Unwanted body hair is a pain all year round, you could give up fighting your follicles and go au natural, or you could invest in one of the best IPL machines, to banish hairs that make you less confident and make staying smooth less of a chore.
Whether it’s blitzing hair on your legs so they don’t poke through winter tights and rips in skinny jeans, or ridding your back of those hairs that you swear grow back bushier each time you shave, IPL machines are an easy and convenient solution to making sure your body remains hair-free.
They won’t remove the hair for good – if only! – but you can usually go a good month before a quick touch up is required, which is a huge win, compared to shaving. In fact, aside from shelling out for professional laser hair removal in a salon, IPL machines offer the longest-lasting method of hair removal out there.
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What is an IPL machine?
But what is IPL exactly? It stands for 'intense pulse light', and unlike laser machines, it uses different wavelengths of light to target pigment within the hair. Once the light reaches the pigment, it’s heated to a level that kills the growing cells, eradicating the hair.
While some experts say that IPL machines aren’t as effective or as efficient as laser hair removal, one big benefit is that the handheld devices can be used at home, so you don’t need to make an appointment. In fact, it’s so convenient you can do it while watching TV, as there’s no mess
With popular brands such as Phillips, Braun and Remington all producing IPL products, competition is fierce, and you can usually find a good offer in stores and online, making them increasingly affordable.
The machines may seem like a big investment – and certainly work out more than the fanciest razor - but if you are contemplating professional hair removal, an IPL machine may work out to be cheaper in the long-run, and the results are still great. Most IPL machines have a limited number of flashes before the lamp has to be replaced, with many offering 100,000-200,000 flashes, your investment will last a long time.
However, they may not prove to be a miraculous solution for everyone. For example, IPL machines are best suited for people with fair skin and dark hair because of the clear difference in pigmentation, although devices designed for darker tones are available. Of course, anyone can try using an IPL device, but results may vary so it’s something that’s worth researching carefully before shelling out.
Similarly, users with very sensitive skin may have to tread carefully, and unlike laser machines in the hands of an experienced professional, it’s not recommended that IPL machines should be used on delicate areas. However, for keeping legs smooth for longer, they are a great solution for lots of people.
If you want tips on how to best use your IPL machine, read our feature on how to effectively use an IPL machine.
If you decide that IPL isn't for you, you could check out our guide to the best epilators, which are more painful and don't last as long, but give a more instant fix.
We’ve rounded up the best IPL machines from various retailers so you can discover the best one for your requirements.
The best IPL machines you can buy today:
The Philips Lumea Prestige is the brand's most powerful hair removal device, and is quite simply the best IPL machine on the market. It offers easy, pain-free at-home IPL, with a number of smart features that make it stand out from the rest.
For a start, it is the only Philips IPL machine that can be used wirelessly, as well as wired. We found that really useful if, for example, you want to IPL in front of a mirror but don't have a plug socket nearby.
The Prestige comes with three intelligent attachments which fit and adapt to deliver a tailored treatment program for each specific body part. There's an attachment for precise use on the upper lip, chin or jawline. The filter automatically adjusts the light treatment for gentle but effective use on more sensitive skin. There's also an underarm and bikini filter, which is designed to treat stronger, thicker hair, as well as a body filter, which has a curved, contour-following design for fast treatment on large body areas like legs, arms and stomach.
Finally, it's the only Philips IPL machine with the SmartSkin sensor. This scans your skin type and automatically selects one of the five light energy settings.
It should be used every two weeks for eight weeks until skin is smooth and hair-free, then a top-up every 4 to 8 weeks is required, leaving plenty of time for you to enjoy your hair-free skin.
- Read the full Philips Lumea Prestige review
If you’re worried about using the right setting for your skin, this IPL machine features sensor technology to ensure the correct intensity. Working beneath the skin, after enough sessions and the occasional top-up, you can break the cycle of hair regrowth by preventing unwanted hair from ever reaching the skin surface - great if you’re looking for a more permanent solution.
As with our second product, you can benefit from a glide option, which means easy and convenient hair removal for larger areas, such as legs and arms. You can also choose between normal, gentle and extra gentle modes to target more sensitive areas, such as the bikini line or underarms.
- Read the full Braun Silk Expert Pro 5 IPL review
This may just be the most Instagram-worthy IPL machine available to buy. It features six modes of customized skincare, each of which is designed to precisely target a different area of the body, as well as the latest generation of Optimal Pulse Technology, which maximizes the benefits of both laser and IPL technology with a perfect blend of energy level and wavelength.
While older IPL treatments emit light at one single, high-powered frequency, BoSidin's devices continuously emit gentle pulses of light throughout the thermal relaxation period. This causes heat to build up at the root, powerfully and effectively suppressing hair regrowth while minimizing injury to adjacent tissue.
Dynamic cooling creates a cooling sensation as pulsed light is emitted onto the skin, ensuring that hair removal is completely painless, and can be used safely in even the most sensitive areas.
Other great features include a 180-degree rotating head, high-quality design, and promises to also reduce wrinkles, blemishes and create firmer, brighter skin.
The Philips Lumea Advanced is another excellent IPL machine from Philips. It's similar to the range-topping Prestige, but doesn't have the automatic skin sensor, and can't be used wirelessly. It does, however, feature a skin tone sensor (that tells you which setting to use) and three attachments for the body, bikini area, and face. You won't be disappointed with this model, although, if you're looking for the best of the best, you'll want to spend a little more money on the Prestige.
The Philips Lumea Essential is the most compact IPL device from Philips – it's also the most affordable. It features a corded design, and is intended to be used on the body and face. The device also includes a skin tone sensor and five skin tone settings (which must be selected manually). It's great if you're not fully sold on the IPL-lifestyle and don't want to spend big bucks on the Philips Lumea Prestige.
Using an IPL machine can be time-consuming, but thanks to the glide mode on this machine, you can hold down the activation button and just move it up and down the skin - perfect for dealing with legs and arms quickly and efficiently. Alternatively, there’s a stamp mode, which requires placing the skin on the device for each flash - this mode has been designed for delicate areas, such as the bikini line, where accuracy is key.
With a black and gold aesthetic, this machine is just as stylish but much cheaper than our first pick. While it doesn’t offer varied light settings, it’ll only flash if your skin tone is suitable, so you don’t damage pigment.
With five speeds to choose from, you can ensure that sensitive areas only receive a low amount of light, while main body areas receive more. Remington recommends that beginners use a lower light level at first, just so their skin gets used to the sensation; they can then work their way up to stronger light intensities once they feel comfortable.
Used to permanently reduce unwanted hairs, this machine is almost as effective as our third pick however, the bulb is only capable of 150,000 flashes rather than 300,000, which could explain the significant difference in MSRP.
This small and lightweight device has been designed with ease of use in mind. It’s battery-powered so you don’t have to tackle any wires while using it and thanks to its size, sensitive areas should be easy to cover.
As with our Braun pick, this machine aims to stop hair-regrowth after continued use, so you shouldn’t have to worry about shaving or waxing again. Users seem to report quick results, although it lacks the variation in light strength settings that other IPL machines seem to offer.