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And just like that, in a flash, the hair disappeared
Hair removal is a completely personal thing. You could be a daily in-shower shaver, or perhaps you and your waxer have known each other so long that she’s made it onto your Christmas card list. Or hey, maybe you have a very relaxed approach to hair approval and like to leave things au naturel. But here we’re talking about laser hair removal. In-salon treatments are effective but expensive. This is where at-home IPL hair removal devices really come into their own.
First things first though…
What is IPL?
IPL stands for Intense Pulse Light. This light energy targets hair in the active growth phase called the anagen stage.
How does IPL work?
Light passes through the skin, heats up, and frazzles the hair follicles. It essentially destroys them. (Safely, we’d like to add.) This then prevents regrowth over time. But, not permanently. You should notice that after a while your hair doesn’t grow back as often or as thick.
Best IPL hair removal devices 2022:
Cord Yes | Intensity settings Three | Attachments Two | Usage Once a week for six weeks | Flashes 120,000
This device has all the bells and whistles. And one of its biggest selling points is that you don’t have to hold down the button as you glide it over your skin. There are three intensity settings, and all skin tones can use it.
Cord Yes | Intensity settings Five | Attachments Four | Usage Once every two weeks for a month, then every four weeks for eight weeks | Flashes 450,000
Look at all of those heads – each one suitable for certain areas. Plus it has two settings – one for straighter, easier parts of the bod, and another for those parts that are slightly rounder, and harder to reach. There’s also a Lumea app, which shows you exactly how to use your device.
Cord Yes | Intensity settings 10x | Attachments Two | Usage Once every week for 4-12 weeks (depending on results) | Flashes 400,000
This is so quick, that you could easily do both legs whilst on a work Zoom call. It has really clever SensoAdapt technology that detects your skin tone and adapts its intensity and energy to suit you. The varying intensities mean that you can start off gentle and work your way up. Depending on your preference, you can either glide the device or do the stamp method. We recommend gliding on the legs, but stamping on the niggly bits. According to the brand, with the 400,000 flashes, you could do your legs for 27 years.
Cord Yes | Intensity settings Five | Attachments One | Usage Once every two weeks for a month, then every month for the next two months | Flashes 500,000
There is some rather clever technology in this device. It has a skin colour sensor that can detect how much melanin is in the skin and adjust the settings accordingly.
Cord Yes | Intensity settings One | Attachments One | Usage Once a week for three months, then once every two to four weeks | Flashes Unlimited
If speed is your thing, then this small but mighty device is the one for you. It flashes 100 times per minute, which means you can do your whole body in around 10 minutes. There aren’t different strength settings, but there is a stamp mode if you want to be completely accurate in some areas.
Cord Yes | Intensity settings Six | Attachments Six | Usage Once a week for six weeks, then touch up when needed | Flashes 500,000
This is one of the most stylish looking IPL devices I have ever used. It comes with six different settings so you can work your way up, along with six attachments for different parts of the body. The rotating head means it can reach those tricky areas, and it even keeps your skin cool thanks to built-in ICE technology which keeps the head at 5°C.
What’s really special about this machine though is the fact that it combines skin-rejuvenating anti-ageing treatments with hair reduction. All you have to do is use the skin rejuvenation attachment head, and the continuous flashes of light will help to boost collagen and elastin production to smooth and firm your skin. My advice is to stick with this device, as like many others, it does take a while to see results, but it’s worth it in the end.
What’s the difference between laser hair removal and IPL?
Both IPL and laser hair removal use light energy to destroy the hair follicle.
However, ‘the difference between the two is based around the type and wavelength and strength of light energy used,’ explains Dr Anita Sturnham, Dermatologist and Skin Health Specialist.
At-home IPL devices are, understandably, a lot less powerful than in-clinic laser systems. A laser is a single higher energy beam that can focus on the follicle, rather than the surrounding skin. This makes it much stronger than IPL, which uses a broad spectrum of light, which is scattered and a lot weaker on the skin.
‘A laser beam is made up of precisely controlled pulses of a specific wavelength of light energy,’ says Dr Sturnham. ‘This is absorbed by the melanin (brown pigment) in the hair, reaching into the active hair follicles that lie beneath the skin. The energy heats the hair and safely destroys it without damaging surrounding tissue.’
They do, however, do the same thing. They destroy the root of the hair after a treatment course.
It should be noted that neither actually offers completely permanent hair removal.
Dr Sturnham told us that she used to have two laser hair removal devices at her clinic, Nuriss, but got rid of them. ‘I just felt that it was unethical to charge people to have it done in my clinic when the at-home devices available are so good.’
How do you use an at-home IPL device and how often should you use it?
Dr Sturnham recommends shaving the night before. Your skin needs to be as smooth as possible, ahead of the treatment. As your skin can be slightly sensitive after shaving, it’s best to avoid doing it straight before, as the IPL device can get a little warm.
You place the device on your skin and work it along in a straight line. Some devices have strength settings, you’ll want to start at the lowest initially to establish what feels most comfortable.
Each device will have its own recommended treatment plan. But Dr Sturnham, who works closely with Braun, says to use it once a week for a month, then once a month every month, for maintenance.
Dr Barbara Sturm Aloe Vera Gel, £55 | Cult Beauty
‘Afterwards, apply a really soothing cream,’ recommends Dr Sturnham. ‘Something with chamomile or aloe vera. And steer clear of anything that’s really perfumed.’
We like Dr Barbara Sturm’s Aloe Vera Gel – it cools and envelopes skin in calming comfort. Ideal after a day in the sun too.
Is it painful?
It’s not exactly painful, but the higher settings can get quite warm. So it’s always best to start on the lower settings and then work your way up when you feel comfortable.
Does IPL remove hair permanently?
Does your hair completely disappear forever? Not exactly, but regular use will permanently reduce visible hair. Persistence is key. If you keep at it, even if some hair grows back, it will grow back at a much slower rate.
Can all skin tones and hair colours use them?
‘Those with lighter skin and darker hair seem to reap the benefits faster,’ explains Dr Sturnham. ‘But that’s not to say they are the only people who can use one effectively.’
‘IPL works best on fair to medium skin tones and dark blonde, brown and black hair types,’ she adds. ‘If you have grey, red or very blonde hair the device may not be very effective, as the IPL needs to tune into melanin pigment in the hair to work effectively.’ The lighter your hair, the less pigment/melanin in it. ‘I recommend doing a test patch for a small area first to ensure that the treatment works for you.
If you have a darker skin tone, lookout for a device that has a built-in sensor. This constantly checks how much melanin is present in the skin and adjusts the light pulses accordingly.