How we test IPL machines

We use lab testing and a user trial to rate the hair removal devices.

For the price, you want an IPL to work

Do you find hair removal a hassle? Have you tried epilators and shaving and just been disappointed with how short term the effects are? Intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment can provide more permanent hair removal. Here's how we test home IPL machines at CHOICE:

For our IPL reviews, we put each model through performance testing in our labs, and conduct a user trial to find out how effective and easy they are to use. 

In unqualified hands, the use of at-home IPL devices may cause a range of injuries. But if you still want to use one, see the results of our IPL reviews.

Our expert testers

Since our last review in 2011, our testers have been itching to see how IPL devices have improved. Our testers are passionate about determining a product's technical performance. We're happy to say the effectiveness of these products has improved since our last test. 

How we choose what we test

With so many models to choose from, what makes us choose one IPL to test over another? As with most of our product testing, our aim is to test the most popular models on the market and what you're most likely to see in the retailers.

We survey manufacturers to find out about their range of models, we check market sales information and we check for any member requests to test specific models. From this information we put together a final list that goes to our buyers. They then head out to the retailers and purchase each product, just as a normal consumer would. We do this so we can be sure the products are the same as any consumer would find them and not 'tweaked' in any way.

How we test

User trial

Twenty women aged 18 to 52 with medium-strong dark hair and light skin (this combination of pigmentation gives the most effective hair removal results) tested the products on their legs. The application was done in random order and each panellist tested six appliances on one leg. The area to be treated was standardised and was highlighted with white mascara before every application. One leg was treated with the IPL while the other leg was left untreated as comparison. Four applications were made every 15 days. Before starting the test, the women shaved both legs.

The evaluation of hair removal efficacy was done by visual inspection from experts with the help of a microscopy (hair number/density, hair diameter and hair length) and a questionnaire to panellists.

Test criteria explained

The overall score is made up of:

  • Performance (50%)
  • Ease of use (20%)
  • Safety (20%)
  • Dermatological assessment (10%)

Performance score is made up of:

  • Visual inspection after 45 days (end of treatment): number of panellists with positive effect (even if low) (20%)
  • Decrease of hair density self-evaluation by panellists after 60 days (two weeks after the end of treatment) (40%)
  • Decrease of hair density evaluated by experts after 60 days (40%)

Ease of use score is made up of:

  • Handling
  • Is it easy to apply to surface and trigger
  • Is it easy to clean?
  • Is it easy to store?
  • Is there much preparation needed to use it?
  • The amount of time and effort it takes to use
  • Skin feeling during application
  • Skin feeling after application

Safety score is made up of:

  • Is it possible to flash (use) when the device is on charge?
  • Is it possible to flash if the device is not in contact with skin?
  • Does the device flash on other surfaces?
  • Does the device become warm during use?
  • Does the does stop working during use?
  • Is there a safety tool?
  • Does the device detect the skin type?

Dermatological score:

If someone in our trial experiences an adverse skin reaction from using the IPL device, this score is marked down.

All the aspects above are weighted equally in each respective category.

Our test lab

The CHOICE test laboratory is up to date with the latest reference machines and calibrated measurement tools for our testers to bring you the right results.

Ready to buy?

Ready to buy an IPL? Take a look at the results of our latest IPL review.