[Update (4th Jan 2015): Read my latest post on the new SmoothSkin Gold, SmoothSkin Gold: The only IPL device worth buying]
I had a session on my Boots Smooth Skin Intense Pulsed Light system today. I bought it pretty much as soon as it came out (around April/May ’09) so I’ve been using it for approximately 48 weeks… that’s four times longer than Boots say it takes to achieve “permanent hair reduction”. So it’s time for a review for those of you considering purchasing the system.
For anyone who hasn’t heard of Boots Smooth Skin or IPL/iPulse, it’s basically a system which uses an intense light to deliver heat down the hair shaft to destroy the follicle and thus prevent regrowth. Smooth Skin was the first system available for home use, and it promises “permanent hair reduction” after 6-12 weeks of weekly use. IPL works best on fair skin with dark hair because the heat is absorbed by pigment and melanin (it’ll burn darker skin). The hair needs to be shaved immediately before treatment to increase the chance of the heat reaching the hair follicle.
Does it work?:
Boots Smooth Skin IPL really has worked for me. The areas I’ve treated (underarms and bikini line) are pretty much bald. Currently if I don’t use the Smooth Skin system for 4 weeks or more, some hair does start growing back.. but it’s sparse and much finer. As soon as I notice this regrowth, it only takes a couple of weekly zaps to get rid of it again.
I started noticing results after just 4 weeks of using my Smooth Skin system (but I was naughtily using the system 2 or 3 times a week in the initial excitement)… it was actually seriously impressive how quickly it started working! I have medium-toned skin and thick, black hair on my underarms and bikini line, so I guess my hairs had optimum pigment to absorb more light and hence carry more of it to the follicle of the hair to destroy it.
After the first 12 weeks, I noticed to my delight that I could go weeks without having to shave at all… but then I left it for 4 weeks and most of the hair grew back… I mean, not even just in patches. I was so disheartened!
Despite the disappointment, I decided to plod on and keep zapping the hairs until they disappeared again… and they did. And now there is hardly any regrowth. I think the hairs just needed multiple zaps over time before their follicles were fully destroyed. I’ve also been able to move up from the gentle setting to the medium setting in the last couple of months, so that’s probably helped. The medium setting used to smart too much when there were more hairs absorbing that heat. We’ll see what happens over the coming months… fingers crossed that all my hard work isn’t for nothing.
I’m now trying the Smooth Skin system on my upper lip (I feel so attractive saying that… NOT). It’s been about 12 weeks so I should be seeing significant hair reduction. But I’m not convinced. The hairs on my upper lip are dark but very fine, so maybe they’re just not very efficient in carrying light through to the follicles. Who knows.
I don’t bother doing my legs because the hairs there are practically invisible… I don’t really ever need to shave them… something I’m thankful for, because some girls I’ve spoken to have given up hope of achieving any kind of results because it takes them around 3 hours to do their legs… and it’s really boring.
- Being able to go on holidays without taking razors or epilators etc… ahhh freedom…
- Any regrowth is sparse and hair is finer, meaning zero ingrown hairs from the start
- Not needing to wait for ugly regrowth before next treatment (unlike waxing)
- Potential for never needing to remove hair ever again… for the rest of your life
- Never having to forego wearing a sleeveless top in the summer just because you’ve forgotten to shave your armpits
- Being smug in the fact that your friends still use old-school razors and wax
- Despite claiming to be a pain-free way of removing hair, it still hurts quite a lot (like rubber bands being pinged on your skin) when that much heat hits your skin… especially in the early stages when hair density is high. But no pain, no gain
- Having to wait patiently between zaps for the handset/bulb to charge up (the wait is much longer than they say)
- Takes aaaaaages! The treatment area on the handset is tiny and if you’re as obsessive as me about not missing any spots, it’s up to 30 mins for underarms, and a little longer for bikini line depending how much you’re removing. I hear it’s up to 3 hours for the legs if you’re doing it properly. Again, much longer than they say
- The bulb overheats quickly and requires a cool-down period, leaving you waiting for up to 30 mins before you can attempt any more zaps
- Not knowing if hair will completely grow back in the future if you leave it for long enough
- Needing to be dedicated and diligent about using the system at least once a week for the first 6-12 weeks
If there are any updates, I’ll post on this blog. So watch this (currently hair-free!) space.
Update (11th April 2010): Read my follow-up review and round-up of other home IPL systems on the market here: Philips Lumea vs. Boots Smooth Skin iPulse vs. Remington i-Light
Update (9th May 2011): iPulse have brought out a new, improved model of Boots Smooth Skin, which you can read full details of on my post, Boots Smooth Skin iPulse PLUS: New and improved!