sprout within a week. And those dreaded, inevitable, angry ingrown hairs. Ugh.

A few hours after shaving – the dreaded cactus legs

Something had to change. So, after saving my pennies, I took the plunge and had my legs professionally lasered. It was life-changing.

After that, I researched and bought a home IPL device and started on the rest of my fuzz. So, I know the pros and cons of both.

If you’re here you’re probably trying to decide between the two. Well, this article uses my first-hand experience to explain the differences and weigh the good and bad. It’s up to you to decide so read on for the balanced facts to help you choose.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

Let’s start with how they’re different.

— The differences —

Differences between at home laser hair removal and professional

The immediate differences are the size, complexity and power of the machinery, the person who operates it and the cost.

Professional treatments

A trained, skilled laser operative

With professional treatments at a leading clinic, you’ll get the latest laser technology with advanced configurations for all skin colours and various hair colour combinations. You’ll also have a trained, skilled operative working under medical guidance.

Most body areas are treatable including men’s beards. Home devices are not safe for this.

A course of professional treatments is more expensive than a home-use device too. How much depends on where you live, the size of your treatment areas and if you want IPL or laser. Laser is most expensive and, considered by those that offer it, superior to IPL.

At home devices

At home, you’ve got a scaled-down, small hand-held device. It’s got simple controls, safety switches and features so it’s safely operated by the general public. You’ll either zap yourself, or enlist a helpful assistant (necessary for your back and other hard to reach areas).

Home use devices range from around £100 up to £500. They’re a much more affordable option for most people. And also, a good investment for the future. That’s because although you get awesome results from both professional and at-home treatments, you can’t stop dormant hair follicles activating months or even years afterwards. A home device is always on hand to zap those new hairs.

Different power

The power of professional machinery is much greater too. A professional laser and IPL machine outputs optical energy around 40 J/cm2. At home IPL devices output maximum is around 7 J/cm2 and at home laser is 20 J/cm2. It’s a significant difference and means you need a higher number and more frequent home sessions to get your best results.

What’s more, professionals dismiss home-use devices saying they’re so much weaker and therefore aren’t as effective as professional treatments. But then home device brands promise you fuzz-free results just as good as professional sessions.

So, which is it?

It’s actually both of these things! To explain, let’s start by comparing how each works.

They work in different ways

In just one session, Professional laser hair removal damages key follicle areas in active hair.

This detailed article explains how professional laser hair removal and at-home devices work differently. I’ll summarise it here:

IPL and laser hair removal both use different types of powerful light energy to remove hair.  The light travels through your skin where the dark melanin pigment in your hair absorbs the energy. It converts to heat and damages specific areas in your hair follicle (the bit below the skin). The hair then shuts down and enters a resting phase.

The high power of professional machinery destroys key areas of the follicle of actively growing hairs in just one session. This damage breaks the hair growth cycle for long lasting smooth results. You need a course of 6 to 8 to catch the majority of your hairs in the active growing state.

Home-use devices are much less powerful, so they work in a slower way. At first, during the start-up phase, they quickly cause temporary hair removal. This is where your hair falls out, but can start a new growth cycle a few weeks later.

Home devices get you smooth fast, but hair grows back if you stop too soon.

However, with continued but less frequent top-ups, it builds damage to the key follicle areas. This eventually breaks the hair growth cycle and your smooth results last. As a result, you need more than double the sessions to get similar results. So, the top-ups are super important.

Therefore, the end result of professional and home-use laser is about the same: hair-free, silky smooth skin. But the way they do it and how long they take is very different.

Related: how laser hair removal works in even more detail

So, which gives the best results?

— Which gives the best results? —

What are the best results?

For me, best results means the highest possible, longest-lasting hair reduction, achieved in the shortest time.

Now, based on the best possible hair reduction response to treatments, this is the short answer:

  • Professional treatments give you longest-lasting, highest hair reduction from a single treatment course. Results can last years. You may need top-ups eventually.
  • At-home devices give high hair reduction from a treatment course but hair grows back if you stop too soon. Regular 4 to 6 week top-ups prolong your results and keep you smooth. You need fewer over time.

Read the next sections to understand this in more detail, starting with the treatment schedules for each. You must follow a treatment schedule to get your best results. They’re very different but achieve similar results. Let’s learn how.

Professional treatment schedule

Professionals recommend a course of 6 to 8 sessions spaced at roughly 6-week intervals. This is to zap all your hair follicles as they cycle into the active Anagen growing stage. 

Effort is spread with professional treatments scheduled every 4 to 6 weeks. You’ll need 6 to 8 to complete your course taking up to 9 months.

The American Academy of Dermatology says you’ll see a 10 to 25% reduction in hair growth after each session. It takes a few sessions (a month or 2) to see significant results. And up to 9 months to complete your course.

Related: the professional results most experience

Sk:n Clinics say after a full laser treatment regimen you can achieve up to 90% permanent hair reduction on all skin types. And these results are long-lasting. They can last months or even several years. However, you may need touch-up treatments every year or so to maintain your results. More on this later.

Home device treatment schedule

The start-up phases for home devices vary between 4 to 12 sessions. Some you do weekly and others every 2 weeks. Continue with these regular sessions until your skin is smooth. Most people see significant results after 3 to 5 sessions, or after 1 to 2 months of use. Then you do less regular top-up sessions to stay smooth, every 1 or 2 months.

Related: compare each home brand’s treatment schedule & user results here

Use at-home devices frequently every 1 or 2 weeks for approx. 3 to 5 sessions to get smooth. Then less frequent (but crucial) top-up sessions.

Each brand device has clinical test data to show it works. The data measures hair reduction percentages at specific time periods following a full treatment cycle. Percentages range from around 40% to 65% stable hair reduction 12 months after the last treatment. This is lower than professional results. However…

Based on what we learned earlier in this article about how home devices work, we know top-up sessions are super important. It’s these that build damage to the cells responsible for new hair growth. So, after several top-ups you’re able to maintain a higher hair reduction and keep your skin smoother for longer periods. The test data for home devices mostly excludes top-ups so the reduction percentages are lower than you can actually achieve. Home-use brands should make this clear (but most don’t).

A recent study shows stopping at 4 or less sessions means all your hair eventually grows back. You need to continue for 1 year of less frequent top-up sessions (roughly every 4 to 6 weeks). Then you’ll achieve high and long-lasting hair reduction even 1 year after stopping the sessions.

Home device brands do advise you’ll need top-up treatments to stay continuously smooth. But unfortunately, they don’t emphasize just how crucial they are. It’s important to understand this commitment up-front so you have realistic expectations.

Professional vs at home results comparison

Here’s a comparison table for the treatment schedules and results for both professional and home devices:

Compare Professional At-home
Schedule: 6 to 8 sessions every 6 weeks 4 to 12 weekly sessions or
4 to 5 sessions every 2 weeks, then
8 to 11 monthly top-ups
Total sessions: 6 to 8 15 to 20
Significant results after: 2 or 3 sessions
1 to 2 months
3 to 6 sessions
1 to 2 months
Total duration: 8 to 9 months 12 months
% hair reduction 1 year later: Up to 90% 50 to 80%*

*This hair reduction count for home devices is 1 year after the last session of top ups. It shows results are higher and prolonged with several top tops. In practice, you wouldn’t stop the top-ups during that year if you saw new hairs growing. Therefore, your hair reduction is likely even higher.

This means:

  • Both give fast smooth results. With a typical response, both take around the same elapsed time (1 to 2 months). However, in that time you need a few more home sessions vs professional sessions.
  • Professional treatments take up to 9 months to complete and give up to 90% hair reduction.
  • Use your at-home device for several months after your start-up phase for long-lasting fuzz-free smoothness.

So, which gives the highest possible, longest-lasting hair reduction, achieved in the shortest time?

It’s professional treatments for sure.

But don’t write-off home devices just yet because they do give superb long-lasting smooth results. There’s more to consider.

But first, it’s important to highlight results for both vary by person too. Let’s check what can affect them.

Things that affect your results

First up, it’s important to understand neither professional nor at home treatments promise 100% hair reduction or high hair reduction forever. That’s because some of your dormant hair follicles can activate months or even years after your treatments. This is determined by genetics and influenced by hormones.

Therefore, when new hairs appear you’ll need top-ups. Professionals suggest yearly top-ups but you may go longer than that. It’s important to factor the cost of top-up sessions.

With your home device, it’s very little effort (and no additional cost) to re-zap the occasional new hair and patches of regrowth. So, they’re a smart investment.

And second, results simply vary by person with both professional and home devices. Bear in mind both professionals and home devices promote the best results which most people experience. But you can have a higher or lower hair reduction (quantity and thickness of hair) and your results can last different lengths of time.

Things which affect your results are:

  • Your skin and hair colour combination. Light skin and dark hair are best.
  • Hair thickness
  • Your genetics
  • Your hormones, and conditions like hirsutism (excessive hair growth) and PCOS. Hair can be more persistent and new follicles activate regularly
  • The machine configuration for your treatments

TIP: From online reviews, several people with PCOS use home IPL and laser as an affordable way to manage persistent and visible facial hair. It proves more cost effective and convenient than regular professional sessions.

— Which is easiest? —

Effort & convenience

Here we’ll see how much effort it takes for both, and see how convenient they are too. However, note both of these things depend on your priorities, needs and circumstances.

Here’s the short answer, then read on to learn more.

  • Professional treatments: Your effort means scheduling, organisation and attending 6 to 8 professional sessions at your clinic over 9 months. The rest is over to the laser operative! Sessions are quick – around 1 hour for legs and smaller areas combined.
  • At-home treatments: Your effort is higher because you need several more sessions overall. Make time for them and stick to the treatment plan. You may need a helpful assistant too. But you can do it all in the comfort of your own home, and in under 1 hour per full body session.

Effort & convenience of professional treatments

You must attend regular appointments at a clinic. This includes travel time and parking. For some this is easy to schedule, organise and commit to. For others, work and family life is unpredictable and gets in the way. So, your personal effort and convenience depend on your own circumstances.

Your professional, well-trained operative does all the hard work.

Aside from pre-shaving and being on time, there’s not much effort from you during your treatments. It’s easy. You’ll undress, put on safety glasses and recline on the treatment bed. You’ll need to move limbs as directed during the procedure, but there’s no uncomfortable bending or twisting. The operative zaps around your body doing all the hard work, not missing a spot.

Related: how to prepare and what professional treatments feel like

But for legs and bikini you’ll be down to your underwear with a stranger up close. Depending on your treatment areas this may make you uncomfortable and put you off. However, if you’re used to professional waxing it’s not that much different. And it’s over very quickly anyway. The machinery and operative are fast to cover large areas.

Going to a reputable clinic also gives you the reassurance of specialist medical knowledge and support. Most give an aftercare pack to help with minor skin irritation and post-treatment skin protection. Side effects are very rare, but the clinic is on hand to help. Many prefer to be in the hands of professional experts.

Care pack from Sk:n Clinics in the UK with cooling water spray, Aloe Vera Gel and SPF30 sunscreen.
Sk:n clinic aftercare pack plus medical support and guidance

Effort & convenience with at-home devices

If you suffer from shaving irritation a few at-home machines may be better suited to you. Philips say you can wax or epilate before your treatments (but results are always faster when shaving).

Related: Lumea Prestige review

With professional sessions you must shave.

Some brands say you can wax or epilate before using laser hair removal, but results are slower!

You can use your home machine whenever convenient. But you must still commit to the treatment schedule to get your best results. This means staying motivated and making the time. Picking the same evening each week helps. Or even one body area a day. Find a routine you can manage and stick to.

Related: how to prepare and what home treatments feel like

Scantily-clad Lady in her underwear treating a man's back (he's wearing just pants, obviously).
You’ll need a helpful assistant for your back and other areas you can’t see or reach. Clothing optional.

You’ll need to zap your areas yourself. This means some bending and twisting and awkward positions around your butt, bikini line and backs of legs. Or enlist a helpful and familiar assistant. It’s much easier and essential if you’re treating your back.

There’s more upfront commitment with home machines. You’ll need to zap yourself weekly or every 2 weeks until your smooth. Professional sessions spread the time and effort over the course of several months.

However, recent home machines are much faster than earlier models. Those took about 30 mins per full leg. Yikes. Today you can now zap your full body in under 1 hour. It still takes patience and concentration. But it’s way more manageable, without strain and aches and less tedious.

Next, let’s compare safety.

— Which is safest? —

In the right hands, both are very safe.

  • This means for professional treatments you need correctly configured machinery with a trained and skilled operative. You entrust them with your safety.
  • And at-home you must choose a clinically proven device safe for your skin tone and use it as directed. It’s down to you to follow the instructions.

There’s no link to cancer or infertility with either. These are common myths about laser & IPL hair removal.

The following sections outline the safety standards, regulation, contraindications, side effects and sun safety for professional and at-home.

Read it to get a feel for both and see which you are most comfortable with.

Your skin tone is the first safety consideration.

Safety for dark skin tones

Not all IPL and laser hair removal machines are safe for darker skin tones. This is down to the science behind it.

Fitzpatrick skin tone types 1 to 6
The Fitzpatrick skin tone scale. Types V and VI are darker tones needing special laser & IPL.

It’s unsafe to use inappropriate machinery or configuration on darker skin. It can cause pain and damage. There’s a very high risk of temporary or permanent skin darkening or lightening, strong redness, burns and blisters.

However, you’ve still got options with both professional and at-home machines.

You can treat all skin tones both professionally or at home. Dark skin needs specialist technology to stay safe.

Professionals use a specially configured Diode laser or the Nd:Yag laser. Both are clinically-proven safe for dark skin tones (in skilled hands). Some IPL machines combine with Radio Frequency energy resulting in gentler IPL. They also have advanced filters which cut-out wavelengths harmful to dark skin.  Find a reputable clinic who provide a thorough consultation.

Although home-use devices are much less powerful, they can still harm darker skin. So, do your research. There’s no home laser safe for dark skin but there are a few IPL options.

Related: which devices are safe for darker and black skin

Next, let’s look at how safe professional treatments are.

Safety & professional treatments

Decades of successful professional treatments show it’s safe.

Leading manufacturers stringently test their machinery so it meets international, medical device manufacturing and safety standards. They have clinical proof and many are FDA-cleared.

Today we have advanced technology too. The first longer, high-power light pulses evolved to shorter successive pulses of lower intensity. This means it’s gentler on the epidermis, but still destroys the hair follicle below. Therefore, treatments are more comfortable with less risk of reactions and side effects. But without compromise on results.

Leading aesthetics clinics use the latest machinery. Doctors lead the team of nurses and practitioners with expert support and knowledge. And in-clinic, they follow medical protocols to keep you safe. There’s also a particular focus on training and doctor-led patient assessments.

Service regulation?

However, in the UK and some US states, the industry isn’t regulated. This means anyone can provide treatments. Therefore, beware of inexperienced or untrained providers. Their lack of knowledge, possible inappropriate technology and training can result in skin damaging treatments, or very poor results.

You can learn more about choosing a practitioner here. But from my own personal experience, I recommend Sk:n clinics in the UK. They’re professional and have top safety and quality standards.

Mandatory consultation & patch test

A reputable clinic always starts with an initial consultation. It’s the first safety step. It’s where the consultant assesses your suitability and medical history. They’ll find any reasons you may not be suitable for laser hair removal. Or confirm it’s safe to go ahead. Learn more about contraindications below.

They’ll then do a safety patch test on your skin. This checks your sensitivity. If you feel intense heat and discomfort, they can apply a numbing agent to your skin. But it’s not necessary in most cases.

They walk-through how to prepare, possible reactions and side effects, and after care with you too, including important sun exposure guidelines. And during your treatments, both yourself and the operator wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from the powerful laser / IPL light.

Contraindications check

Contraindications are roughly the same for both professional and at-home devices because the light technology is the same.

They are extreme tan, pregnancy or breast feeding, recent waxing of epilation, some tattoos and permanent make-up, active or chronic herpes simplex virus, keloid or hypertrophic scarring, certain medical conditions, and medications making you more sensitive to light.

Your consultant checks a medical history questionnaire with you.

It’s your consultant’s responsibility to identify any before starting treatments. You should feel confident and safe in their hands. Learn more about contraindications here, but don’t worry because they’ll guide you through this.

Side effects

Whilst some minor and temporary skin redness and itchiness is common, side effects after professional treatments are very rare. They tend to occur if the laser or IPL configuration is incorrect for your skin. They include burns, blisters, infection, and temporary or permanent skin darkening and lightning especially on darker skin tones.

When performed by a trained and skilled operative under medical direction the risk of side effects is very small. They’ll assess you and configure the machinery safely for your skin and hair colour. Your test patch confirms the settings are safe.

However, you increase the risk of side effects if you don’t follow the strict guidelines on sun exposure.

Safety in the sun

Both professional and at-home machines warn against tanning during your treatments. That’s because the combination with IPL / laser energy makes your skin extra sensitive. It increases your risk of side effects.

You’re also not allowed to tan artificially with creams because this darkens your skin tone. This necessitates a new IPL / laser configuration. You must follow guidance from your practitioner for the duration of your treatment course. They often provide helpful SPF sun creams too.

Now for home-use machines. How safe are they?

Safety & at-home machines

Home devices have been available for over a decade now. However, early safety standards were determined by manufacturers themselves. So, in 2012 the European Society for Laser Dermatology published safety guidelines on home-use devices for trusted brands to follow.

IEC logo
International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)

A few years later international manufacturing standards and test requirements followed from the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The latest in 2016 specifically addresses “Particular requirements for cosmetic and beauty care appliances incorporating lasers and intense light sources” (IEC 60335-2-113). Brands meeting these standards ensure your safety.

Several trusted house-hold and specialist brands offer such home IPL and laser hair removal devices. All on this site are clinically proven safe for home use. And there’s a lot of choice. Many of these brands are members of the ‘Home Use Device (HUD) Working Group’.

The HUD Working Group focuses on ‘Safety, Efficacy, Measuring and Standards’ of ‘home use, light- and energy-based aesthetic devices’. Manufacturers include Alliance Boots, Home Skinovations (Silk’n), Philips, Braun (P&G), Cyden Ltd (Smoothskin), Babyliss Sarl and Ltd.

It’s important to always choose a clinically-proven safe device for your skin tone. You get extra reassurance from FDA-cleared devices too. This is necessary for devices if sold in the US.

Your responsibility

With home devices, you’re responsible for your own safety. So, you must read the user manual carefully. It explains how to safely use the device, such as how frequent, safe body areas, care with tattoos etc.

You’ll find contraindications and warnings too. These can seem scary. But this is how the manufacturers provide clear warning to protect you. Read them and see if any apply. Learn more about general home device contraindications here.

And you must do your own skin patch test to check your sensitivity and find the right intensity level. The user manuals guide you through this too.

Safety features

IPL flashes are bright but harmless. Sunglasses ease the irritation and make you look cool.

Home devices also have several in-built safety features to protect your skin and eyes.

All devices reviewed on this site have UV filters to protect your skin. And all have contact sensors or mechanisms to flash only when covered by your skin too. Therefore, no need to wear safety glasses or goggles during your session. There’s no visible light from laser, but IPL flashes can irritate. Try wearing regular sunglasses to ease it a bit.

Side effects

Side effects with home devices are rare. But the risk is higher if you choose too high a power level. Side effects are the same as with professional sessions i.e. burns, blisters, infection, and temporary or permanent skin darkening and lightning especially on darker skin tones.

To counter this, most devices have a basic skin tone sensor that won’t flash if your skin is too dark. However, you can choose safer low intensity models, or super-safe devices with advanced skin tone sensors. They significantly reduce the risk of skin damage because, before every flash, they choose the best intensity level for your skin.

Related: home-use machines with advanced skin tone sensors with Braun Pro 5 IPL and Smoothskin Muse

As with professional treatments, your risk of side effects increases if you don’t follow the sun exposure guidelines.

Sun safety

User manual guidance on sun exposure

Follow the guidelines around sun exposure and artificial tanning in the user manual. The rest period before and after exposure / treatments ranges by manufacturer from a few days to a few weeks. There’s more here.

With home devices, once you’ve completed the start-up phase you do have some flexibility around tanning and your top ups. So, this is something to consider if you can’t avoid exposure or you enjoy building a tan. After tanning you should always do another skin patch test to check your sensitivity.

All devices reviewed on this site explain the brand’s guidance around sun exposure and tanning.

— Will they hurt? —

Both professional and home-use devices should never hurt. They can smart a bit at times though. This is especially true in more sensitive areas such as underarms and bikini line. This is where hair is denser and thicker and the increased heat can cause discomfort. For some reason the very tops of my legs sting most, so you may have your own particular tender spots too.

Professional sensation

For professional sessions, the trained operative selects the optimum machine and settings for your skin and hair colour. The treatment room is also cooled, and machines have contact cooling which reduces the sensation of each zap. Most only feel minor, bearable discomfort (along with the smell of singed hair!).

However, some people tolerate it less. And you can find online reviews saying they endured pain through gritted-teeth. However, a reputable clinic checks your tolerance before by doing a test patch during your consultation.  If you do have a low tolerance, they can give topical pain killers to apply about an hour before your session. Cooling packs and aloe vera also help soothe hot skin afterwards.

If you’re concerned about pain, discuss it with your practitioner before signing a contract and starting your sessions. Try it during the test patch – you can always say no.

Home IPL device sensation

There are very few reports of pain with home IPL devices when using the right intensities for your skin tone. If it does hurt lower the intensity level or activate the gentle mode. Also, it can smart a bit if you’ve left hair above the skin surface, so make sure your pre-shave is thorough.  

It does feel hot and a bit uncomfortable at times, but it rarely hurts. I strongly recommend gentler devices for darker skin tones. And if you have a low-pain threshold.

Related: safe for dark & black skin, and gentle IPL for wimps with the Silk’n Infinity

Tria 4X home laser device sensation

This is different. For some it hurts, and for others it doesn’t. But compared to home IPL, there are noticeably more reports of pain with the Tria 4X laser. That’s because it’s a laser and more powerful than the IPL devices.

N.B. Their marketing makes out IPL is more painful. However, they are the only brand to sell a numbing cream.  Hmmmm…

It’s the most powerful home-use device (max 20 J/cm2 vs 6.5 J/cm2). All the intensity levels are safe for skin types I to IV and you should use the highest that’s comfortable.

Many insist on using the highest intensity despite causing intense discomfort and pain. It’s a bit nuts because they should just lower the level – it still works! The pain comes from heat in the follicle so after a few sessions, your hair thins thus reducing heat / pain. Then you can increase the intensity.

Despite this, many persevere with level 5 and use ice and numbing creams (including the Tria calm start gel). But remember, it’s unnecessary to put yourself through this!

— What do they cost? —

What do professional treatments cost?

Many pennies for professional treatments. Better to pay with Visa or Mastercard really.

Professional treatments are most expensive. Laser tends to be more expensive then IPL. That’s partly because it’s offered by aesthetic clinics who employ medical staff. Laser machinery also tends to be more expensive than IPL too.

Related: Laser vs IPL comparison

At time of writing a large area 6-session laser course in south England costs £1,408 and the equivalent IPL course costs £400. But this also depends on where you live and any local or national deals.

Professional treatments cost less than 10 years ago because there’s more competition from other clinics. Plus, many choose between home device too. Clinics offer percentage deals off packages and deals are also available on sites like Groupon.

For some, professional laser is just too expensive. Professional IPL is more affordable, but make sure you choose a skilled practitioner to get your best and longest lasting results.

What do at-home machines cost?

At-home devices cost between £100 to £500. The best devices have unlimited flashes, and others flashes to last over 10 years of monthly top-ups. You’ll never need that many, so it’s a splendid investment to keep you smooth for many years.

Designs and specifications have come a long way in 10 years too. Machines are much faster to cover your body. Choose one of the best and you can do all body areas in under an hour.  Plus, you don’t need messy gels like you did with early machines. The most recent are intuitive with neat features to keep you safe and get the job done well.

Don’t forget top-ups!

You also need to consider top-ups later on. If you choose an at home device, you’ll have it to hand already. No more cost, just a bit more time.

If you choose professional you can go back to your practitioner for the cost of a single treatment. Or you can buy a home-use device for all the future zapping you need!

— In summary —

So, which should you choose?

I hope this has helped you understand the key differences and which appeals the most. It’s a personal choice, but backed up by your bank account!

Here’s a summary:


Professional treatments give you the highest, longest-lasting hair reduction results in fewer sessions.

But home machines still deliver smooth results that you can maintain at home with a little effort.

Effort & convenience

This depends on your perspective and circumstances.

You must keep your appointments at the clinic or salon. They’re spaced apart. Maybe it’s a hassle to attend. Or you may prefer this structure vs finding your motivation at home. However, once there the operative does all the hard work.

At-home you need more sessions overall, but you can do them whenever and in the privacy of your own home. You do need commitment, time, patience and concentration, and maybe a helpful assistant.


Side effects are rare if you choose a reputable clinic or practitioner. They must have quality machinery, excellent training and work under medical direction. You entrust them with your safety and the powerful laser / IPL technology.

Choose a clinically-proven home device from a trusted brand with solid customer support. They’re intuitively designed to keep you safe with safety features to protect your eyes and darker skin. You’re in charge therefore check the contraindications and safe skin tone range. Always read the user manual and do a patch test.

Pain / sensation

Everyone’s tolerance and sensation, is different. However, a reputable practitioner ensures you’re in no pain, but a little discomfort is normal.

Home-devices should never hurt if you use the right intensity for your skin tone. Your test patch is important to check your sensitivity.


Professional treatments are expensive. The cost for a professional course depends on your location, treatment areas and IPL vs laser. Laser is usually most expensive. Choosing the right clinic is more important than the cheapest price.

Home machines are much more affordable (but still an investment). You can buy a home device for the same cost as 1 or 2 professional sessions. Plus, there’s no additional cost for your top-ups. You can zap new hairs as they appear.

Professional laser hair removal is for you if:

  • You want someone else to do the hard work
  • Want your best results in fewer sessions
  • Can commit the time to your appointments
  • You can afford it
  • Can afford top-ups as you need them (or you could buy a home device!)

Learn more about professional laser hair removal treatments here. If you live in the UK, visit the Sk:n Clinics website for pricing and to book a consultation.

Choose an at-home laser hair removal device if:

  • You can organise and commit to the regular home sessions
  • You need to fit sessions around your busy day
  • You don’t mind less frequent top-ups to stay smooth and prolong results
  • You have PCOS and need regular sessions to zap stubborn hairs
  • You don’t want to bare almost all in front of a stranger
  • Need a more affordable option

Learn more about at-home laser & IPL hair removal here or see the tried-and-tested recommended best buys if you’re ready to choose.

Professional pros & cons

With a knowledgeable and skilled operator from a doctor-led reputable clinic such as sk:n:


  • Longest-lasting results from a course
  • Stringent safety and medical protocols
  • Low risk of injury or side-effects
  • Consultation with medical professional to check contraindications
  • Someone else does all the work
  • Most see smooth results after 2 or 3 sessions
  • Can treat men’s beard
  • All skin types
  • Up to 90% hair reduction
  • Sessions are quick (around 1 hour)
  • Interest free credit available


  • It’s expensive
  • Must keep to your scheduled appointments
  • Travel to and parking at your clinic
  • The operative gets very close to your areas
  • Additional cost of top-ups as needed

Home devices pros & cons

For the home-use devices reviewed by


  • Affordable one-off cost (the same as 1 or 2 professional sessions)
  • Several trusted & expert brands
  • Inbuilt safety mechanisms
  • Clinically tested safe & effective
  • Brands with super-safe skin sensors
  • Manageable start-up schedule (5 to 12 sessions)
  • Do it at home in your spare time
  • Re-zap new growth as it appears
  • Most see significant results after 5 or 6 sessions
  • Several choices for quick full body sessions (30 to 45 mins)
  • IPL options for dark skin


  • You must check the contraindications carefully
  • Higher risk of side effects if you use too high an intensity for your skin tone
  • Must commit to start-up and maintenance treatments for long-lasting results
  • May need a helpful assistant for hard to reach areas
  • Shouldn’t treat men’s beards


I’ve tried both. The results of professional laser hair removal on my legs are still amazing over a decade later. I’ve been using at-home IPL machines for about the same length of time on my other ‘areas’ and I need only the occasional top-up now as new follicles activate. Perhaps twice a year. I’m perfectly happy with the results I enjoy, and the money I save.

If you can afford professional treatments and like the sound of them, then find the right clinic and go for it.

If you can’t afford professional treatments, don’t fret. Home devices are a super and more affordable alternative.

If you can afford professional treatments but still aren’t sure, you can pick one to try. Choose a home device with a money back guarantee. Test it for a few months. If you aren’t happy with it, go see a professional. If you are, you may have saved yourself thousands!

Or, do you want to go professional but are wary of the ongoing top-ups cost? You could buy a home device after your professional course for maintenance at home. Loads of people do this to keep the ongoing cost low. You can buy a home device for the price of one or two professional top-up sessions.

Try next: the best home laser & IPL devices to use at home




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