Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) machine
How does an at-home IPL machine work?
Another option is to use an IPL device. This is a hand-held machine designed for permanent hair reduction. It works by scattering “intense pulsed light” (a broad-spectrum light) across the skin. It directs light at the melanin (the pigment that gives the skin/hair its colour) in the hair follicle, damaging the root and helping to break the cycle of regrowth. Energy, frequency, skin and hair colour are all determining factors in the efficacy of the treatment.
Most IPL Devices are suitable for the body and face. They work by gliding or stamping the device over skin, emitting light as they go. Gliding is convenient for larger surface areas of the body (such as your legs). Stamping (pressing onto the area) is better for smaller areas where you need to be more precise.
The devices themselves aren’t cheap – with the most affordable one on our list still carrying a price tag over £200 – but buying one should mean you don’t have to make regular trips to the salon anymore. But don’t expect instant results. It takes a minimum of three months regular use to ensure all the hair has been treated and it can take up to 24 months to capture every single hair, due to hair’s growth cycles. So top-up sessions are needed (typically every two to four weeks) for any regrowth. Expect permanent hair reduction but not completely permanent removal.
IPL devices aren’t suitable for everyone, as they’re only able to identify and target hair pigment that is a contrasting shade to the skin. Light blonde, red, white and grey hairs contain little pigment, so IPL typically isn’t effective on people with these hair shades, whatever their skin colour. They also don’t work on dark skin tones. Typically, those with pale to medium skin and dark hair are the best candidates for IPL. Generally, it isn’t suitable for pregnant women, those with certain skin/hair conditions and those undergoing particular treatments – check the fine print before you buy.
Before you invest, consider that with some machines, once the lamp has run out of flashes you won’t be able to buy a replacement. Lifespan for lamps range between one and six years based on average use as recommended by the manufacturer.
Is IPL hair removal safe?
IPL is considered safe to use, providing the device is from a reliable, trusted brand and instructions are followed as advised. Occasionally, some people may experience side effects such as redness, discomfort, and very rarely blisters or burns. If any irritation occurs, please consult a medical professional.
How to use IPL devices
For IPL to work effectively, some hair is required to allow the light to target it, therefore it’s best not to wax or epilate ahead of your session. Shaving beforehand is advised as the light can target hair directly in the follicle. If IPL is used on longer hair, it runs the risk of burning the skin.
For best results, regular IPL sessions are required. Each brand advises how often to use their IPL device, and when you can expect to see results. Typically, most brands suggest a 12-week programme followed by top-up sessions as and when needed.
Does IPL hair removal hurt?
The level of discomfort varies from person to person, however, the sensation can feel quite tingly and hot (it’s sometimes likened to being flicked with a hot elastic band). The process is quite quick, though, so the pain doesn’t last long. Most devices have a range of heat settings to make it more comfortable.
What to consider when buying an IPL device
The number of flashes: This is the number of times the device can emit a flash. Most have a minimum of 100,000 and once the lamp runs out of flashes, a replacement lamp will be needed. You can’t get replacement lamps for all devices, while some offer unlimited flashes.
The number of treatment heads: If you plan to use the device on smaller areas, a head that comes with a smaller treatment window is more efficient.
The level of intensities: This impacts how often you’ll need to use the device and whether you can adapt the intensity to suit more sensitive areas.
The number of modes: Most devices offer glide and stamp modes, with some also offering a “gentle” mode.
Speed: The shorter the time between flashes, the quicker the treatment process.
Automatic skin tone sensor: Some devices detect the optimum intensity and safe settings for your skin tone.
Corded or cordless: Some devices can be used cordless, for ease of use and transportation.
How we test IPL devicesThe Good Housekeeping Institute recruited over 80 women across the UK to help us test out a range of IPL devices in their own homes. The length of the test was 12 weeks, so we could see if our testers experienced the results they were hoping for. The testers followed the recommended instructions, found out how effective the devices were at removing hair on the legs, bikini line, underarms and upper lip, when any regrowth appeared, how easy the devices were to control, how simple the process was, and how comfortable it felt when removing their hair.
BY PAULINE HUI 23/03/2020
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