Hair trends come and go but stubbly legs are never going to be a thing. I was 12 when I first ‘borrowed’ my dad’s razor, and my regime hasn’t advanced much.
The only thing that changes is how often it happens (insulating calf fur for winter; emergency shearing for summer).
This year, I’m keen to shake off the shackles of shaving. There’s a boom in at-home machines that claim to rival salon pros and remove hair permanently.
None are cheap, although brands point out a course of clinic treatments would cost far more. But are they a good investment? Would they work for you? Are they even safe?
Eight things you need to know about hair removal
- Intense pulsed light (IPL) breaks the growth cycle by getting absorbed by the pigment in the hair. "The bigger the difference between hair colour and skin colour, the better IPL works," says Braun hair removal expert Dr Miriam Rietzler.
- Laser is different from IPL. Laser uses a single wavelength
to target the hair at the root; IPL uses different wavelengths to target it at multiple points. But, as with IPL, light skin and dark hair is still the ideal combination to treat.
- Not many DIY machines are suitable for black skin, and a pro laser treatment might be an option to consider. The Magma Diode at has had great feedback from Notebook’s tester.
- Laser and IPL only promise permanent hair reduction rather than total removal. "If you zap a hair, it should stop growing forever," says skin expert to the stars Nathalie Eleni. "But hormones can switch on dormant follicles, so you may need top-ups."
- You have to commit. IPL and laser only work on hair in its growth phase. You re-treat weekly so you’re always hitting new hairs entering that phase. "If you do miss a week, you won’t go back to where you started, but it may take longer to get best results," says Dr Rietzler.
- Home hair removal machines are very safety focused. You’re very unlikely to injure yourself if you follow the instructions, but they’re not as powerful as salon devices.
- Pain from DIY machines is minimal, not zero. "Coarser hair absorbs more light, which you may feel more, and some areas are just more sensitive," says Nathalie. But home IPL and laser is pretty well tolerated and you don’t have to let hair grow between treatments.
- You can’t use DIY machines everywhere. They’re safe for the bikini line, but not suitable for the genital area. "The skin may have a darker colour and/or greater hair density which would absorb more light energy and may cause discomfort," says Dr Rietzler.
Beauty Ed tests
Claims: Works on fair to light brown skin. Worked for 94% of testers after 12 weeks.
"I opt for this partly because it boasts an idiot-proof safety sensor that only lets the IPL fire on suitable skin, but mainly because it’s super-quick. Zapping legs in 8 mins once a week sounds do-able."
Lynne says: First impressions are good. The ‘glide and zap’ technique is fast and intuitive. There is no pain at all on legs, which gives me the confidence to point it at more sensitive areas. There’s the odd flash of heat, but it’s more ‘mild startle’ than ‘YEEOWWW!’.
Eight weeks in and the effects are undeniable. I hardly need to shave my underarms now and I’m feeling pretty bikini ready. My shins, though, remain a work in progress.
This gadget is brilliant on dark hair, but my leg hair is more mousey and it’s not gone yet. Is there less of it? Possibly. The narrower the shade gap between hair and skin, the longer results take, so I’m hoping I just need to persevere.
If you’re fair-skinned and your priority is to blitz dark pits ‘n’ bits, I’d recommend this IPL in a flash. However, the jury’s out for lighter hair and I won’t be binning my razor quite yet.
Claims: This laser treats fair to light brown skin. Up to
70% reduction in four treatments, full results after 12 weeks. Money back guarantee.
Tester says: "Easy – once I’d figured out how to unlock it (but good to have safety guards!). Not painless, but I like being able to adjust the power to my comfort level and I’m still getting good results without going full throttle."
Can't zap, won't zap?
Still want to remove hair the low-tech way? There’s innovation here too...
1. Venus Swirl
The swivel-head razor takes tricky corners like The Stig on Top Gear.
2. NAIR Nourish ‘Bye Bye Pain’ Wax
8 out of 10 testers claimed this hurt less than their regular wax.
3. Wilkinson Sword Raspberry Rain
Because you’ve been waiting your whole life for a razor with a fruit-scented handle, right?