Must I shave before IPL & laser hair removal?

Shaving your hairs before home laser or IPL sessions gives hands-down your best results. But for some people it’s just not practical. So, are there other options? Let’s find out.
A look at the options of shaving, waxing, epilating or plucking before home IPL /laser hair removal sessions by WeAreBodyBeautiful.com
By Laura Gladman
November 02, 2020

Most at-home brands recommend shaving before your sessions. And shaving gives the best results. But what if it leaves you with angry-red red shaving rash, lumps and bumps, or itchy irritation? And, being a lady, it feels uncomfortably masculine to shave your face.

So, are there other options? Let’s find out.

What you’ll learn in shaving before IPL:

Why is shaving best?

Most people turn to home laser or IPL because they want to stop shaving. So, it’s a tad frustrating you can’t avoid it during your first sessions. But it really is worth the short-term pain for the long-term results.

Gillette razor, dermaplaning tool and tweezers beside the latest home IPL machines. Is shaving before IPL your only options?
Shaving & dermaplaning your face before your IPL and laser sessions works best.

This is why is works best:

Shaving cuts your hairs super-close to your skin. Therefore, there’s no hair on the surface to absorb the pulses or flashes of light energy. It’s all directed down the hair shaft, deep inside your follicle where it needs to be. There, it converts to heat and damages key areas of the follicle, which stunts your hair growth and keeps it in a dormant state. So, you enjoy smooth skin everyday!

So don’t be tempted to leave your hair there. Oh no.

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TIP: You can also shave as much as you need in between IPL/laser sessions if you need to!

What happens if you laser or IPL without shaving?

Nothing good is the short answer. And in more detail:

#1 The first thing you’ll notice is a hot pain where you flash, as the light energy burns the surface hairs. And this causes a stinging sensation, or can simply burn your skin. It’s very, very unpleasant. Owie.

#2 The next thing you’ll notice is the foul, lingering stench of burning hair. No one in your home will thank you for this.

#3 Then you’ll notice bits of burnt-on hair welded to the flash window. They look like large black spots and are tricky to impossible to clean off without damaging the window.

#4 is the most important reason. It won’t work. If there’s hair on the surface, a lot less light energy makes it deep into the follicle. Those key areas of the hair follicle remain cool and untouched, so they go about their business building and growing your hairs.

So, that’s why you really must remove those surface hairs before laser and IPL zappings. It means the IPL flashes and laser pulses can do their thang.

But do I have to shave my face?

So, shaving your body hair gives your very best results. But shaving your face is so masculine!

Do you want to shave your face before home IPL? - er, no thanks. I'd prefer to IPL without shaving my face thanks!
I don’t think so.

I know. In the past, I’ve shaved my face several times before zapping my unwelcome chinny hairs. And it’s not something I like to remember or repeat. But thankfully, there is another painless and effective option.

Instead of shaving your face I recommend dermaplaning.

A Hollywood Browzer dermaplaning tool in front of the best home laser & IPL devices for facial hair removal
I recommend dermaplaning tools to remove facial hairs & whiskers

A dermaplaning tool is a teeny hand-held foldable plastic knife with a sharp stainless-steel blade behind safety guards.  It’s a very quick and irritation-free way to remove unwanted hair on your face. It also exfoliates your skin removing the outer dry layer. So, it feels touchably smooth and is extra absorbent for your skincare products. Whoop!

close up of the Hollywood Browzer sharp blade behind safety bars for no nicks or cuts
Sharp stainless-steel blade behind safety bars – no nicks or cuts!

How to use a dermaplaning tool

  1. Wash & dry your skin
  2. Hold the blade at 45 degrees against your skin.
  3. Gently stroke your skin in short downward motions to remove hair, peach-fuzz, and dead skin cells.

It’s easy to stroke away peach-fuzz. You’ll even see the tiny hairs piling-up on your skin and the blade after each stroke. Simply wipe them away. On thicker hairs it drags a little but doesn’t scrape or hurt.

It's easy to quickly remove peach-fuzz and thicker facial hairs ofrom your ladytache with a Hollywood Browzer or other dermaplaning tool
Bye-bye lady tache!

It works on your upper lip, chin, jawline, sideburns, and cheeks. No water or foam needed. And it’s excellent to tame your eyebrows for a quick shape and tidy-up. Hairs grow back at your usual rate, but they feel softer than with shaving. For me, my thick whiskers feel much less sharp and stubbly, and I’ve no irritation in using the tool the next day on the same hairs.

Each tool stays sharp for around 2 to 3 months, which is long enough to see you through your start-up treatment schedule. And there are eco-friendly biodegradeable options available too ♻️ 🍃.

The Hollywood Browzer tool comes with a small case so it's good to pop in your bag for use on the go
Small & fits in your bag for on-the-go emergencies to remove random stray hairs!

I like dermaplaning because:

✔️ No need to lather up your face with foam.
✔️ The tool is small and easy to manoeuvre.
✔️ It’s discrete (fits in a bag)
✔️ Doesn’t feel or look like a man shaving.
✔️ It’s quick, painless and effective, without any nicks or cuts.
✔️ You can use mid-session on stray body hairs.
✔️ Hair grows back at your natural rate, but feels softer than with shaving.

You can also use the tool daily in between your zapping sessions until you don’t need to anymore.

Dermaplaning is a cheap and quick alternative to shaving your face before home IPL. I do it regularly.
I love dermaplaning, me.

I think dermaplaning is THE perfect companion to laser and IPL hair removal on your face. Here are links to my favourite tools…

However, if your facial hairs simply grow too quick, dermaplaning may not be athe answer. You may wish to continue your daily plucking routine alongside a home device until your hairs slow and stop growing.

And what if you can’t shave because of irritation?

Let’s see what your options are, next.

Can you pluck, wax, or epilate before IPL?

Can you epilate or wax before IPL? Some brands say yes, but your results will be slower than if you shave.
It hurts just looking at it.
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IMPORTANT: DON’T USE HAIR REMOVAL CREAMS because most brands suggest they may cause skin reactions with the light energy.

Most brands recommend you shave (or dermaplane) your hairs before your sessions. However, a few do say you can wax, epilate or pluck your hairs beforehand. Here’s a quick table comparison of shaving vs pluck/wax/epilate for all devices I’ve reviewed:

DeviceShave or dermaplanePluck, wax or epilate
Iluminage Precise Touch IPL ✔️
👍 Gives fastest results
✔️
You MUST pluck/wax/epilate fair hairs
Zap immediately after you wax/pluck/epilate
Iluminage Touch IPL ✔️
👍 Gives fastest results
✔️
You MUST pluck/wax/epilate fair hairs
Zap immediately after you wax/pluck/epilate
Philips Lumea Prestige IPL ✔️
👍 Gives fastest results
✔️
Zap 24 hours after you wax/pluck/epilate
Braun Pro 5 IPL ✔️
👍 Gives fastest results
✔️
No specific guidance, but you should zap 24 hours after you wax/pluck/epilate
Braun Pro 3 IPL ✔️
👍 Gives fastest results
✔️
No specific guidance, but you should zap 24 hours after you wax/pluck/epilate
Smoothskin Pure IPL ✔️
👍 Gives fastest results

Not recommended by Smoothskin, but should work just as well as Braun Pro 5
Smoothskin Bare+ IPL ✔️
Panasonic ES-WH90 IPL ✔️
Silk'n Infinity IPL ✔️
Tria 4X laser ✔️

Let’s now look at the devices from Philips and Braun, who say you can wax, epilate or pluck your hairs before your sessions.

You can epilate or wax before IPL with the Philips Prestige & Braun Pro 5 IPL devices, then zap 24 hours later. You could also try the Smoothskin Pure because it's almost identical to the Braun Pro 5.
✅ Pluck ✅ wax ✅ Epilate or ✅ shave on skin tone types I to V, but expect much slower results

Philips say you can pluck, wax or epilate before your sessions. However, you must then wait 24 hours before zapping your hairs. This allows any skin redness and irritation to fade, and for a tiny bit of hair to regrow in your hair follicles.

This tiny bit of hair absorbs the IPL flashes and damages a small area called the dermal papilla, at the bottom of the hair follicle where your hairs grow from. If the damage is big enough, the hair enters into a dormant resting stage. And during subsequent sessions you’ll zap any newly growing hairs inside your follicles too. Try the Philips Lumea Prestige IPL.

Braun say you can “use your preferred hair removal method.” But they don’t offer any further guidance as Philips do. It’s likely it’ll work in the same way (as Philips suggest), so it’s probably wise to wait 24 hours before zapping freshly waxed or plucked skin. Try the powerful Braun Pro 5 IPL, or if you have darker skin try the Braun Pro 3 IPL.

Smoothskin only recommend you shave your hairs. However, the Pure’s specification is almost identical to the Braun Pro 5. You can compare them here. Therefore, you could try the Pure if waxing, epilating or plucking 24 hours before zapping. They give a reassuring worldwide 90-day money back guarantee too.

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IMPORTANT:  But it’s also important to understand that you’ll have much slower results with these devices if you wax, pluck or epilate than if you shave. And especially if you’re using the lower intensity levels on dark skin up to type V.

So, if you choose to wax, epilate or pluck instead of shaving and dermaplaning, this means you’ll need a longer start-up phase and more frequent top-ups. That’s because there’s just a tiny hair root and so much less melanin in the hair follicle versus the entact shaft of a shaved hair. Therefore, they’ll be much less of the crucial damage needed to the key growing areas of the follicle which inturn ensure longer-lasting hair removal.

Get a close shave before IPL with a free Gillette Venus razor you get with the Braun Pro 5 IPL.
Both Philips & Braun clinical tests were on shaved hairs.

And it’s also important to note that for both Philips and Braun devices, plucking, waxing and epilating were not part of their clinical tests. But there is one brand which does have clinical proof of effective hair reduction on plucked hairs.

Let’s look at these next.

Iluminage & Me devices proven to work on plucked hairs

The Iluminage Touch and Me Sleek, and Precise Touch and Me Chic are clinically proven effective on fair hair (blonde and red) if you pluck, wax, or epilate immediately before your sessions. This helps the IPL work on hair colours without the melanin pigment found in dark hair. Instead, the IPL energy targets the small blood droplets left behind in the follicle after it’s pulled out. They then also send Radio Frequency current into your skin which is attracted to this warmed area. The resistance to this current flow creates even more heat to further work on the hair follicles. This combined RF and IPL technology is called Elōs.

Pluck with tweezers then zap with the Iluminage Precise Touch - it works but takes longer than with shaving.
I recommend the Iluminage Precise Touch if you want to zap plucked facial hairs

So, this clinically proven fair hair regimen also means you can wax, epilate or pluck dark hairs too. Yay! This makes the compact Iluminage Precise Touch and Me Chic versatile options if you want to continue daily plucking of facial hairs. And for larger and small areas, the design of the Iluminage Touch and Me Sleek is better.

The Iluminage Touch is better suited to hair removal on large areas as well as face and small areas. You can pluck, wax, epilate or shave before IPL with the Elos devices.
Wax or epilate larger body areas and then zap with the Iluminage Touch
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IMPORTANT: However, be prepared you’ll likely need more than the advertised 7 weekly sessions to see results. That’s because to start, there’s just a teeny droplet of blood in your follicle for the IPL to work on. Then, as your dark hairs grow inside your follicle there’s more melanin to target during subsequent sessions. It’s likely to take somewhere between 7 to 14 sessions to get smooth results.

Here’s a comparison table of the treatment schedules for each device where you can pluck before sessions.

Device# of start-up sessionsFrequencyTop-ups
Iluminage Precise Touch 7 for shaved, dark hair
7 to 14 for fair hair & plucked hairs
Weekly As needed, usually every 4 weeks
Iluminage Touch 7 for shaved, dark hair
7 to 14 for fair hair & plucked hairs
Weekly As needed, usually every 4 weeks
Philips Lumea Prestige 4 or 5 for shaved, dark hair
5+ for plucked hairs
1 every 2 weeks Start monthly, then as needed
Braun Pro 5 IPL 6 to 12 for shaved, dark hair
Up to 12 or 12+ for plucked hairs
Weekly Start monthly, then as needed
Braun Pro 3 IPL 6 to 12 for shaved, dark hair
Up to 12 or 12+ for plucked hairs
Weekly As needed, usually every 2 to 4 weeks
Smoothskin Pure IPL 6 to 12 for shaved, dark hair
Up to 12 or 12+ for plucked hairs
Weekly Start monthly, then as needed

Summary & devices for IPL without shaving

Here’s a quick roundup.

✔️ If you can, shave your dark hairs immediately before your session.

✔️ I recommend dermaplaning facial hairs before your sessions.

✔️ Dermaplane away any speedy, rogue growth inbetween sessions too.

And if shaving is intolerably bad for your skin so you must wax, epilate or pluck before your sessions:

  • Check out the Iluminage Precise Touch and Me Chic for face and small areas.
  • Or the Iluminage Touch and Me Sleek for larger body areas.
  • All Iluminage and Me devices are clinically proven to work on hairs removed at the root.
  • But it may take slightly longer for you to notice results
  • Or take more frequent sessions to maintain your smooth.

Below is a quick summary and deal inks of the best devices you can choose for shaving, waxing, epilating or plucking your hairs before your IPL session.

View deals

When you shop via my links I earn a small commission (but your price stays the same). And I really appreciate your support 🙏!

Iluminage Precise Touch best home IPL for face

Iluminage Precise Touch & Me Chic deals

✔️ Shave, dermaplane, wax, epilate or pluck
✔️ ALL skin tones & hair colours
✔️ Face & small areas

Shave dark hairs, or dermaplane dark facial hairs for your fastest and longest lasting results. For fair hairs you MUST wax, pluck or epilate before each session. You can do this on dark hairs too, but note you’ll need double the recommended sessions for good results (so, up to 14 weekly sessions).

N.B. The Iluminage Precise Touch and Me Chic devices (listed below) are different brands of device with the same Elōs technology inside. So, they work in identical ways.

🇺🇸 United States

Iluminage Precise Touch:
Lookfantastic

Me Chic:
Lookfantastic
SkinStore.com

🇨🇦 Canada

Iluminage Precise Touch:
Lookfantastic

Me Chic:
Lookfantastic

🇳🇱 Nederland

🇩🇪 Deutschland

🌏 International

Iluminage Precise Touch:
Lookfantastic

Me Chic:
Lookfantastic
SkinStore.com

Change shipping country & currency at page top.

🇭🇰 Hong Kong

🇸🇬 Singapore

Iluminage Touch & Me Sleek deals

Iluminage Touch IPL works on shaved, waxed, epilated or plucked hairs

✔️ Shave, dermaplane, wax, epilate or pluck
✔️ ALL skin tones & hair colours
✔️ Face, small & large areas

Shave dark hairs, or dermaplane dark facial hairs for your fastest and longest lasting results. For fair hairs you MUST wax, pluck or epilate before each session. You can do this on dark hairs too, but note you’ll need double the recommended sessions for good results (so, up to 14 weekly sessions).

N.B. The Iluminage Touch and Me Sleek devices (listed below) are different brands of device with the same Elōs technology inside. So, they work in identical ways.

🇺🇸 United States

🇨🇦 Canada

🇳🇱 Nederland

🇩🇪 Deutschland

🌏 International

Change shipping country & currency at page top.

🇭🇰 Hong Kong

🇸🇬 Singapore

Philips Lumea Prestige deals

Philips Lumea Prestige is the most precise & comfy at-home IPL

✔️ Shave, dermaplane, wax, epilate or pluck
✔️ Light to dark skin tones (but not the very darkest) & dark hair
✔️ Face, small & large areas

Shave hairs, or dermaplane facial hairs for your fastest and longest lasting results. If waxing, epilating or plucking, wait 24 hours before zapping. You’ll likely need more than the recommended start-up sessions to see results, and need more frequent top-ups to maintain your smooth.

BODY5

CurrentBody voucher code

🇳🇱 Nederland

🇩🇪 Deutschland

🇭🇰 Hong Kong

🇸🇬 Singapore

🌏 International

Braun Pro 5 IPL deals

the Braun Pro 5 at-home IPL is a top choice for fast & no-faff sessions

✔️ Shave, dermaplane, wax, epilate or pluck
✔️ Light to dark skin tones (but not the very darkest) & dark hair
✔️ Face, small & large areas

Shave hairs, or dermaplane facial hairs for your fastest and longest lasting results. If waxing, epilating or plucking, wait 24 hours before zapping. You’ll likely need more than the recommended start-up sessions to see results, and need more frequent top-ups to maintain your smooth.

Braun Pro 3 IPL deals

Braun Silk Expert Pro 3 best IPL for medium to dark skin

✔️ Shave, dermaplane, wax, epilate or pluck
✔️ Light to dark skin tones (but not the very darkest) & dark hair
✔️ Face, small & large areas

Shave hairs, or dermaplane facial hairs for your fastest and longest lasting results. If waxing, epilating or plucking, wait 24 hours before zapping. You’ll likely need more than the recommended start-up sessions to see results, and need more frequent top-ups to maintain your smooth.

BODY5

CurrentBody voucher code

🇳🇱 Nederland

🇺🇸 United States

🇨🇦 Canada

🇦🇺 Australia

🇭🇰 Hong Kong

🇸🇬 Singapore

🌏 International

Smoothskin Pure deals

Smoothskin Pure is the best value at-home premium IPL because it's easy & fast

✔️ Shave & dermaplane recommended
✔️ Light to dark skin tones (but not the very darkest) & dark hair
✔️ Face, small & large areas

Smoothskin DON’T recommend waxing, epilating or plucking your hairs. However, the IPL power and spec of the Pure & Pure Fit is almost identical to the Braun Pro 5 IPL. Therefore, you could also try the Pure, but remember your results will be slower than if you shave. Although not explicitly for this purpose, Smoothskin give a worldwide 90-day money back guarantee too.

BODYBEAUT

CurrentBody voucher code for SmoothSkin

Laura Gladman
I'm a bit obsessed with at-home beauty devices. It's a habit I've had for around 8 years now. I love the science, testing and reviewing them, and sharing my experience and feedback on my site Wearebodybeautiful.com. I'm also a crazy dog lady, and I don't care.

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