No longer reserved for just the A-list, laser hair removal has become so mainstream that modern technology now allows you to treat yourself safely and painlessly (almost) in the comfort of your own home.
So, how does it work? There are two types of machines available for home use, laser and IPL, or intense pulsed light. Laser removal targets the hair’s pigment (melanin) in your follicles; the laser beam converts to heat as it passes through the skin, which is then absorbed by the melanin present in the hair follicle.
The heat damages the follicle at its root, which prevents regrowth over time. Laser works best on those with dark hair and fair skin (the greater the contrast between the two, the better), so it’s unsuitable for those with pale hair as there's less melanin, as well as those with darker complexions, as there's no contrast between the hair and the skin. When there is little difference between the two, your skin will absorb the light energy which converts to heat and can cause pain, blisters and burns.
Similarly, although not painless, IPL is less painful than other methods, such as epilation. Like laser, it destroys the root of the hair over time, meaning you’ll need less treatment as time passes. However, it’s far less effective than laser as the energy it produces is emitted via a variety of light waves, making it more diffused and less powerful – but this generally makes it cheaper than laser treatments. Due to the way IPL hits the skin, the intensity and speed of results will vary between individuals.
If you’re tempted to give a device a go, it’s worth planning when. Autumn or winter is the best time to start because your skin needs to be tan-free, whether natural or fake. And make sure you have a razor in your house as you’ll need to prep your skin before and in between IPL sessions before you get zapping. The area you’re targeting must be silky smooth for best results.
Aftercare is just as important as pre-care: lather yourself in sunscreen after your treatment (even in the depths of winter) and avoid anything that can trigger sensitivity on your skin, such as perfumes, deodorants and hot showers for the first 24 hours after you’ve zapped.
Before opting for this type of hair removal, check the brand’s skin and hair charts. Many do not work if your skin is dark or hair is light (blonde, grey, white or red). And don’t be tempted to skip on the handbook, as they detail all instructions, including where you can and can’t use the machines.
The best IPL and laser hair-removal machines for 2021 are:
Best overall – Jovs venus pro: £319, Currentbody.com
Best for fair hair – Silk'n infinity permanent hair remover: £208, Amazon.co.uk
Best for arms and legs – SmoothSkin bare+ ultrafast IPL hair removal device: £157, Currentbody.com
Best for permanent hair removal – Tria hair removal laser 4X: £309, Triabeauty.co.uk
Best for face and body – Sensica sensilight pro IPL hair removal device: £265, Currentbody.com
Best for all skin tones and hair colours – Iluminage touch elos quartz permanent hair removal system: £300, Lookfantastic.com
Best for bikini line – Philips lumea BRI/923: £259, Amazon.co.uk
Best for speedy results – Bondi laser hair removal handset: £198, Bondilaser.com
Jovs venus pro
Machine type: IPL
Features: Five light intensities, six treatment modes, skin-cooling technology, “anti-ageing”
What’s in the box: Device, six attachment heads and instructions
Usage: Once a week for eight weeks
At first glance, top marks go to the elegant design, which not only looks appealing but thanks to its matte metal finish also feels surprisingly light and smooth to hold. Unlike the other machines on this list, this is the first device of its kind that removes unwanted hair and treat signs of ageing too.
You definitely get bang for your buck as this can be used on your entire body including the upper lip, chin and larger parts including legs, underarms, bikini area, stomach and arms. But the best bit is, once you’ve finished zapping hairs, you simply adjust to SR mode and the device will convert into a red-light beauty treatment for your skin. This helps skin cells repair themselves and become healthier over time, keeping wrinkles at bay. It couldn’t be easier.
The device has six targeted treatment heads and a world-first 180-degree rotating knob that makes it comfortable, easy and foolproof when removing hair from those hard-to-reach spots. Plus, it has a cooling technology that comfortably numbs the area making hair removal completely painless too. And as if that wasn’t enough, we love the fact that you'll never have to worry about replacement cartridges either, as the device comes with 500,000 flashes – enough for a lifetime of treatments.
This two-in-one instrument is, without doubt, a practical and efficient investment to your beauty routine.
Buy now £319.07, Currentbody.com
Silk'n infinity permanent hair remover
Best: For fair hair
Machine type: IPL
Features: Five intensities, skintone sensor, treatment plan on app
What’s in the box: Device, storage case, cleaning cloth, adapter, user manuals, warranty booklet
Usage: Every two weeks for the first two months, then every four weeks, and then treat as needed
Claiming to work on blonde hair as well as dark skin tones, an unusual feat for IPL machines, this high-tech IPL device is reportedly pain-free. It uses something called eHPL which combines galvanic energy with standard optical energy. Galvanic energy temporarily widens your pores, allowing light to reach hair follicles without pain, irritation or ingrown hairs. This means hair can be treated twice as fast, your whole body can be done in 20 minutes. While it does claim to work on most skin tones, it does still include a sensor to stop the machine damaging pigment on dark skin tones.
Unlike other devices that recommend avoiding use after sun exposure, this is safe to use – as long as you opt for the lowest energy level (there are five to choose from) but it’s still worth being cautious. âSilk’n recommends doing treatment numbers one to four two weeks apart, then treatments five to seven four weeks apart, and after that, treat as needed. We found hair started to get thinner and to disappear by the fourth treatment.
This isn’t the easiest machine to hold – the metal base at the back must be touching your fingers while the pulse button on the top is pushed, but after a few treatments it becomes easier to use. It is one of the most affordable machines but should not be discredited for this – in fact for tech-savvy people, this is probably the best device for you. The reason being this connects to Bluetooth – you can download the Silk’n hair removal app to make sure you are up to date with your treatment plan. It even comes with a grey protective box for safekeeping.
Buy now £208.00, Amazon.co.uk
SmoothSkin bare+ ultrafast IPL hair removal device
Best: For arms and legs
Machine type: IPL
Features: Skintone sensor
What’s in the box: Device, instruction manual
Usage: Once a week for 12 weeks and then top-up every two to four weeks
This speed demon offers impressive results with 100 flashes per minute. Unlike other IPL machines that can often be time-consuming, this device has a glide mode that is fuss-free and allows you to simply move it up and down quickly over your skin and which is particularly ideal for your arms and legs.
There’s also a stamp mode, whereby the light is directly placed on the skin for each flash to ensure perfect accuracy. We used this to work on smaller areas such as our underarms and bikini line and saw no re-growth for four weeks after the third use.
With a black and rose gold aesthetic, this machine is a stylish option that won’t take up much space in your bathroom. While it doesn’t offer varied light settings and isn’t cordless, it has an in-built ability to only flash if your skin tone is suitable, so you don’t damage pigment. A great choice for time-poor perfectionists.
Buy now £157.00, Currentbody.com
Tria hair removal laser 4X
Best: For permanent hair removal
Machine type: Laser
Features: FDA-cleared laser technology, LED display, 30-minute battery life
What’s in the box: Device, instruction manual
Usage: Once a week for up to three months
This laser machine uses the same technology found in clinics, albeit at a weaker intensity. It requires concentration and precision but when used correctly, it permanently removes the hair. It has a lock feature that only unlocks if the hair follicle in the area that you're using it on is dark enough to treat. To unlock, lay the bottom of the laser on the top of the skin. Rub the cooling gel (which sadly isn't included with the device but is recommended for use) onto the skin then place the small laser head on the area and it will beep once, but only lift off the skin after you hear the second beep.
There are five intensity settings, the highest of which does feel like an intense rubber band flick, so just choose the setting you can bear. As the laser head is small you have to place it across the skin in overlapping circles. We recommend fully charging before use too. It is time-consuming, but the end result is worth it as we found we got little to no regrowth. The only negatives are that the cooling gel was used up after four uses and we found it had to be recharged every 30 minutes or so. But after using it every other week, our hair was significantly reduced in five sessions. Note, patience is a must.
Buy now £309.00, Triabeauty.co.uk
Sensica sensilight pro IPL hair removal device
Best: For face and body hair
Machine type: IPL
Features: Six intensities, five attachment heads, skintone sensor, two treatment modes
What’s in the box: Device, treatment heads, charging cable, storage bag and instructions
Usage: Every two weeks for the first four weeks, then once every four weeks afterwards for body hair. For facial hair, use it every two weeks for the first five weeks then every four weeks
Offering six energy levels and a clever skin tone detection option, (which gives the recommended energy level for your complexion) this device is suitable for both face and body. It also comes with two head attachments that target specific body areas and can reach up to 600 flashes between each charge, claiming to cover the legs in just 15 minutes. Plus, the pulse and glide modes mean you don't have to keep pressing the button during treatment. Although the device is rechargeable, it is heavy to use and quite bulky for bathroom drawers. However, our tester found her hair was definitely sparser and lighter over time and would highly recommend this device if you have both face and body hair to zap.
Buy now £265.00, Currentbody.com
Iluminage touch elos quartz permanent hair removal system
Best: For all skin tones and hair colours
Machine type: IPL
Features: Three light intensities, dual-wave technology
What’s in the box: Device, elÅs cartridge, storage cap
Usage: Every two weeks for the first four sessions, then touch-up where needed
This may look like a mini version of the Star Wars millennium falcon spaceship, but this is the first at-home IPL and radio-frequency device approved for results on all skin tones and hair colours. It’s straightforward, effective and easy to use. Simply turn on then choose between three intensity settings. Press the start button and glide slowly over the chosen area, for two to three times. It is the only device we tested where the button doesn’t need to be held down, hence no finger ache.
Flashes of light will emit from the handheld device, which do not hurt but instead create a warming and comforting sensation on skin. Protection glasses are included to avoid any risk to eyes. Repeat every week and hair will be noticeably reduced by the fourth session. We found next to no regrowth on our arms while leg hair only grew back in tiny patches, on light, medium and dark skin tones.
Buy now £300.00, Lookfantastic.com
Philips lumea BRI/923
Best: For bikini line
Machine type: IPL
Features: Skintone sensor, large treatment window
What’s in the box: Device, attachments, Philips satin compact trimmer, storage pouch
Usage: First four treatments carried out every two weeks, touch up every four weeks
This machine has two treatment modes. “Slide and flash” is ideal for fast treatment of larger areas such as legs – you simply glide the device over the skin you want to treat, smoothly and quickly. To treat curvy areas or targeted zones, such as your bikini line, you have the option of “step and flash” mode too. Plus, this comes with an on-the-go trimmer, a discrete beauty tool that makes it quick and easy to remove even the finest facial hairs.
The only complaint our tester had was that it’s not cordless, so it can be a little fiddly to manoeuvre over hard-to-reach areas, but even so, she didn’t feel the slightest pinch and hair was noticeably thinner.
Buy now £259.00, Amazon.co.uk
Bondi laser hair removal handset
Best: For speedy results
Machine type: IPL
Features: Eight speed settings
What’s in the box: Device, adapter, pouch, safety glasses, user guide
Usage: For the face, neck and intimate areas, use once a week for 12 weeks; for legs, arms, underarms, stomach, chest and back, use twice a week for 12 weeks
Since the brand’s founder, Trish Coulton, has been an industry leader for 20 years, specialising in hair removal, hair cycles and hormonal hair growth patterns both in the UK and Australia, we had high hopes for this product.
Claiming to permanently reduce more hair in less time than any other IPL device, this lightweight machine has eight intensity settings (the strongest on the market) delivering 300,000 flashes in a pain free fashion that’s so efficient it has even shown incredible benefits for women who suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome and tend to have excess facial and body hair due to the high level of androgen in their bodies.
Our apprehensive tester found this device game-changing to her beauty routine, with hair reduction and thickness of hair reduced in as little as four weeks. On seeing the quick results, she quickly became hooked on the device, using it religiously three times a week without fail.
Plus, it’s fully compact and comes in an attractive travel bag so you can take it with you wherever you may go. So, if you want a hardcore device at a very fair price, this won’t disappoint, however small or large the area you want to zap.
Buy now £198.00, Bondilaser.com
Home laser and IPL hair removal machine FAQs
What is IPL hair removal?
IPL stands for intense pulsed light. It’s a type of light therapy used to treat unwanted hair. It works by targeting a certain colour in your skin, and the higher the contrast between your skin and hair colour, the better, which is why it is often said to be most effective on those with light skin and dark hair. When the skin is heated, it destroys the hair follicle to prevent the hair from growing again, without burning the skin.
What is the difference between IPL hair removal and laser hair removal?
IPL is similar to a laser treatment. However, a laser focuses just one wavelength of light at your skin, while IPL releases light of many different wavelengths. Plus, the light from IPL is more scattered and less focused than a laser. They both, however, penetrate down to the second layer of your skin (dermis) without harming the top layer (epidermis).
Are home IPL machines safe?
The light from an IPL at-home machine is much less concentrated than salon treatments, and so they can be used safely in the comfort of your home, so long as you follow the manufacturer’s guidance.
How often can you use a home IPL machine?
It actually depends on the body part that you’re concentrating on. Most instruction manuals would recommend using the home IPL device once every four weeks in order to catch the new hair that is starting to return in its growth cycle. For legs, it is once every eight to 12 week,s as the hair growth rate on this body part is much slower. It’s worth noting if you’re anxious to exceed these time frames, it won't speed up hair loss, in fact, it will probably do the opposite and may also lead to irritated skin.
How do at-home IPL machines compare to salon treatments?
Home IPL devices operate at a lower intensity than those used professionally, therefore, their ability to disable the hair follicle sufficiently is less than a salon treatment. However, it goes without saying that the convenience of being able to carry out the treatments at home, in your own time, is a game-changer for long-term hair removal. Plus, there is a substantial financial difference, as professional in-salon treatments tend to be very costly.
What to consider when buying an IPL hair-removal device
The number of treatment heads: If you plan on using the IPL device on small areas, such as your bikini line or face, check that it comes with an attachment that can work on this size of area – it’ll be more efficient
Speed: The shorter the time between flashes, the faster the treatment will be
The number of flashes: This is the number of times the device can emit a flash of light – while most machines have a minimum of 100,000, once this runs out, you’ll have to replace the lamp. For some devices, you’ll be able to buy replacement heads, but others, notably the reviewed Sensica sensilight pro IPL hair removal device (£265, Currentbody.com), have an unlimited number of flashes
Skin and hair colour: Not all devices are compatible with all skin and hair colours, so it’s worth making sure the IPL device you intend to buy is right for you. Similarly, keep an eye out for an automatic skintone sensor, which will mean the IPL device can detect the optimum intensity and safest settings for your skin tone
Cordless or corded machine: Some IPL devices are cordless, which can make them easier to use and transport
Treatment area size: Depending on the size of the area in which you want to treat, you’ll want to consider the size and power of your IPL device. If you’re treating a large area, such as your legs or torso, it’s best to consider a machine that is not battery powered, as it can take a while to recharge cordless models
The verdict: Home laser and IPL hair-removal machines
Although this was a tough call to make, Jovs venus pro, the newest IPL device on the market, seems to have the extra bells and whistles that deserve to take the top spot. The innovation behind the machine and the fact that it can be doubled up as a skin treatment too, makes this well worth the expense. Saying that, SmoothSkin comes a very close second for fuss-free hair removal that is efficient and completely pain-free. It works equally well on the face and body and you’ll notice a difference in a matter of weeks with upkeep being minimal, plus it looks pretty in your bathroom. Win, win!
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