5 mistakes everyone makes with IPL hair removal machines

What you should and shouldn’t do when using an IPL hair removal machine

A closeup image of the Philips Lumea IPL hair removal machine lying on a counter next to its accessory
(Image credit: Philips)

Removing unwanted hair from your legs, arms, bikini area and face has never been easier, thanks to the many different methods now available. Shaving and waxing are almost seen as old fashioned today with the emergence of the best IPL hair removal devices that use the power of light to get rid of hair, leaving your body feeling silky smooth and giving you a renewed sense of confidence.

IPL hair removal machines offer the longest-lasting method of hair removal on the market, but they won’t completely banish hair for good. However, if you use them properly and safely, you may never need to shave again… but if you use them incorrectly, you could be at risk of sore skin, burns and unsatisfactory results.

Before you invest in an IPL machine, make sure to avoid these five common mistakes so you’re getting the best results and taking care of your skin.

Disclaimer: It’s important that you’re being as safe as possible when using an IPL hair removal machine. That means following the manufacturer’s instructions, not using the device on broken or sun damaged skin and refraining from certain medications. If you’re in doubt over whether you should use an IPL hair removal machine on your skin, get in touch with a medical practitioner.

1. Not checking your skin type on the Fitzpatrick scale

Not all skin types and tones are suitable for IPL hair removal, so to ensure you’re taking the utmost care of your skin, you need to check the Fitzpatrick scale. The Fitzpatrick skin phototypes (FSP) helps determine the risk of burning or tanning when skin is exposed to UV light. The scale was initially based on a person’s skin or eye colour to deduce the amount of UV therapy that can be used to treat skin without causing irritation.

The Fitzpatrick scale classifies skin from types I to VI, with the former referring to skin that always burns and the latter referring to skin that never burns. As IPL machines use Intense Pulsed Light technology, the intensity can cause burns when not used correctly. People with darker skin tones or those who always have a tan may be at greater risk of these issues, so it’s important to check your skin type on the Fitzpatrick scale to protect your skin. When in doubt, ask your doctor or dermatologist if you should use an IPL device or not.

2. Forgetting to shave before treatments

It might seem pointless to remove hair before using a device that removes hair, but it’s important that the area you’re treating is clean shaven. How IPL machines work is by using a concentration of light to destroy hair follicles and penetrate the root of the hair. If you haven’t shaved before using your IPL, you could damage your skin as the presence of hair can confuse the machine which can burn or singe the area you’re treating. As the hair root needs to stay intact for the IPL to work properly, it’s best to stick to shaving rather than waxing or bleaching the hair before and in between sessions.

Philips IPL being used on legs

(Image credit: Philips)

3. Using your IPL machine on ‘unclean’ skin

IPL hair removal machines might sound complicated but they’re surprisingly easy to fit into your routine. Just like you would before applying a face mask, you need to thoroughly clean your skin before using your IPL device so the procedure is the most effective. This includes taking off any make-up if you’re using the machine on your face, removing any serums, cleansers and the best moisturisers, and avoiding tanning products. If you regularly use self-tanners or any other tanning products, it’s recommended to avoid these for at least a week before using an IPL machine, and to exfoliate the skin thoroughly to remove any residual tan or colour.

4. Starting at the maximum light level

Most IPL machines come with multiple light settings, for example, the 5-star Philips Lumea Prestige has five light energy options to choose from. If you’re just starting out, it might be tempting to use the maximum light level to start seeing results straight away. But to keep your skin happy, while helping it get used to the new sensation of IPL treatments, it’s best to start on the lowest light or energy setting before slowly working your way up to the maximum levels. You might not be able to use the highest level, as your skin might not be able to tolerate it, so starting slow keeps your skin in a healthier condition and minimises the risk of damages, irritation and burns.

5. Ignoring the treatment plan

How quickly and effectively IPL hair removal works is completely unique to each person and their skin type. Many IPL experts say that people will start seeing results in six - eight weeks, so practice and patience makes perfect! When you buy an IPL device, it’ll come with a full treatment plan which you should follow as closely as possible. If you ignore the treatment plan, you’re more at risk of harming your skin and not seeing any results from your sessions.

For more hair removal advice, take a look at epilator vs IPL: which hair removal gives the best results

Bethan Girdler-Maslen
Home Editor

Beth is Home Editor for T3, looking after style, living and wellness. From the comfiest mattresses to what strange things you can cook in an air fryer, Beth covers sleep, yoga, smart home, coffee machines, grooming tools, fragrances, gardening and much more. If it's something that goes in your house, chances are Beth knows about it and has the latest reviews and recommendations!


Having always been passionate about writing, she’s written for websites, newspapers and magazines on a variety of topics, from jewellery and culture, to food and telecoms. You can find her work across numerous sites, including Wedding Ideas Magazine, Health & Wellbeing, The Bristol Post, Fashion & Style Directory, TechRadar, CreativeBloq and more. In her spare time, Beth enjoys running, reading, baking and attempting craft projects that will probably end in disaster!