Are IPL machines effective?

IPL machines are all the rage at the moment, but are they an effective method of at-home hair removal?

Are IPL machines effective?
(Image credit: Philips)

IPL machines, such as the Philips Lumea and Braun Silk-expert have been around for a while now, but it seems like they're really starting to grow in popularity. These compact devices can be used at home to zap away hair follicles, reducing the need to shave, wax, epilate or pay for costly laser hair removal.

We've reviewed a number of models in our best IPL machine guide and love the feeling of waking up in the morning and picking your clothes without worrying about whether you've shaved your legs or armpits recently. It really is a freeing piece of technology.

So, if you’re looking for a more long-term solution for getting rid of unwanted body hair, then IPL could be the ideal solution for you, but, from our years of research around the topic, there are a few things you need to know about IPL.

How effective are IPL machines?

This is the most common question we get when asked about IPL machines – how effective are they?

The answer is a little complicated, as it depends a lot on skin tone and hair colour (more on that later), but from our testing, IPL is very effective if you know what to expect.

First of all, IPL is not an instant fix like laser treatment or waxing. When you first start IPL treatment you'll have to zap your freshly shaven hair follicles every two weeks for eight weeks. After eight weeks your body hair will start to take much longer to grow back and become thinner. You can then IPL every six to eight weeks, although, you still might need to shave in between treatments.

After a year of treatments, you'll start to notice hair barely grows back at all, and you can go months without even need to shave.

If you stop treatments, however, you will notice, eventually, that body hair starts to grow back – so IPL is not a permanent solution.

However, since starting treatment and continuing with it, we've been very happy with the results and think IPL is an extremely effective method of hair removal – as long as you follow the prescribed schedule.

What skin and hair colours are IPL machines effective on?

Earlier we mentioned that IPL is more effective on some skin tones and hair colours than others. That's because the intense light targets the hair’s pigment, and it's easier to target darker hair follicles against light skin than it is to target grey, blonde and red pigments and darker skin tones. 

Most advanced IPL machines, such as the Philips Lumea Prestige and Braun Silk Expert Pro 5 feature skin senors and different settings to make sure they're as effective as possible on tricky skin/hair combinations.

Below is a general guide provided by Philips which shows whether IPL is right for you or now.

Philips IPL skin chart

(Image credit: Philips)

How to effectively use an IPL machine

Looking to get the most out of your IPL machine? Here are some tips on how to use it effectively:

  • Autumn and winter is the best time to start IPL – This is because your skin will naturally be lighter in these months. It also means your body will be hair-free in time for the summer months, when you'll most likely want it most.
  • Avoid plucking or waxing – You need to shave in between IPL treatments as this leaves the hair follicle in the skin (which the IPL machine then zaps away). If you pluck or wax in between treatments then you won't be using your machine effectively.
  • Continue your treatment – The longer you use IPL machines the better they work. After the first few treatments, you may be disappointed by the lack of difference, but after around three months you'll start to notice that a lot of your body hair is not growing back or growing back thinner. 
  • Be consistent – Don't miss treatments and keep going all year round. You'll thank yourself in the summer if you continue IPLing all throughout winter.
  • Take your time – Make sure you cover all areas you want hair-free, you don't want to be mostly hairless with a few small patches.
  • Moisturise after treatment – it helps soothe the skin.

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Abbie Hart
Abbie Hart

Abbie constantly puts her body on the line to try out the latest beauty and grooming tech. She's reviewed everything from IPL hair removal machines to hair dryers and toothbrushes.