Many consumers bombard laser manufacturers looking to buy a hair removal laser for home use. “The price for a full body hair removal at a medical aesthetic clinic is over $3,000. Why can’t buy a laser and do it myself and share the laser with the family?” Most people are surprised that even for a used light-based device for hair removal medical professionals have to pay upwards of $50,000.

Why laser manufacturers do not make devices for consumers?

The simple answer is: laser hair removal devices are not a consumer technology. It’s not a matter of cost. Some consumers might consider footing a $50K bill for personal use. It’s not a matter of making the laser technology cheap and affordable to general public. Due to safety considerations lasers should never be used without medical supervision.

The home-based market for aesthetic devices is a potential source of significant growth for the aesthetic industry.  While this seems to represent a considerably larger market opportunity than the professional aesthetic equipment market, we believe that even cheap low power home-based hair removal devices will be competing against conventional razors, electronic razors, waxing products, light-based epilation, electrolysis, bleaching, and hair growth inhibitors. For skin rejuvenation, some of the leading alternatives include conventional facials, chemical peels, and microdermabrasion, which are competitively offered by day spa kind of outfits.

What consumer laser devices are avaialble now?

Palomar Medical Technologies has made the most advanced attempt into the field. Years ago they forged a what seemed a guaranteed success partnership with Gillette to develop and commercialize a home-based hair removal device. It was very long in the making and recently Gillette waived the exclusive distribution rights to the device, which seems like a clear indication that the device did not meet internal expectations during the 12-month consumer assessment trial. The future of the project is unclear.

Privately held Radiancy introduced its homebased hair removal device, no!no!, in October 2007 in the U.S., which is exclusively offered through cosmetics retailer Sephora at $250 per unit. The company’s approach to market was unique in that it contracted directly with a single retailer that has a national presence as opposed to consumer products distributor capable of reaching multiple retail outlets (the approach currently being pursued by Syneron and Palomar). We believe that Radiancy is expanding its home-use line to include solutions for acne and facial skin rejuvenation.

All patients who used Silk’n, a low-energy pulsed-light device intended for home-use hair removal, showed a positive clinical response to treatment in a controlled study by the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery, which was published in mid-March 2009. Hair counts were reduced 37.8% to 53.6% 6 months after three treatments. Skin region influenced clinical response, with lower legs exhibiting greater hair reduction than arms and inguinal and axillary areas. Mild erythema was experienced in 25% of patients, but no other side effects or complications were encountered. Patient satisfaction scores were high, with all patients stating that they would purchase the device for future home use.

It appears that this low-energy pulsed light device can be applied safely and effectively for at-home hair removal in a variety of nonfacial locations and skin phototypes I-IV. These devices are available via a limited number of physicians in the U.S.

Other devices, such as nuFace and Zeno, are not using laser technologies. It is highly unlikely that consumers will see an affordable but effective light-based device for permanent hair reduction or photorejuvenation in a store near you in the many years to come. The long-term efficacy of the experimental devices listed above is incomparable to any hair reduction treatments offered by professional IPLs and lasers.