Does the Philips Lumea work? I googled this extensively before I bought my IPL machine and, I couldn’t really get a straight answer. So I decided to go ahead, buy one and write a review myself.
It’s taken me over a year to write this. Not because I’m lazy…or because I’ve been sat at home marvelling my silky soft legs. It’s because my review is mixed and I’ve wanted to give the Philips Lumea a good run for its money before coming to a conclusion.
Does it work? The short answer
If you’re impatient and want the nutshell version of whether the Philips Lumea IPL works, my best ‘sum up’ answer is: yes, but not as well as you probably hope or expect.
I know, that’s not the most helpful reply but you’ll understand why when you read the detailed review below.
For me (and a lot of other people leaving reviews for Philips’ IPL at-home device), it’s one of those products that has a list of pros and cons and whether it’s worth buying and trying comes down to your specific needs and, let’s face it, body hair.
Should you buy it? I’d lean towards yes because it has significantly reduced my body hair and over the course of a year, it’s paid for itself versus waxing. There are a bunch of other benefits too.
But will it leave you hair free? The answer is no. However, no at-home hair removal machine will do that. And any advertising material that tells you otherwise is telling big, fat hairy lies.
Now I’m going to jump into the full review. I won’t bother going into what is IPL hair removal or the fact that it can only be used by people with certain skin tones and hair colours. I presume you already know that. Otherwise, click on those links above if you don’t.
You can check prices for the Philips Lumea on Amazon.
Philips Lumea – Detailed Review
A word on sponsorship: I paid for my Philips Lumea with my very own money. I’ve not been paid or sponsored by Philips to write this. If you do buy the it through a link on this page, I will make a small commission (at no extra cost to you). But that hasn’t swayed my review in the slightest. If it did, you’d be about to read a glowing ‘go buy it’ review together with photoshopped pictures of sleek and smooth legs instead of the patchy fuzz on my dry, vein riddled lallies.
Warning: I get personal. I’ve used my IPL machine on my legs, underarms and bikini area. In reference to the latter, and removing hair from that area, I’m going to give you some straight up details that might make any more conservative readers feel a bit uncomfortable. I apologise and hope you can skim reads the bits that make you squirm. You will, however, be pleased to know there are no pictures of any intimate areas – this is not * that * kind of blog.
What I do include below is some pictures of my underarms and legs a few weeks after doing IPL (after doing a few courses of it). I haven’t edited the photos and they’re not pretty – pale legs that are in desperate need of some sun and am I the first person to take a series of underarm selfies? Not easy to do, I can tell you.
Why I wanted to try IPL at home
I’m pretty damn hairy. There, I said it.
Sure, I’m British but I have dark hair and it gets darker the further south you go, if you know what I mean.
I also travel. A lot. Sometimes for months at a time. And usually to places that are hot, hot, hot. So, I don’t tend to want to carry a lady rug around in my underwear or nestled in the pit of my arm. Not in 30-40 degree heat. No, siree.
Add the fact that I often go to developing countries. or countries where I don’t speak the language and you can start to see why getting a regular wax is a challenge.
Not convinced? Here are some of my worst waxing and hair removal experiences overseas:
- watching the waxing lady put the used hot wax back into the pot after she pulled it off my legs in Bolivia. I had open wounds in the form of mosquito bites at the time. Cue: years of worrying I had a communicable disease every time I had any form of cold or flu symptom.
- being waxed with strips of denim in India. That would have been cool if it wasn’t used/worn denim and didn’t hurt like hell.
- having an old-school veet strip applied to my bikini area which removed not one bit of hair it was so old and dried. The beautician persisted like this for half an hour before turning to the tweezers (Peru).
- laughing as a friend (in the same room because, ‘no space’) had wax pulled from her butt cheeks with sheets of A4 paper. She only wanted her legs doing. Paper cuts at stake (Cambodia).
- agreeing to a wax then finding out it was actually a threading (Vietnam).
- giving myself bruised welts because I thought I could use the microwave wax like all the other ladies did in Spain.
- burning myself in a place I can’t even talk about trying epilation cream ‘down there’ when I’d become too jaded by my waxing experiences overseas but wanted to hit the beach (Mexico).
And all of this is without mentioning the dreaded ingrow. I suffer terribly with ingrown hairs in my bikini area. Given I tend to go for a Brazilian wax, I’ve lost count of the number of products (and amount of money I’ve spent) on post wax/shave/epilation gels, creams and balms. Some work better than others but none work completely. Which often leaves me with red lumps, bumps and spots. Painful and, I’m not afraid to be vain, very unattractive.
What about professional IPL?
I’m probably in the same boat as the rest of you – I’d have zero problems going for professional IPL…if someone else was going to pay for it.
I researched the price of professional laser hair removal before buying my Lumea and there was a huge cost difference. IPL charges per area and is around £1,000 per zone ($1,500 equivalent). That would be around £3,000 to treat my lower legs, bikini and underarm. I suspect it would be more if I wanted more than just my bikini ‘line’ blasted away. And that’s not taking the upper leg into account.
It’s worth noting, that the professional IPL price is for a finite number of treatments – 8 – which means that top-up treatments at extra cost are likely. And most importantly, it still doesn’t promise to make you hair-free. In fact, I can expect up to a maximum of 90% deforestation only.
Compared to a Philips Lumea at around £300, which also doesn’t promise complete hair removal, but can be used for infinite sessions, it was a no brainer to give the Philips a go first.
Choosing the best laser hair removal machine
It’s probably fair to say that the Philips Lumea is the market-leading at-home hair removal machine. Of course, I did my research and briefly considered buying the cheaper Braun product, as it was another brand I’d heard of. But it was only a tiny bit cheaper and the reviews did tend to suggest it performed better.
I’m also a fan of Philips products more generally. I have their Hue lightbulbs in my house (‘Alexa, turn off bedroom light…because I’m too darn idle to get out of bed’) and I use the Philips SAD Lamp in winter and for jet lag because…winter and jet lag and most recently I’ve splurged on the USB charging toothbrush for travel. I’ve always found Philips products deliver better compared to cheaper alternatives I’ve tried.
What about the much cheaper IPL machines? Though I haven’t tried any of them, I’d seriously save your money. The Philips Lumea didn’t make me as permanently hair free as I’d hoped and they are regularly touted as the best IPL machine for use at home. If Philips can’t make it all go away, I’d bet a machine at half the price won’t do the job any better. Of course, I’m always open to being wrong so let me know if you’ve found the elusive unicorn of a good but cheap IPL machine.
For the record, I ended up buying the Philips Lumea Prestige. Why this machine? Very simply, it was the one that was on offer on Amazon when I hit buy on Black Friday. IPL machines are the perfect buy on Black Friday or during holiday season sales. I saved well over £100 on my machine which made the decision that much easier. A few people have asked me which model I bought. It was a few years ago so my model is probably old but in case it helps, I have the BR1956/00 (I’ve just double-checked in my Amazon account).
Setting your expectations
What’s the point in throwing down £300-£500/$500-$600 if it’s not going to make you hair-free? That was my biggest deliberation when I was trying to decide whether to buy an IPL machine or not. But here’s the thing, even that £3,000 professional laser treatment isn’t going to remove your hair permanently or totally. Nothing is. Or at least nothing that you want to try. Skin flaying, anyone?
So, it’s important to set your expectations. Doing IPL isn’t about getting 100% hair-free. It’s about reducing your hair thickness and growth to a more maintainable level. I have a good, long list of pros coming up – focus on them. And also compare IPL to your current hair removal system. I can almost guarantee it’s going to be better, simple and cheaper in the long run.
My IPL experience
Quality of the Philips Lumea
Out of the box, the IPL machine has a high quality feel – smooth, ergonomic looking and, best of all, a neat pouch to put everything in and keep the various attachment heads safe. It’s pretty compact though the battery on the plug is huge so often takes up more than one space on my power bank.
Sadly, I tend to pack light so it’s overall too big and heavy for me to take on my travels, which means I still need to plan my IPL sessions around being at home, but for most people that won’t be an issue.
The instruction manual is horrific. In fact, I think my car manual is both shorter and more absorbing with fewer safety warnings.
Thankfully, there is a free app that is much more user-friendly.
The IPL hair zapping phase
Out of the box, it took me under 5 minutes to get set up and ready to zap my hair.
The general idea is that you give your hairs one good and consistent zap over the initial phase and then enter into a maintenance program.
The initial phase takes about 4-5 sessions every two weeks. So, about 8-10 weeks assuming you’re diligent, which I was – because I wanted those hairs gone.
The science behind the initial phase is that each follicle has two hairs and they grow at different rates. I knew this from years of waxing. By zapping the blighters over an 8-10 week period, you make sure you get all of them at every stage of growth.
The IPL maintenance phase
You’re then supposed to give yourself a top-up blast every 4-8 weeks to keep the hairs at bay.
Was it easy to use the device?
The machine itself I’d give a 9/10 on ease of use.
Switch it on and select the right head (each corresponds with a body part with handy images).
Go into ‘inspector’ mode and hold the head of the machine over your body part so it can choose a setting that’s right for your skin and hair colour in that area.
Then zap away. You can do this by pressing the trigger to zap, then repositioning to the next area, and zapping again. In the case of larger areas like legs, you can keep your finger on the trigger and just move the head over your legs.
When you’re done, change the head to the next body part, do the inspection to get the right intensity and off you go again.
- you do not need a white pencil to mark the areas – it blocks the laser (I mention this because there are lots of articles about it on the inter webs);
- it’s quicker (you’ll have less recharge time between each zap) if you use the Lumea plugged in – the zaps will be almost instant.
Tip needed – I struggle to get the leg head to align with the thinner parts of my leg, mainly around the shin. There just isn’t enough width/flesh of my shin for the machine to make contact. This means I have to point the IPL at odd angles to get it to work. I find this the most frustrating part of using the Lumea so any tips welcome on how to do this better.
Is IPL painful?
Answer – yes and no. On my underarms, I feel zero pain. On my legs, a couple of zings that people have likened to having an elastic band snapping on you. I didn’t find it that bad…on my legs. But oh Lordy Lord does it hurt down there.
Now, I might be doing this against all sensible advice, but I’m trying to achieve a Brazilian bikini wax effect so I’m zapping everywhere (though absolutely not the inside areas that a waxing lady might get her wax into. But definitely my labia (or lips if we’re being less formal). The pain level around my thighs and the top front of my lady parts isn’t too bad but once I start to track further underneath, the pain intensifies dramatically. Or at least it does for me. I would liken the pain to being snapped by an elastic band, but the kind of band that is as wide as a car and that has been snapped from around a mile away.
The downside is the bravery it requires to point some sort of gun-shaped device at your own lady parts and know it’s going to feel like being shot with 1,000 elastic bands. The upside is that it’s quick. Super quick. Far quicker than a Brazilian wax and in fewer than 6 yelps (3 each side), it’s done.
Until next time.
- if you’re not doing anything vaguely Brazilian, I’m sure you’ll feel low to no pain.
- I take the intensity level down as I reach my more sensitive areas. I’ve had to trade less results for less pain because otherwise I just can’t do it to myself.
- what about getting the Brazilian shape right? I’ve been wearing a skimpy g-string on backwards. It also makes me feel like I’m protecting the very sensitive inner parts from accidentally getting shot.
A word on pre-care. You have to remove all the hair from the area you zap before you do it. If you don’t, it’s not only less effective, you’re going to smell a lot of singed hair. (Do you really want your neighbours to smell something burning and call the firefighters in while you’re wearing a backwards g-string and pointing a gun-like machine at yourself? Oh? You do…go for it, then.) When I first started out, the advice was to shave, which I hate on my bikini area because it causes horrific ingrown hairs. I’ve just re-read the advice and apparently waxing is also ok, which is good news as I get fewer angry ingrows. But at the same time becomes a double-whammy of time and cost. So, I do tend to stick to the cheaper shaving option as I assume most people will do.
I use a cheap bikini trimmer before using the Lumea (the Philips one, funnily enough – promise this isn’t sponsored). For my legs and underarms, I use a plain old disposable razor.
Update: I’ve had a lot of comments asking about waxing before IPL and whether you really can do that, since IPL is supposed to focus on killing the hair follicle. I thought the same and I’ve checked the Philips website many times and it says over and again that it’s ok. Here’s the screenshot which says… “If you choose to wax…”
How long does IPL take?
The Philips Lumea was really easy to pick up (as a skill, not just physically) and after a few sessions it would take me:
- under 5 minutes to do both armpits.
- under 5 minutes to do my bikini area (longer if you spend time chanting ‘I can’t do it – be brave – I can’t do it’).
- under 10 minutes for each lower leg. (I’m 5ft tall. You probably need to add an extra minute per leg if you’re 6ft tall.)
So, definitely under 30 minutes to do those areas including set up and put away of the IPL.
Does the Philips Lumea work?
And we’re full circle back to the summary at the beginning.
Does the Philips Lumea work?
Answer: yes and no.
If I wrote this review after the initial phase, this would have been filled with ‘don’t bother, waste of time, waste of money’ comments. I was genuinely disappointed. My hair didn’t seem any different.
Knowing it was too late to send the IPL machine back, I decided to give it another full go. And that’s when I started to see results. I don’t know if I’m harming myself by doing this (hopefully not and nothing has happened to my skin in the year I’ve been doing this) but I think a few ‘initial treatment’ phases are required to really have a noticeable impact on your hair.
I imagine the results will vary from person to person and body area to body area but after three initial treatments with breaks in between (some caused by lack of motivation, some due to travel), my hair reached a point where it was noticeably patchy. Not ideal for your lady garden if it’s being regularly visited and you need to explain you don’t have downstairs alopecia. Or worse, something communicable (I still worry about that wax in Bolivia). But in terms of taking a lady rug to a hot country, it was noticeably cooler (and, sorry to be disgusting, but less sweaty) down there.
Meanwhile, I’ve buried the lead because my legs and underarms have achieved almost hair free states (having adjusted my expectation and knowing I wasn’t going to achieve hair-free). After those initial treatments, my underarm hairs have become wisps that friends genuinely tell me they can’t see, even when I’m paranoid that I looked like a yeti. And when I went to have my legs waxed professionally (as part of a combi-wax for a wedding), the waxing lady joked about my legs: ‘there’s nothing there to wax’.
Overall, it was a pretty significant win, with better results possible if I could just persist at shooting elastic bands at my bikini area.
It’s worth noting where I was hair-wise before I started IPL – I’d been waxing for about 10 years (legs and underarms). I rarely took a razor to my legs but would regularly shave my underarms between waxing sessions. I was slower to the waxing table with my bikini area (pain and embarrassment were factors), so there was definitely more work to be done. Coupled with the fact that ‘those’ hairs are more fierce anyway and I wasn’t surprised to have less success downstairs.
What if you don’t do the IPL maintenance?
Let’s be honest, we’ve all got a million other things to do besides hair removal. Which is one of the reasons we want to do IPL in the first place. But here’s the thing – both with at home IPL and professional IPL, it requires upkeep. And this is where I fell down.
Months passed and I basked in the confidence that I’d zapped my hairs but month by month they started to gain strength. I shaved, I waxed but, especially in winter, I couldn’t bring myself to stand in the cold and do IPL. And the hairs came back. Not quite as strong as they’d been before but enough that I’ve just decided it’s time to do another initial phase – I’ve let things get way past maintenance.
I’m frustrated with myself. If I’d got my arse into gear and spent just 30 minutes once a month, I’m sure I could have kept things under control. As it is, I’m not back to square one. I at least have reduced hairs to work on, but I need to do the initial 8-10 weeks again.
It’s easy to see this as a downside – the regular maintenance – but at the same time, it’s a huge plus having the machine already there and paid for and ready to go. I’d have been much more furious if I’d skipped the maintenance on a £3k treatment and started to see the hairs regrow with force.
Also on the plus side, my waxing lady thinks I’m not too far off a genuine maintenance routine. She has seen how many of my hairs (even in my bikini area) have weakened significantly. And this had the bonus of making my wax trips that bit less painful.
Is the app any good?
Compared to the user manual, the app is slick. It’s also used to remind you of your next IPL session, to keep you on track. The trouble arose when I skipped a session and I couldn’t see how to change the date (and therefore change further dates). After some fiddling around with it so I could write this review, it turns out you just go in and hit ‘start treatment’ and it logs the new date for you. That simple, huh?
I do find the app a bit frustrating – it’s useful the first time as it tells you what to expect, what to do and gives you some encouraging words for your hair zapping journey. But by the time you’re doing your 3rd ‘initial treatment’ you don’t want to have to tap through 6 screens for each body part just to record it’s been done. If you’re organised enough, just use your calendar after the first few sessions.
Philips Lumea pros and cons
- it actually thins and even kills lots of hairs, which shaving definitely won’t and waxing takes a long time to achieve
- I can go weeks, even months without thinking about dealing with my leg hairs
- if I keep up the IPL, my underarm hairs become wisps of nothing
- it’s significantly cheaper than professional IPL
- it’s quicker than going to appointments for waxing or IPL
- it’s quicker and therefore less painful than waxing
- there’s no waxing swelling or welts or rash (assuming the shaving doesn’t trigger that for you)
- it’s less embarrassing than a wax (if that bothers you)
- you have the machine for life so you can dip back in and out as the mood takes you – you’ll have slower results but less commitment than professional IPL
- I’ve definitely recovered the cost in one year compared to waxing appointments
- it’s not pain free
- it’s not 100% effective
- it requires persistence – over months and even years
- you have to remove your hair before using it which is expensive if you opt to wax first
- it’s less effective on the bikini area compared to the legs or underarms (or at least it was for me)
- is it really suitable for the more intimate parts of the bikini area?
- the leg attachment isn’t a good fit for bony shins
- you’ll never feel as smooth afterwards compared to having a wax
- it’s boring so your commitment and therefore hairlessness might wane
- you need to time it right before sunshine exposure (probably also true of waxing?)
- there are some areas to avoid – scars, moles, varicose veins
So, that’s my review. If you want to go ahead and buy one, you can find some of the best prices usually on Amazon. Try to buy around a holiday and you’re likely to get a heavy discount.
I applied my deodorant the other day and realised that my underarms needed shaving. Which was a surprise since I’d only done the job a week before, in preparation for a trip to Turkey. Gasp. But also a confession: I’ve let my IPL slide.
Last year I got diagnosed with fibromyalgia and the all over body pain has meant my IPL routine has gone out of the window. Which just goes to show that if you don’t keep it up, the hair really does return. Don’t get me wrong, my hair is still much thinner but going back to having to shave the pits once a week is NOT ok.
So, it’s time to try again. I might even try another machine. Let me know if there are other brands you’d like me to try. Seems a good time since the fuzz is back. Drop a comment below.
I hope my review has helped. Let me know in the comments below if you’ve got any questions or if you’ve got your own thoughts on using IPL.
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