In lockdown I purchased an IPL home laser machine because it sounded like a good idea. If I could minimise contact with others, I would. Also, the idea of doing laser in the comfort of my home was appealing, and never having to drive out for it.
Quick backstory: I did laser on my upper lip for over a year at a specialised laser salon and was not happy with the results. My therapist used the lowest heat setting for the duration of my laser and only at the second last visit, I found out you could increase the heat level. To say I was mad at this point is an understatement.
Every month I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered why it was so slow to show results. This was before up-selling me a 4-for-3 voucher after the initial 8 sessions. Disclaimer: I won a voucher for the initial 8 sessions. I believe they intentionally slowed my progress so they could get money out of me.
Throughout my teenage years I removed the hair on my upper lip. My skin colour and dark hair contrast meant I looked like I had a moustache. This is something I had to always maintain. When I first saw ads in lockdown about this mini home IPL laser gadget, I was intrigued.
I was very thorough with my research on this device because I was a little skeptical due to not knowing such a thing existed. My only impressions was that laser machines were big, expensive and only salons could operate them. That part is true for actual laser machines.
I came across an IPL home laser device from a RoseSkinCo ad with an over 50% discount plus free shipping globally, and went down a rabbit hole. I read every review and looked at every single photo posted by purchasers. I also saw pics of someone who burnt their leg cos they used a high setting.
From the pros and cons of at home laser here: “There are two types of at-home devices for hair removal. One is a true laser, and the other uses intense pulsed light. Both types remove hair, and both are less powerful than the device you’ll find at the dermatologist’s office, Dr. Ward explains.” There are loads of sites to do your own research.
IPL – INTENSE PULSED LIGHT
I’m no expert when it comes to these things, but this Good Housekeeping article explains: “IPL is a broad-spectrum light that’s scattered across the skin to help with permanent hair reduction. It directs light at the melanin (the pigment that gives the skin/hair its colour) in the hair follicle, damaging the root and helping to break the cycle of regrowth. Don’t expect instant results, but with regular use, it can help prevent unwanted hair from reaching the skin surface. Energy, frequency, skin and hair colour are all determining factors in the efficacy of the treatment.”
I found a generic chart online that gives you an indication of who it IPL is suited for when it comes to skin colour and hair colour. The hair has to be darker; it does not work on blonde, grey or red hair, and then skin tone.
BUYING THE IPL GADGET
After doing my research and reading the specifications from multiple websites, starting with RoseSkinCo who has it marked for R4575 originally but it’s always discounted, and as of 28 March, it is listed for R1982, I decided to go with a cheaper no-name brand on Takealot.
I’ll tell you why: the gadget is identical to RoseSkinCo and I’m willing to bet it comes from the same factory, just with their branding. Also, there are many other companies selling the same device with their branding (it’s called white labelling). Some with 90-day money back guarantee, which to me sounded good; they are clearly confident the product will work.
I took the gamble and bought it on Takealot for R1499. But at this point, I decided to pay with my eBucks because on the chance that it didn’t work, I wouldn’t be upset as I didn’t spend my actual money.
INSIDE THE BOX
You get the handheld laser machine, a 2-pin plug, and a user manual. This is an instance where I would absolutely recommend you RTFM. I prefer that it comes with a cable, and it’s not battery operated because it would be a mission to charge or remember to charge it. The lamp tube light promises 500 000 flashes.
My only disappointment is that I was specific to choosing a black or white unit and they sent me a pink one. I considered returning it but didn’t want to deal with the admin.
This is the listing for the one I bought.
The IPL laser machine is compact and fits in the hand easily, it is 186g. It has five different heat settings, indicated by blue dot lights, and one pink flashing on the end to indicate it is ready to use. The device’s flash window has to cover your skin and then only will it flash, once you press the button. And in case you’re worried about your eyes it’s sort of like a safety feature. I never really looked at it while flashing, I close my eyes. The salon grade ones come with glasses.
This is the power outlet. I always made sure the holes were not blocked, didn’t want any overheating to occur. It automatically shuts off when not in use if switched on.
MY TEST PERIOD
The devices all say you need to use it for 12 weeks to be able to see a difference. Some of the reviews I read online said they were using it twice a week, so I decided to do the same. I started my test period on 28 January and ended it on 9 March. I did it on Mondays and Thursdays, mainly focusing on my upper lip (I did other parts but when I got busy I stuck to upper lip without fail).
I kept a record of the days I was using it. I even used it with a universal power bank when there was load shedding (I was testing the power bank). After the duration of 12 sessions twice a week, I didn’t do anything to my face. I let my existing hair grow. Refer to pic below of what it looked like.
As mentioned earlier, you’re killing the hair from root level, and you need to shave before you begin as longer hairs will burn your skin. You cannot wax/pull out hairs from the root and still use IPL. I used a mini shaver ahead of each session. As this isn’t an actual laser hair removal machine like you get at salons, you don’t need to apply gel beforehand. You flash directly on your skin once the surface area is shaved.
I did a test on my leg first to make sure I won’t get any weird reactions or sensations. After being satisfied with that, I started on my face. You need to test the heat levels and see what works for you. I tested level 1 on my face but used level 2 initially and eventually went up to level 3. On my under arm I took it up to level 4. This is something that you need to determine for yourself. I’ve seen pics of the burnt leg and you don’t want that.
The instruction booklet tells you everything you need to know on how to operate it, including which level for skin colour, and how many flashes for each area. They have this info for armpit, leg, arm, upper lip and face.
My hair growth firstly is slower than before; and secondly, it actually worked. If you ever saw me with my upper lip hair not removed to what it looks now, I am still shocked at my results. These look better in the 5.5 weeks I used it vs. the whole year I went to at a laser salon (if you go to an honest therapist to begin with and laser worked for you in 12 weeks, good for you).
These photos were taken 18 days after my last session (27 March). You can barely see growth. The little bit of hairs visible closer to my lip line on the left image – looking at the shape of the gadget above, I should have place the pink bit on my lip so the flash window sat on the edge. This is only something I picked up after taking the pics. Which means it would have been gone if I did this from the onset. I still have to maintain; the guidelines appear in the booklet.
WOULD IT WORK FOR ME?
For perspective, there are 7.6bn+ people on earth, what worked for me may not work for you. We are all different with different skin (sensitivity) types. If you follow the guides online and make note of what hair colour and skin types it works on, that would be the best place to start. I am no therapist or doctor and did loads of research before purchasing the IPL home laser machine. If you are not sure, please speak to your GP or a skin professional. I shared my experience on the chance you also did research and if you were on the fence, hopefully it will give you direction with your purchase.
This gadget at R1499 works out to 6 sessions at a regular salon on average of R250 per session for upper lip, as an example. If you work out the cost, it is a no brainer to buy this gadget instead of going to a salon; this is my retrospection. Had I known this sooner, I would have bought it sooner.
I am confident this will work on your face at minimum, as it is a small flash window and your surface area on the face should be fine. I am not so sure for a whole leg, but we are in lockdown and not going anywhere, so maybe you can try. I did start on my leg and will continue to use it; there are patches now where hair does not grow. It is just time consuming for the size to do a whole leg. However there is a pulse feature for larger surface areas so you don’t have to press the flash button individually and you can just ‘glide’.
I love being able to do this from the comfort of my home and not drive to a salon to get this done. The twice a week window really works better as this device is not as powerful as salon ones that need to be done monthly.
EDIT: It was painless as it’s a quick flash but this is why you need to check intensity levels so you don’t get burned. My upper lip took like 2-3 mins per session. You can’t over do it, it’s a quick process for your face.
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 13 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. ✉️ firstname.lastname@example.org