I Tested an At-Home Laser Hair-Removal Device, and Having Had the Real Thing, Here's How It Compares
- Laser hair removal is typically performed by a professional, but at-home IPL devices exist.
- The SmoothSkin Bare+ is a handheld IPL hair-removal device that's FDA-approved.
- One editor tested how well the device worked on her armpits compared to pro treatments.
I shave my armpits just about every other day in the shower. It's not something I absolutely loathe doing, but I don't exactly enjoy the activity, either. If given the option to just snap my fingers and pouf, I'd be able to rid myself of body hair for good, I totally would — that's just my personal preference. I've tried a few different methods of hair removal aside from shaving, like waxing, but I couldn't commit to the rigorous schedule that it requires. On the other hand, I've gotten laser hair removal on my bikini line and preferred that above all other forms of body-hair removal. The only problem: professional laser hair removal isn't the most accessible beauty treatment because of its price. I never even considered being able to do laser at home until I learned about the SmoothSkin Bare+ ($279), a newly FDA-approved at-home IPL hair-removal device.
SmoothSkin has been in the at-home laser hair-removal business for a while, but it just expanded to the US market. Its products are clinically proven and safe for at-home use. Honestly, I was skeptical at first that it would work. Having had very successful laser hair removal done at a spa in the past, I wasn't sure it would yield the same hairless results.
The SmoothSkin Bare+ is a small, handheld device just larger than my palm. It uses 100 IPL — which stands for intense pulsed light — flashes per minute to target body hair, reducing its growth over time to reveal smooth skin. (Technically speaking, IPL is not the same as a laser treatment, which uses single-spectrum light to emit a specific wavelength.)
It's cleared for use on the whole body — underarms, legs, bikini line, and even face — and all you have to do is press a single button to activate it, so it's super simple to use. The directions advise to use it on clean skin and that all visible hair should be removed through shaving prior to treating the area — this is very different from professional laser hair removal, which requires there to be short, visible stubble on the area. Once you plug it in, the device automatically powers on, and you're ready to go. To use it, you lightly press it against the area you want to treat and press the button. The device has a smart sensor and only allows you to activate the IPL if it registers a compatible surface and skin tone, which is made clear by the button turning from red to blue. Even if you press the button without the device giving you the OK, it won't work.
The first time I went to use the SmoothSkin Bare+, I was a little nervous — probably more nervous than I was to get professional laser hair removal. Even though the directions sounded pretty straightforward, I was afraid I'd mess it up or that it would hurt. I finally mustered up the courage to use it for the first time one night and was pleasantly surprised. I positioned the device against my armpit and, once the button turned blue, clicked. A burst of white light — nothing too powerful or dangerous that you need goggles — flashed against my skin, and I felt a slight warm, tingling feeling. It was nothing compared to the laser treatment I got at the salon. With the first pass done, I felt confident to continue treating my entire underarm and moving on to the other side.
The device treats an area of skin that's about an inch by two centimeters big at a time, so it required multiple passes to finish my armpit. I wouldn't describe the feeling it leaves as painful, although obviously, pain is subjective — it just feels warm. Afterward, my skin looked a little bit pink, but it was barely noticeable, and there was no lingering pain.
There are a few limits to the device — as with all lasers, you need to check that it's compatible with your skin tone and that it won't cause any irritation (the brand strongly recommends a patch test, and I second that). It also doesn't work on all hair colors (a common problem with all types of IPL hair removal) because the device can't register the super-light pigment of blond hair, so it works best for dark hair.
Still, I've been using the SmoothSkin Bare+ once a week for about one and a half months, and although I still do get some hair growth that requires me to shave, I've noticed a difference in how much and how thick it is. After about five weeks, my armpit hair started to grow in thinner, and I plan on keeping up with the treatments to see how much more progress I can make (in addition to testing it out on other areas of my body, as well). Considering treating both of my underarms takes me less than five minutes, it's not hard to fit into my routine.
So, is it as effective as professional-grade laser hair removal? No, but considering it's priced under $300 and you can treat your entire body with it, I think it's well worth the splurge.