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10 Things to Know About At-Home Laser Hair Removal

I may be a beauty editor, but I will cut any corner to avoid shaving my legs in winter. I hate it! That’s why I was so excited to get my hands on the Tria Hair Removal Laser 4X ($449; triabeauty.com)—a handheld device that promises to zap away your unwanted hair for good, and do it just as well as an in-office treatment.

Here’s how it works: Lasers use pulsed light to target hair, which then converts to heat and breaks down the dark pigment in the hair follicle. Zap the same pigment over and over, and it’ll damage it enough to prevent future growth.

So what can you expect when you DIY? After testing it out myself, I've rounded up 10 things you should know before giving it a try. (If you’re not ready to make the jump to lasers, be sure to read 7 Pro Tips for DIY Waxing.)

An At-Home Laser Hair Removal Device Will Save You Money
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I buy clothing from my roommates’ closets and consider Chipotle a gourmet restaurant—so I know a thing or two about nickel-and-diming. Most devices do have a one-time cost of about $400, but the in-office option can clock in at $150 per visit—and most people need between five to eight sessions for effective results. And waxing the recommended once per month can cost up to $500 a year; razors and shaving cream add up to thousands of dollars over our lives. (See where I’m going with this?)

Lasers are Specific to Skin and Hair Color
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Important disclaimer: You should only use an at-home laser hair removal device if you have light or medium skin with dark hair. If your complexion is even slightly deeper than medium, the pulsed light won’t be able to distinguish the dark hair from your dark skin. On the flip side, lasers can’t pinpoint blonde hairs either, making Reese Witherspoon, for example, a poor candidate. (These 5 Better-for-You Beauty Treatments aren’t color-specific.)

Treatment Won’t Necessarily Be Fast
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Like I said, you’ll need anywhere between five to eight sessions to let the hair fall out naturally after each growth cycle. You can treat the area as little as once every two weeks. (Further proof that good things don’t always come quickly. Sigh.)

You'll Need a Pep Talk
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Why? Well…

It Hurts Really Badly
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Mid-armpit zap, you’ll likely be cursing your parents for your hairy genes, too. It just feels a little like someone with tiny, claw-like nails is pinching you…over and over again. But here’s the reason to suck it up: higher intensity levels (the Tria device has up to 5 settings) yield much quicker results. So instead of it taking eight sessions to reach hair-free status, you could be done in half that. Plus, your skin adjusts to the sensation—after a few zaps, you’ll be used to it.

Different Body Parts Hurt More Than Others
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Bony areas (such as your shins or ankles, for example) will hurt a lot more than spots with a little more cushion to them (like your calf). That’s because skin closest to the bone is thinner, but it doesn’t mean that hair is more difficult to treat.

You Shouldn’t Laser Your Lady Bits at Home
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Sounds obvious, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t read the directions three times to try and find a reason why it wouldn't be so bad to do. (Note: I didn’t find one.) The skin down yonder is extra-sensitive, so stick strictly to the bikini line-area. And be sure to check out 13 Down-There Grooming Questions, Answered.

Don't Laser Your 'Stache, Either
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It’s just…sensitive spots, you know?

You’re Supposed to Shave Before Zapping
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Unlike waxing or shaving—where you’ve got to either pull the hair out from the root or trim them—lasers work by targeting the hair follicle at the surface of skin. When you shave, the follicle remains. On the other hand, you shouldn’t wax for at least a month before treatment, since a treatment typically removes the root of the hair (and the laser needs to be able to find that to effectively remove it).

Laser Removal Is Not Always Permanent
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You’ll likely need touch-ups every so often afterward. If you notice a stray leg hair growing a year after treatment, it means that either the follicle’s natural growth cycle wasn’t finished or the hair was too fine for the laser to target. Just zap the suckers that pop up every once in a while, and you’ll be good to go. (Hey, it’s either that or keep your legs hidden with these 7 Cute Workout Leggings We Love.)

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