If you're seeking out one of the best IPL hair removal devices, it's likely you want an effective yet affordable way to slow down hair growth. Unlike other home hair removal methods, IPL hair removal devices not only reduce hair growth, they also encourage it to grow back thinner and softer, so the results get better with every use.
So how do exactly does IPL work? Intense pulsed light technology involves applying gentle pulses of light to the hair root. The light is then absorbed by the pigment in the hair, called melanin, which causes the follicles to go into a resting phase. This stalls growth, causing the hair to fall out and cumulatively less and less hair to grow back.
Using IPL hair removal devices boasts several advantages over other ways to de-fuzz. In-clinic laser hair removal has great longevity but is a big financial commitment, shaving is cheap and easy but the gains are short-lived and it can lead to razor burn or ingrown hairs—and let's face it, even the best epilators are teeth-clenchingly painful. While IPL tools aren't exactly cheap, they do offer a great return on investment. The more you use them, the better value they become.
How to choose the best IPL hair removal devices
To choose the best IPL hair removal device, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman, MD advises keeping several considerations front of mind:
- Research: “Read online reviews and blogs before you choose one,” Dr Jaliman says. “You’ll also want to look out for devices that are FDA-cleared and approved.”
- Cost: “Don’t look for a bargain or try to skimp on price, because what you pay for is what you get,” she says. An expensive device could feature technology for a cleaner, more efficient process.
- Features: “You’ll want to purchase an IPL device with enough power and energy, and one as close to an in-office laser hair removal machine as you can get,” she explains. “Also look for a unit that has several treatment levels, and for one that targets the pigment in the hair follicle.”
- Flashes: The number of flashes indicates how long the device will last before the lamp needs to be replaced. A good IPL hair removal device should have between 150,000 to 250,000 flashes.
- Suitability: IPL devices, which rely on broad-band light technology, shouldn't be used during certain periods of life when hormone imbalances can happen—specifically pregnancy, breastfeeding, menstruation—as doing so can affect pigmentation and cause hyperpigmentation or melasma. If in doubt, ask your physician before using.
And no matter what device you end up purchasing, being realistic about your results is crucial. “Go in thinking you will reduce hair, instead of completely eliminating or removing it,” advises Dr Jaliman.
1. Braun Silk-expert Pro5
Best overall IPL hair removal device
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
This is our top pick of IPL hair removal devices on the market because it does a little bit of everything and does it well. It's easy to use, thanks to simple controls and clear instructions without jargon, it fits comfortably in your hand, and you can keep any discomfort to a minimum with the regular, gentle, and extra gentle settings. This means beginners can start extra gentle and build themselves up (we found the extra gentle setting perfect for treating a hairy bikini line as well)
The skin tone sensor is another excellent feature, ensuring you are using the perfect setting for your particular hair and skin color. It also ensures the device is sitting correctly for optimum contact with the skin to engage the light pulse. We love the app that helps you keep track of your treatment plan too, as sometimes the trickiest part of using IPL hair removal devices is remembering to get them out of the drawer.
The price point of this IPL device is at the higher end but the results justify the costs. Like many, this device isn't suited for those with very light hair—light hair doesn't contain as much pigment as dark hair does for the device to target—but for anyone else, it's a winner.
2. Sensica Sensilight Pro Permanent Cordless Hair Removal Device
Best cordless IPL hair removal device
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Yes, this is one of the priciest IPL hair removal devices on our list, and could certainly be considered a luxury item. However, it does boast some high-spec features that justify the investment. For one thing, it’s cordless, which makes treating hard-to-reach bits of the body so easy you can throw out your best bikini trimmer for good. It also means you can use it wherever is most comfortable—be that your bed or your sofa in front of a movie—rather than being dictated by where the plug sockets are in your home. Being battery-operated means you can easily take it with you wherever you go, should you fancy a mid vacation IPL sesh (to each his own)
Other reasons why we love it? This device provides unlimited flashes—unlike many others, with only a limited amount—which means we were able to use it as long as we wanted and take our time. It has two interchangeable windows to get to work on skin smoothing hair removal in both small and large areas, so we were also able to use it on the upper lip or leg areas all in one session.
3. BoSidin Permanent Hair Removal Device for Men and Women
Best premium IPL hair removal device
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
If you're prepared to spend large and want one of the best IPL hair removal devices in return, trust that the BoSidin won’t leave you disappointed. Not only is it FDA-approved, but it also comes with all the tools you need to treat every nook and cranny plus excellent bonus features that make it stand out from the crowd.
The best of these features has to be the 180-degree rotating head, which makes treating awkward angles like the bikini line a breeze. It also has an unusually fast flash speed, meaning treating larger areas takes less time than almost any other hair removal method, even if you are a master of how to shave your legs. Plus, we get six functions that target hair in each region of the body differently. Unlike other IPL devices on our list, we love that this unit provided a cooling function called the dynamic cooling device (DCD). This replicates professional hair removal beauty treatments, which often use cool air to calm the skin. We found here it really helped keep discomfort to a minimum, and our bikini line was definitely thankful.
However, this device is not without caveats: the price may be too steep for some, and, blonde, gray, and red hair may not contain enough pigment for very effective reduction. Design-wise, we were tickled by how its sleek, futuristic look resembles an oversized AirPod, but are more impressed with all the features it packs into that stylish casing.
4. DEESS Permanent Hair Removal System
Best IPL device for skin rejuvenation and hair removal
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
While IPL devices offer longer-lasting results than shaving, some devices can cause irritation and inflammation, especially on sensitive skin types. Because this IPL hair removal device has a built-in cooling tip, more reactive users won’t have to worry about painful hair removal for sensitive skin—the device's icy feel keeps skin cool and comfortable from start to finish. It's fast too, with an 0.9second flash that makes it possible to treat a whole area in 10 minutes. This means less lingering over one area and less chance of setting off a reaction.
We also love this device’s impressive bonus features; it offers unlimited flashes, and its skin rejuvenating and acne lights work much like red light therapy devices to promote collagen production, and can also help with how to get rid of acne and breakouts. Though there are some setbacks though: this device is on the bulkier side and is not cordless, so may not be quite so comfortable or convenient to maneuver. Those who worry about sensitivity and inflammation or want to blend their skincare routine with hair removal should find it a fair trade for those extra features though.
5. COSBEAUTY Laser Hair Removal Device
Best budget IPL hair removal device
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Don’t let its lower price tag fool you: This IPL hair removal device can handle any removal job, big or small—it just might take a little longer to get there. It also boasts most of the features you would want and expect from these tools, including five laser settings and two adjustable flash modes to ensure all skin types—sensitive included—can use it to remove hair on the upper lip, legs, and underarm areas.
We found one of the best things about Cosbeauty is that it doesn't cause pain to the skin and instead provides a gentle warming sensation that isn't even remotely unpleasant. With that said, this is largely down to being a slightly less powerful device, so you will probably need more sessions for the same hair reduction as you would get from its pricier counterparts. Still, a comfortable treatment is good motivation to persevere with your IPL hair removal journey. We also appreciated the nods to safety, such as including a pair of light-proof glasses to shield your eyes from light exposure.
While this device can help you ditch the disposable razor, keep in mind that it is best suited to remove darker hair, so lighter body hairs may still remain after using it. Plus, it has the drawback of not being cordless. Overall, we feel this is an impressive option at a lower price point than others on this list, and it could very well be a great starting point into the world of IPL devices for those not wanting to splurge $300+ just yet.
6. Philips Lumea Prestige IPL Hair Removal Device
Best intelligent hair removal device
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
This device rings in at the highest price on our list, but that can be justified by its versatility and intelligence. The Lumea works on the principle of taking the guesswork out of hair reduction, so you simply input the area you wish to treat and the device picks the perfect treatment protocol for you, from the strength of the light to the length of the session. This is a godsend for anyone who finds IPL offputtingly complex, especially when treating several areas.
Safety is catered for here too. The Lumea can be used on the body, underarms, legs, bikini, and face as desired and the Smartskin sensor selects the right settings for your skin tone and hair color, so you can zap away with confidence. The large treatment window for the body can cover large areas in one go, while the curves and smaller heads of the other attachments help you get right into more awkward areas like upper lip and armpits (no more stressing over which body hairs you shouldn't pluck) Our tester found this one of the most comfortable IPL hair removal devices she tested thanks to the lack of wires, and praised the reassuring safety features, meaning she could keep one eye on Netflix while she zapped without worrying.
Phillips says this is their most efficient device yet too, with studies showing up to 92% hair reduction in 3 treatments, with the average user achieving 78% hair reduction on legs after 12 treatments. Certainly, this is a high-cost purchase, but if you offset it against the price of 12 waxes, this starts to feel like a great investment in a smoother future.
How do IPL hair removal devices work?
IPL works by using a handheld device and moving it across the skin, delivering flashes of light to target the melanin in the hair. The light is then absorbed by the hair root, heating it up, and ultimately destroying the papilla or root of the follicle. This plays a key role in the regulation of hair growth.
The hairs you already have will then fall out and eventually, hair will grow back thinner and take longer to grow back. Double win! In terms of how long it takes to see results, devices can differ and it does depend on the area you're treating. So hair removal from face might take less time than removing thicker leg hair. Typically, users find between six and ten treatments are needed, usually at intervals four to six weeks apart.
Does IPL hair removal hurt?
Pain levels vary for everyone but generally, you can expect some discomfort with IPL. Many find it preferable to waxing and epilating, but a little more painful than professional laser.
"At-home IPL machines work by applying the administered gel to the area and then pulse the device over the area, many clients have reported this option is more painful because IPL engages all the skin and hair whereas laser focuses on the hair follicle itself," says Pulse Light Clinic senior consultant, Barbara Taylor.
Reviews describe the sensation as being flicked with a rubber band or as short zaps. This also depends on the device used and the sensitivity of your own skin.
What is the difference between IPL and laser?
IPL and laser hair removal are not the same. Where laser uses single spectrum light, IPL uses multi-spectrum lights. That means, for laser hair removal, the light is densified and it precisely targets the hair follicle without damaging the surrounding skin. For IPL, the light is scattered, making it weaker but also gentler on the skin. Many experts recommend IPL as an effective treatment for rosacea as well as hair removal, while other pro methods are preferable for those with certain hair colors.
"Many at-home IPL devices do not work if your skin is dark or hair light due to the lower intensity to target pigment in the hair follicle than those used professionally," explains Barbara. "Grey, blonde and finer hairs are generally harder to treat with any method, and professional in-clinic Electrolysis treatment would be best for this for small areas."
Does IPL remove hair permanently?
In short: no. IPL is not permanent. However, it does reduce hair growth significantly and can give you hair-free skin for longer than both waxing and shaving. Plus, it's far less painful than waxing.
Is IPL hair removal safe?
As long as the IPL hair removal device you buy is from a trusted brand and you follow the directions for use, the treatment is perfectly safe. If, however, you start experiencing any adverse side effects like a rash or extreme pain, do consult a doctor.
Courtney Leiva is a seasoned lifestyle writer with nine years of experience under her belt. She graduated from The Ramapo College of New Jersey in 2012, and since graduation, she has been actively contributing to major news outlets such as Refinery29, Women's Health, Yahoo! Lifestyle, HelloGiggles, NewBeauty, and more. Courtney initially started off covering beauty news, but as she has grown her career over the years, her health, home, and shopping pieces can now be seen on BuzzFeed, The Daily Beast, and Huffington Post. When she's not writing, Courtney enjoys ranking her favorite ice cream flavors, spending her weekends in HomeGoods, and dreaming up new ways to decorate her house. Follow her on Twitter @CourtneyLeiva and on Instagram @MissCourtneyLeiva.
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