Does at-home laser hair removal work? Yes, but not as well as you might think.

With summer around the corner, the semi-creepy targeted advertisements seem to be reading your mind. They appear to know just what you need.

That swimsuit is cute. Oh, I love those sunglasses. Maybe Baxter needs a doggie slip-and-slide. Hmmm – that at-home laser hair removal device looks pretty nifty. What if I never needed to shave again? I could save so much money with this.

At-home laser hair removal does work, however, like a lot of things on social media, the reality may be different than how it appears. To help you protect your body and your wallet, we help you determine fact from fiction.

Does at-home laser hair removal work?

First, it’s important to note that most at-home hair removal devices are not lasers. They are usually intense pulsed light devices or IPL for short. It works exactly like it sounds – intense light is pulsed to the hair follicle, which disrupts hair growth. While the mechanism of action is similar to laser hair removal, it is less powerful and takes more sessions to get the desired result.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, these IPL and other devices do work to remove unwanted hair, but it often takes many sessions, and the results are rarely permanent. IPL devices are generally safe, and they have been approved by the FDA for hair removal.

If you are considering at-home laser hair removal, you may want to talk to your physician beforehand for clear instructions (like avoiding your face and eyes) and to determine if it’s right for your skin or hair color. In an interview with The American Academy of Dermatology Association, Dr. Carolyn I. Jacob, MD, FAAD, an associate clinical instructor of dermatology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago explains that lasers that target blond, red, gray or white hair have not been developed yet, however, strides have been made so that those with darker skin types can successfully undergo the procedure.

An article published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology says that laser hair removal is available for skin types I through IV on the Fitzpatrick scale – this excludes those with darker skin types.

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How long does it take for at-home laser hair removal to work?

It depends on the person, but people generally see results within 6-10 treatments. As previously mentioned, the devices available for use at home are not as powerful as the devices you would find in a dermatology office, and therefore more treatments are usually needed.

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How much does an at-home laser cost?

Costs may vary from around $100 to over $1000. If an at-home laser works for you, it may be worth the investment, as it would be significantly cheaper to use at home than to continuously get treatments at the doctor’s office. However, for best results, you would have to use the device fairly often, which may make it not all that different from shaving.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Does at-home laser hair removal work? Yes and no.