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Avleen M.
Avleen M.Published on 30 Apr 2020

IPL Machines Buying Guide

Meet the new kid on the block of home hair removal - IPL machines. If you love that silky-smooth skin feeling from the comfort of home, an IPL machine could save you salon trips and bills in the long-term. Read our buying guide to help you decide whether IPL is right for you - and how to find the best professional IPL machine for DIY home use in Australia.


How does IPL work?

IPL, which stands for intense pulsed light, uses a broad-spectrum light to target melanin or dark pigment in hair. The melanin absorbs the light, which damages the hair follicle. With continuous treatment sessions, this hinders the follicle from growing new hair.

It’s important to note that IPL hair removal treatment doesn’t permanently remove hair. Hair growth is reduced substantially over time. Hair takes longer to re-grow, and is thinner and easier to manage with infrequent maintenance sessions.

IPL is not the same as laser hair removal. While they both draw upon intense light sources to damage hair, a laser machine is larger and uses a targeted single wavelength of light, whereas an IPL machine uses a small flash lamp to release anywhere from 590-1200 wavelengths per burst of light.

While this guide focuses on at-home IPL machines, professional salon treatments are an option for both IPL and laser. These can be expensive, however as the laser or lamp will be higher in intensity, you’ll have to book in less treatments than the number you’d schedule into your diary for home.

Which body areas does IPL work on?

For women, IPL is suitable for using from the cheekbones down. This includes the upper lip, chin and jawline, legs and arms, and bikini line.

For men, an IPL machine is suitable for using neck down, including neck, shoulders, back, chest and upper body. It cannot be used on the face due to the density of beard hairs.

IPL machines should not be used on pubic hairs.

Scroll down below to see reviews for IPL machines that are suitable for using on the face (for women).

Is IPL painful?

IPL is described by most people as less painful than waxing or epilating. It’s often likened to the snap of a rubber band against your skin, or a quick zap. The amount of pain you experience will depend on your pain threshold, which is different for everyone.

Is IPL hair removal safe?

While IPL is generally safe, there can sometimes be unpleasant after-effects. These include skin redness that lasts a few hours, eye damage and some pain. Some side effects are unpredictable but rare, such as turning hair white.

Tips for safer home IPL treatments

To protect your eyes, wear safety goggles, and engage in good before and after-treatment care.

Before care: Avoid sun exposure 48 hours before your treatment. Prepare the treatment area by exfoliating, then cleanly shaving. Also wash your skin to remove any cream, sunscreen or other residue, followed by thoroughly drying it.

Make sure you shave directly before an IPL session, and avoid waxing or epilating as substitutes. Since IPL targets the hair follicle, treatments are effective when hair is in active stage of growth, which shaving encourages.

Aftercare: if your skin is red or stinging, rub a fragrance-free cream to help soothe it. Also avoid sun exposure 48 hours after a session, as IPL makes your skin sensitive to light, which can cause it to burn.

IPL is not safe for:

  • Very dark skin tones: IPL machines target melanin, which dark skin tones are rich in. This high level of melanin means the light intensity can become dangerously high, causing skin to discolour or even burn. To check whether a particular model is safe for you, consult the skin tone chart before you buy.
  • Light hair: This includes light blonde, light red, grey or white hair. There is not enough melanin in these hair colours, making treatment ineffective.
  • Skin conditions: Such as psoriasis or photosensitive skin. If you have a skin condition, it’s best to check with a dermatologist if IPL is suitable for you.
  • Tattooed skin: in the area of skin that is inked.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women: as the risks have not been properly researched.

Unfortunately, IPL is not the right home hair removal method for everyone. If you tick any of these boxes, there are other popular at-home hair removal options, such as shaving, waxing and epilating.

Quick Q&A for at-home IPL

Skin and hair colour – do they matter for IPL?

Yes. For best results, IPL hair-removal treatment works best on fair skin and dark hair.

This combination helps the machine to more accurately target the melanin in the hair. As mentioned above, IPL doesn’t work on very dark skin tones or light hair.

How much do IPL machines cost?

At-home IPL machines cost anywhere between $100-$1000. This will depend on the particular model and brand, but generally an IPL device is more expensive than its counterparts. If your coveted model includes separate attachments for smaller skin surface areas like the upper lip, expect higher prices.

Also, a model that advertises a ‘lifetime’ or ‘infinity’ bulb means the manufacturer expects the lamp to have the requisite amount of flashes to complete treatments. This will again hitch up the price, compared to a model that needs replacement flash cartridges (which represent an added cost at a later date).

The lamp life of an IPL machine ranges from 50,000 – 250,000 flashes.

How long does it take to see IPL results?

IPL machines offer a long-term hair removal solution. They require patience, and a commitment to following the manufacturer’s schedule for treatment schedules.

You might need to have 3-6 treatments, with two weeks to one month recovery in between (this varies according to the particular model). Some reviewers report seeing results in just 1-2 weeks, with hair already growing back sparser. However this shouldn’t be a reason to stop the treatment schedule – stick to it.

Not all IPL machines are the same when it comes to the time it takes to see results. It also depends on hair colour, skin tone, and hormones. Due to this, treatment times may take longer than stated by the manufacturer. To be safe, purchase a model with a warranty that outlasts the time the manufacturer claims it will take to see results.

Features of IPL machines

  • Battery powered or corded operation : Corded models mean you don’t waste time waiting for your device to charge. They’re also lighter than portable IPL machines, made heavier by batteries. However, you are are stuck in one spot during your session. Look for a model with a long cord for more freedom. If a portable model is more your style, some units display LED alerts when your battery is low.
  • Skin tone detection: Automatically adjusts the light intensity level to the skin tone of a targeted body area. If the skin tone isn’t suitable, the device won’t activate. This is a safe option for users with darker skin tones.
  • Skin contact sensor: Stops the IPL machine from emitting the light flash until the device is making full contact with the skin.
  • Single and multi-flash mode: Single flash mode helps navigate those tricker – smaller, or curvier areas, like your upper lip or knees. Multi-flash releases several flashes in one go, to make treating larger areas like legs quicker.
  • Precision and facial hair attachments: Designed to more easily treat smaller ‘spot areas,’ such as the bikini area and upper lip. Not all models have this, and since a standard bulb size can be as wide as 6cm, included attachments make navigating smaller areas easier.

We hope this buying guide has answered all your hairy questions about home IPL machines (along with your regular ones). To help narrow down your selection so you can make a purchase you’re happy with, you can browse our IPL Machine reviews in Australia, including the popular Philips Lumea Prestige.

About the author
Avleen is a content writer for ProductReview. Her area of expertise covers furniture and bedding, home appliances and beauty products. Outside of work she enjoys scribbling down poetry and music, reading fantasy novels, and discovering delicious vegan restaurants.