Although both men and women spend time on removing hair, men shouldn’t complain. If you’re a woman reading this, you’ll know what I mean – women face the greater challenge, because managing your hair growth is a time-consuming, often painful, annoying chore.
You have lots of places where hairs grow – that you could do without – including, but not limited to: legs, armpits, below the belly button, face, upper lip, nose, fingers, forearms, toes and bikini line – to name a few.
The positive news is that you’re no longer restricted to the use of hair removal cream, waxing, and shaving, and the pain, mess, wasted time and expense that goes along with them.
Today’s enlightened women are switching over to Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and laser machines, a device that makes life much easier, by reducing or permanently eliminating unwanted hair, wherever it may grow, in less time, and whenever it’s convenient for you.
Sounds idyllic, but kind of scary – a handheld laser gun that kills unwanted hairs, dead!
Let’s shed some light on this technology, and find the best IPL machine that you can use in the comfort of your own home.
How Do IPL Hair Removal Machines Work?
An IPL machine produces different wavelengths of light (whereas lasers use a single wavelength) that are attracted to chromophores – the parts of a molecule responsible for creating colour in a person’s hair.
IPL devices don’t actually “cut” your hair. Instead, it zaps the hair with an intense beam of light that damages the growth centre of the hair follicle, permanently disabling the follicles ability to regrow a new hair, while leaving surrounding skin cells and tissues unharmed.
They use heat, to burn hairs from their tip to base – without pain. Some of the better IPL machines have built in sensors that will adjust to your skin colour, ensuring that the optimal intensity of light is always emitted from the device.
Several treatments are necessary to thoroughly remove all hair growth from a specific area, because IPL machines will only kill hairs that are in the Anagen phase of growth.
You see, hairs are in 1 of 3 phases – Anagen, Catagen, or Telogen.
The Anagen phase is where the hair is directly connected to the bulb of the papilla (follicle) and protrudes out from the surface of the skin. This direct contact from the base of the follicle to skin surface is needed to absorb and direct the IPL heat down to destroy the hair follicle, and to permanently disable the growth cycle.
The Catagen phase is where the hair naturally falls out to make way for a new hair. Think of this as a “transitional phase” between old and new hairs – it’s part of the normal shedding process, and the reason why your hairbrush and sink gets clocked with hairs.
Hairs at this stage have detached from the bulb and blood supply, and because of this disengagement, the IPL heat can’t reach the base of the hair shaft to destroy the follicle.
The Telogen phase is when the hair follicle lays “dormant” and works through the process of creating a new hair, and because the hair is so small, and hidden beneath the skin, light from an IPL machine is ineffective.
Unlike shaving or epilating, results aren’t instant, but over time a good IPL machine will remove over 90% of hairs for permanent hair removal.
There are thousands of hairs on your skin, all in different stages of their growth cycle, and it’s only the hairs in the Anagen Phase that work with IPL machines. Therefore, several bouts of treatment spanning several moths will yield the greatest result. Check your IPL device user manual for guidance, because machine designs and guidelines vary.
IPL is most ideal for people with untanned, light coloured skin and darker coloured hair. Very light hair contains insufficient pigment for the IPL to absorb – which I’ll get into in just a moment, but first, let’s talk about some of the benefits that you’ll see from regular use of the better IPL devices out there.
Key Benefits of IPL Hair Removal
Outside of hair removal, IPL can be used to treat numerous health issues. It’s been used to treat dark spots on the skin, cosmetic skin rejuvenation to fight aging, and broken capillaries.
However, we’re here to talk about hair removal, and here are just a few of the benefits of using an IPL machine of the highest quality:
After a few treatments, up to 92% of your removed hair won’t grow back again so it’s not a relentless chore you have to keep doing with increasing regularity to keep up with constant stubble and regrowth.
The IPL process is quick and easy to do at home, often completed within an hour (depending on the surface size).
IPL is a painless procedure with no visible temporary effects. For example, if you remove hair from your face, you don’t need to worry about redness and/or swelling on your face.
When you use IPL, you’ll use one setting so you can address multiple problem areas in the same session. This means fewer treatments needed to maintain those problem areas. Work on bigger areas instead of isolated spots (where applicable). For example, you can do your whole face and neck during one treatment.
The IPL will improve the tone and texture of your skin and prevent in-grown hairs that can easily become sore, inflamed, and infected.
How Long Do the Effects of IPL Last?
Like laser hair removal, IPL is a permanent solution – eventually.
Like I explained in the section on the science behind IPL machines, and how they work, you’ll need repeated exposure over some months to permanently rid the specific area of your body of hair.
Here’s an example from Philips, of how the effects from a top IPL machine worked on treating hair on a test subjects legs.
Of course, results are going to vary depending on your skin and hair colour, and genetics.
IPL requires the first four treatments to be done every two weeks. The main reason is that it only works on active, treatable hair follicles (hairs in the Anagen phase) and because your hair follicles are never all in this part of the growth cycle at the same time, multiple shots of IPL are needed, spread over weeks / months to get good results. Having four treatments within two months will ensure all your follicles are targeted.
Then you’ll move to maintenance treatments which means carrying out a treatment every four to eight weeks in the long term to catch new hairs that have grown from the dormant Telogen phase.
You’ll eventually get used to how, when and where your hair grows and how often you need to treat each area. The maintenance treatments are primarily designed to catch any unwanted hair that grows back because most of it will be reduced permanently.
Bottom line – the best IPL machines provide thorough and permeant hair removal, over a period of time. Hey, it sure beats having to shave every few days!
Which Parts of the Body are Suitable for IPL Hair Removal?
The short answer is “anywhere!”
Obviously, you need to use common sense and run a test by hitting a small area first to see how your skin responds. Then start using your machine on bigger areas, so you’ll gradually get a feel for what you can and can’t do.
Basically, anywhere from the cheekbone down is all-good. Don’t use the IPL laser machine too close to your eyes – for obvious reasons. You wouldn’t use the machine on eyebrows or head hair.
If you’re using the machine to remove hairs from your face, we highly recommend the use of IPL safety glasses and that you take great care.
You can effectively remove hair from your face, arms, legs, bikini area, armpits, arms, hands, feet, stomach, back, shoulders, or anywhere on your body that you want rid of hairs, for good.
Some of the best IPL laser devices have special attachments with curves and filters to help remove hairs from specific parts of the body.
For example, the Philips Lumea Prestige IPL comes with 4 attachments with varied width windows and shaped caps for face, bikini, body, and underarm – all to help with usability and performance.
Always follow the manual and guidance from your IPL machine manufacturer. The leading IPL machines have smart phone apps available packed with guidance, tutorials, and support to coach you through using your IPL for the first time.
How Skin Tone and Hair Colours Affect Results
The majority of IPL user manuals use the Fitzpatrick skin tone scale to help identify your correct skin type.
Type 1 is white pale skin never tans and always burns if you’re outside in the sun.
Type 6 is black to very dark brown skin that never burns but tans easily.
Here’s an example that shows you which skin and hair types are suitable for use with good home IPL machines.
People with darker skin colours should avoid using IPL because it contains a lot more melanin so the light heats the skin, causing pain and damages.
It’s crucial that you understand your skin tone so you can choose the right machine and intensity for the job, our deciding on whether IPL is right for you.
When it comes to hair colour, darker hair gets the best results. Red, blonde or light-coloured hair doesn’t have enough pigment to absorb the IPL.
Which IPL Machine is Best?
Now you have learned a bit about IPL in general and what they can do for you, it’s time to look at the two best IPL machines currently available to buy.
The first question everybody asks is the price. There’s no point in looking at a Porsche when you can only afford a Punto.
A good IPL device is not cheap, it’s going to set you back in the range of £100 at the low end, and £500 at the high end.
We’ve research the top IPL machines from both ends of the budget range. Armed with the findings of our investigation, taking the step into IPL home hair removal just got a bit easier for you.
Here are your top two IPL choices:
Best Overall: The Philips Lumea Prestige IPL Machine
Got cash to burn and want the best-of-the-best? IPL machines for home don’t get any better than the award winning Philips Lumea Prestige. Read our review to find out more about this machine, or see the latest price and features on Amazon.co.uk.
Best Value: The Philips Lumea Essential IPL
For the more budget-conscious UK consumers that want an affordable IPL machine for home use, but don’t want to skimp or quality, the Philips Lumea ticks all the boxes. Here’s where you can get more insight into this little gem – check price and reviews on Amazon.co.uk.
Now, let’s compare what the “Prestige” and “Essential” have to offer you.
- Philips Lumea is the number one brand of IPL machines in the United Kingdom.
- One lamp should last up to 20 years, depending on how often it’s used.
- Protective eye goggles aren’t needed.
- This award winning brand has been chosen and reviewed by well over one million women in the UK.
Philips is the first company to provide four curved attachments to suit each part of your body: main body, underarm, bikini and face. However, these attachments only come with the Prestige machine, not the essential.
Philips Lumea Prestige vs essential At a Glance
Here’s a clearer picture of the differences between these two great IPL machines.
- More expensive,
- 92% hair reduction after 4 treatments.
- Corded and cordless options.
- 4 different attachments for specific areas
- including your sensitive areas.
- Up to 250,000 flashes.
- Numerous settings.
- More affordable.
- 75% hair reduction after 4 treatments.
- No cordless option.
- No extra attachments so it’s not ideal for
- sensitive areas.
- Up to 200,000 flashes.
- One setting for everything.
How IPL Compares to Other Hair Removal Methods
You might be wondering – or humming and hawing- over whether an IPL machine is worth the heavy investment. After all, you’re current hair removal methods might be costing you next to nothing, and doing an “ok” job.
But, weekly shaving is a grind, and not always great for your skin.
Bi-weekly waxing or epilating can be painful, and time consuming.
…And results don’t last that long, meaning you have to constantly repeat the process – but not will IPL and laser hair removal – with a few sessions, hairs are removed permanently.
The bottom line is that IPL machines are fantastic for reducing / eliminating unwanted hair from wherever it’s growing on your body, that you wanted stopped, for good.
Philips, Braun and SmoothSkin are the premium manufacturers of IPL machines in the United Kingdom. From our extensive research, for 2018, our top two rated best IPL laser machines – Philips Prestige and Essential – produce the greatest results and are backed by a trusted brand.
Is IPL suitable for men?
Yes, any IPL machine that works for a woman, will work for a man. It’s clear that most IPL machines are marketed towards women, but that doesn’t mean the machine won’t remove hairs from a mans skin – they will. There are IPL machines marketed towards men, they look modern and “cool” with black and grey colours, but the Intense Pulsed Light technology is just the same.
Is IPL suitable for sensitive skin?
Generally, yes. But, it’s not suitable for all skin types, as I’ve already mentioned. Everyone is different, you really need to test a small area first to see how you respond. If you suffer from sensitive skin, then talk with a professional dermatologist before using an IPL machine at home.