Unfortunately, laser hair removal doesn’t suit all skin tones and hair colors. “IPL is most effective when it can pick up on pigmentation, so the ideal candidate is someone with lighter skin and darker hair,” says Dr. Graf. She adds that patients usually require six or more professional IPL treatments for effective results, with each session performed four weeks apart. “Depending on each person and their varying factors like hair thickness or area of the body, it may take more or fewer sessions to see permanent results,” she explains.
While at-home IPL is increasingly popular, you shouldn’t expect the same results as clinical treatments. “However, with consistent use, [at-home devices] can be helpful at decreasing the amount of hair growth you experience,” Dr. Graf says. “Also, because the treatment is not as strong at home, many people feel that at-home devices are pain-free. It is a more cost-effective option as well because once the device is purchased, it can be used endlessly for its entire lifespan.” (And for what it’s worth, the writer of this article swears by Braun’s IPL device for his own back hair mitigation.)
The Only True Permanent Solution
Pro: Results are likely permanent and suit all skin tones and hair types.
Con: Takes a long time to see results and sessions are expensive.
For most patients, Dr. Graf says, electrolysis is the most effective option for removing hair permanently. It works by sending chemical or heat energy into each individual follicle to destroy them over time, and can take as long as 18 months (or between 15-30 sessions) to complete. “After each session, patients will typically notice an improvement in the amount of hair growth that occurs,” Dr. Graf says. On the upside, it is effective for all skin and hair types (unlike IPL). Graf says that electrolysis can feel uncomfortable but is largely tolerable—she describes it as a pinching sensation.
The Quickest, Easiest Approach
Pro: Works for all skin sensitivities, all hair volumes, and for anyone in a hurry who needs a guarantee of no irritation.
Con: Never trims below a stubble.
This is the best “one size fits all” solution—and the best “in a pinch” solution too. Many of the best beard trimmers will work perfectly well on body hair too, but ergonomically they might be hard to hit all those awkward angles if you’re trimming yourself. That’s where a dedicated body hair groomer will come in handy: the best versions handle odd contours and sensitive areas with aplomb. Trimming won’t be ideal for anyone who demands extended periods of time without any physical stubble or visual whiskers. But if you’re headed to the beach that same day, this is an option that likely won’t irritate your skin and only takes a few minutes to do.
Electric Razor? Sure. Traditional Razor? Nah.
Pro: Provides truly smooth results for 1-2 days.
Con: High potential for irritation during or following the shave. Difficult to do yourself.
It’s very hard to use an electric razor on your own back, and even if you have your roommate or partner do the task for you, it probably won’t save you much more time than using a standard body trimmer. Still, the best electric razors will hug your backblades and shoulders just as well as your facial contours, which means a closer shave than a body trimmer. Don’t bother with a traditional razor shave, however—it’ll be both time-consuming and put you at risk for nicks and cuts. Overall, using a razor will put you at greater risk for breakouts, irritation, ingrowns, bumps, and infection. If you’re looking for an ultra smooth surface, you’re better off with depilatory creams or waxing in the short term and lasering in the long term.