Home IPL hair removal explained: How long does it last and does it hurt?

Hair removal can be a minefield, and for many it feels like a choice between razor burns or a painful trip to the waxing salon.

For a more permanent solution, you can seek out a laser hair removal specialist to zap away stubble. But you’ll need to have multiple sessions to see a difference, which can be expensive.

That’s why many are looking to at-home devices, cutting down on the long-term cost of staying smooth with DIY IPL.

Standing for Intense Pulse Light, these tools don’t use a laser but a broad wavelength beam. The light is pulsed over the skin, heating up the root of the hair and causing it to enter a ‘resting phase’ and fall out.

As you continue to use IPL on an area of your body, fewer new hairs will grew – and some people find that this change is permanent.

Technology has changed all of our beauty routines, with various devices now available to use at home. But is the treatment right for you, and what should you know before investing in IPL tech?

We answer your questions.

How does IPL at home work?

Each device will have its own instructions for use, but the process is similar between brands.

One of the most popular IPL tools on the market is the Philips Lumea Prestige, which projects light into the root of dark hairs.

The hairs contain melanin, which attracts the heat from these flashes and stimulates them into a resting phase.

Epilate, shave, or wax the area you want to focus on at least 24 hours before IPL, then choose the correct light setting for your skin tone and press the button.

You can then move onto the next spot, zapping as you go until you’re done. According to Philips, you can treat both of your lower legs in under nine minutes.

Does it hurt?

IPL shouldn’t be painful, although you may feel a quick burst of heat as you press the flash button.

Before the Philips Lumea Prestige was released it was tested by over 2,000 women, most of whom ‘reported a slight warm sensation with each flash, but that’s all’.

The feeling is akin to being flicked with an elastic band and any pain should dissipate quickly.

To avoid mishaps, shave the area before using your device and avoid flashing the same area repeatedly.

Like other hair removal treatments, IPL shouldn’t be used on broken or irritated skin, tattoos, infections, or burns.

What are the results I can expect from IPL?

Although the results you get will vary depending on the device, your skin type, and typical growth, you can expect a significant reduction in hair after your first few goes.

IPL devices curb hair growth by putting the follicle into ‘rest’ mode, but new hair will eventually grow, so it’s best to use yours every two weeks to begin with.

Over time, the hair should either stop growing or grow more slowly, after which you can skip the shaving step and use your IPL tool every month or two.

After three treatments with the Lumea Prestige, testers reported a 92% reduction in hair. After four treatments, they were able to go eight weeks without topping up.

Does IPL work for my hair and skin type?

You may have heard that laser and IPL hair removal are unsuitable for darker skin or lighter hair.

This is because the light used in these procedures is drawn towards dark tones and may not be able to differentiate between Black skin and black hair or white skin and light blonde hair.

Check the manufacturer’s instructions before purchasing any device, as this should give you a clearer picture of what’s suitable.

As a rule, though, IPL is safe and effective on dark blonde to black hair (not including grey or ginger) and on most skin tones aside from the darkest shades.

It works best on pale skin with very dark hair.

Which areas of the body are suitable for IPL?

Most home IPL devices can be used on the legs, underarms, bikini area, and face.

When choosing which to purchase, look for models that come with various settings and attachments. These can be changed depending on the skin tone and size of the area you’re looking to cover.

Is it cheaper than other hair removal methods?

At-home IPL will generally be less expensive than going to the salon for treatments.

The Lumea Prestige is priced at £299.99, reduced from an RRP of £399. According to the NHS, each session of IPL administered my a professional can cost up to £270, which will vary depending on where you go and what you have done.

Given you need sessions up to every four weeks, the initial outlay for a machine seems like a decent investment.

Many people will still want to wax, shave, or epilate between IPL treatments, so factor this into your decision and don’t chuck your razors out just yet.

However, when compared to an in-salon full leg wax – which will generally set you back between £20 and £50 – you should still save money long term.

Plus you get to do your grooming in the comfort of your home, and avoid wearing those awkward paper pants.

This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on purchases made through one of these links but this never influences our experts’ opinions. Products are tested and reviewed independently of commercial initiatives.

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