We review five at-home IPL/laser hair removal devices, priced from $48 to $64.
Through our rigorous testing, we reveal which devices:
- are the most effective at removing hair, and
- are the safest.
For more information about hair removal, see Beauty and personal care.
The growing demand for IPL/laser hair removal
Many beauty salons now offer laser or IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) hair removal treatment and we’re now starting to see at-home laser treatment products which claim to achieve similar results. So we’ve taken a look at five of these to see if they are all they’re cracked up to be.
The test involved an expert assessment of the effectiveness of hair removal after 28 and 70 days, as well as a self-assessment from a user panel of 30 female adults. A dermatologist also assessed the skin after two and a half months looking for symptoms such as burning, tearing and itching, as well as clinical signs such as depigmentation, oedema and redness. Each device is equipped with a safety switch to prevent accidental “flashing”, so these systems were also assessed.
After two-and-a-half months of use all devices showed some signs of effectiveness. However, with a reduction of hair density of 67% and speed of regrowth reduced by 68% the Silkin stands out as the best performing, even though it’s still only OK overall. The rest perform poorly, except the Philips which is OK. Following the dermatologist’s assessment, it was found that members of the panel had experienced redness, sensation of burning, rubbing/friction and warming/electric shock. The Silkin was the most problematic when used at maximal power. However, when the panel was asked if they would buy it, 74% said they would because “beauty is pain”. They were less likely to buy any of the other products.
Ultimately, we wouldn’t recommend any of these devices. They range from poor to just OK overall, and while the Silkin stands out for performance its borderline dermatologist assessment score means we can’t recommend it.
How does it work?
IPL works by applying pulses of light to areas of skin, targeting the hair follicle. The light heats the melanin (a colour pigment) in the hair, stimulating the hair follicle to go into its resting phase. The hair is then shed and regrowth is inhibited.
These products don’t make you completely hair free, but rather work to reduce hair density and thickness. IPL isn’t for everyone, so consult your doctor and read the instructions carefully before you commence this sort of treatment. If you have red, light blonde or white/grey hair then IPL won’t be effective for you. These hair colours have low levels of melanin and this method depends on the amount of melanin in the hair for effectiveness. If you naturally have a very dark skin tone, tattoos, birthmarks, scars or varicose veins, IPL is also not suitable. Medical conditions and medications should be taken into consideration before using one of these products.
Last year we investigated the safety of laser and IPL hair removal. For more information, see the article.
- Philips Lumea SC 2001/01
- Remington I-Light IPL 5000
- Rio IPL 8000
- Silkin Sens Epil
- Syneron Me My Elos
How we test
Performance The effectiveness of hair removal was assessed after 28 and 70 days, as well as a self-assessment from a user panel of 30 female adults, covering ease of use and liklihood of buying the product.
Dermatological assessment Is conducted by a dermatologist after two and a half months who notes all functional symptoms (burning, tearing, itching, etc) and clinical signs (depigmentation, redness, etc) associated with adverse effects of using the treatment.
Safety assessment the safety mechanisms of each device are assessed. These safety systems are designed to prevent accidental flashing.