Light pulses make hairs drop out


Smooth legs without shaving, pain or sticky creams? IPL technology uses light to remove the hair. But does it work and which device is best? Testfakta has tested six devices and compared the results.

Testfakta Research Published: 18 Sep, 2019

Unwanted body hair is a problem for many women – and men. Whatever you may think about the beauty ideal, abundant hair growth can be both frustrating and hard work. Those who wish to get rid of the roughness have many methods at their disposal: shaving, waxing and epilation. The latter two are associated with quite a bit of pain as the hairs are physically pulled out. IPL devices, on the other hand, remove the hair using light.
In terms of appearance, they look like electric razors, but instead of having a shaving head, there is a surface that emits pulses of light – not unlike a supermarket’s self-scanning handset.

Testfakta was commissioned by Procter & Gamble to test six hair removal devices that use intense pulsed light (IPL) technology. In simple terms, the technique involves the light being absorbed by the pigment in the hair. The light is converted into heat, which causes the follicle to become inactive, after which the hair falls out. Regrowth is also reduced, which leads to a smaller amount of hair reappearing. The technique should not be confused with laser treatment, which is only carried out at a beauty salon.
— The light from the IPL technology is normally completely harmless, for example to skin and eyes. The manufacturers also provide detailed instructions on how to use the product,” says Dr Bettina König, project manager at SGS Fresenius, the independent test laboratory in Austria that conducted the test.

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IPL treatment can also be obtained at a beauty salon. The results then last longer, since the pulses of light are stronger than in the products for home use.

21 women were asked to perform five treatments over seven weeks. Their legs were divided up into six areas – three on each leg – in order to enable a comparison of the results. One area was also left untreated. The panel had to judge how effective the devices were, how easy they were to use and how the skin felt after the treatment. 10 specialists were also asked to test the equipment and give their comments on how well they worked.
— The IPL technology is most effective on dark hair, since it absorbs the most light,” explains Bettina König.

The ordinary consumers and the professionals were invited to give their views on both usability and practical performance, and the results were extremely consistent across the board: both groups preferred the Braun Silk Expert Pro 5.
— The instructions were easy to understand and the device simple to use,” says Bettina König.

All the products reduced hair growth by around 50 percent. The differences became apparent when assessing usability. Some were noisy, heavy and bulky, and one product, the Remington, was actually painful to use. Bettina König believes that seven weeks and five treatments are enough to make an informed assessment.
— The recommended number and frequency of treatments varies from product to product, but five treatments are sufficient to generate results on which conclusions can be based.
— It should, however, be noted that the technology does not work on blonde, red or grey hair. It also does not work on dark or suntanned skin.

Facts about the test

The test involved a total of six devices that are available on the Nordic market:

  1. Braun Silk Expert Pro 5

  2. Philips Lumea Prestige BRI953

  3. Silk’n H3220

  4. BaByliss G960E

  5. Beurer IPL 10000+

  6. Remington iLight IPL6750

Test method

The test was conducted by a panel comprising 21 ordinary women and 10 professional experts. The test was carried out in two parts. In one part, the 21 test subjects underwent five treatments over seven weeks using the various devices. The test subjects assessed comfort and feel during and immediately after each treatment. One week after the treatment, the laboratory’s experts measured and assessed the effects of hair regrowth. In the second part of the test, the experts assessed the treatment experience, the design and what the products were like to use. The product name was masked on all the devices tested.

Hair reduction
The reduction in hair growth was measured each week and after a total of five treatments. The test was performed on the test subjects’ legs, with each leg divided into three areas. One area was left untreated for the purposes of comparison. The hair growth was assessed by the laboratory’s experts, both visually and using high-resolution images of the different test areas. When assessing the hair reduction effects, the greatest weight was placed on the results after five treatments.

User experience
All 21 of the panel members were asked to rate the six products after each treatment and state how their skin felt, how pleasant the treatment was, how easy it was to perform and what they thought about the product design.

Specialist assessment
The separate expert panel, comprising 10 people with professional experience in the use of IPL devices, tested each product under the supervision of personnel in the laboratory. This stage involved assessing design, usability and how the skin felt both during and after the treatment. The test was performed on the inside and outside of the calves, and on the forearms and armpits.

Selection criteria for panel members

  • Healthy women aged between 18 and 65

  • No known allergies or hypersensitivity

  • Light brown to black hair colour and a skin tone of II–IV on the Fitzpatrick scale.

Exclusion criteria

  • Very blonde hair growth

  • White, grey or red hair

  • Dark or suntanned skin

  • Pregnancy

Test results

Hair reduction
The results ranged between 38 and 50 percent. The BaByliss product was the most effective, and the worst were the Silk’n and the Beurer. The Braun, Remington and Philips were closely matched at 45–50 percent.

The views of the panels

  • Effects on the skin: All the products were considered satisfactory and more or less equal, except for the Remington, which was painful to use.
  • Intensity and light pulse controls were considered very good, except on the Remington, where adjusting the light pulses was felt to be difficult.
  • The Braun and the Philips ranked highest for their usability, while the BaByliss and the Remington ranked lowest.
  • The Braun received the best rating for design and what it felt like to use. Factors taken into account included weight, noise and cord length.
  • The Beurer was given the lowest rating for being large and noisy.

The Philips was the only product that allowed cordless use, which also made it a touch heavier than the others. Not having a cord was, however, seen as a plus.