Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Boots Smooth Skin (iPulse) IPL device - first impressions

Update: If you've landed here from Google, looking for honest and thorough reviews and opinions on IPL devices, you'll find a wealth of information here on the LBR via our IPL tag.

Disclosure - this unit is a PR sample, we did not pay for it

My first treatment session with the Boots Smooth Skin iPulse unit was completed yesterday afternoon.

The Boots Smooth Skin will be a familiar sight to many. It has been on sale at Boots since last year, and has set in train plenty of speculation and curiosity owing to its promise of permanent, painless hair reduction. It originally cost £299.99 and was offered at £249.99 during promotional offers. The full price has since gone up to £324.99.

Needless to say I was more than happy to avoid the £325 outlay in order to give the system a try - I'd been wanting one since they came out, although on my budget it wasn't going to happen any time soon.

As regular readers will know, I am also currently trialling Philips Lumea, a rival home IPL device, so there is a comparison element to my reviews here.

I want to point out that comparing my Smooth Skin experience with the Philips Lumea trial is not really a fair test. I use the Lumea on my armpits (small and straightforward) and the Smooth Skin on my bikini line (more contortions needed, more sensitive area).

However, I must say that so far the user experience of the Lumea is definitely my preferred option. The reasons for this are a) no need for conductive gel, which is messy and awkward and b) a larger window on the headset, meaning that the Lumea covers more ground more quickly.

Another notable factor is discomfort. As mentioned, I'm not sure is a fair comparison, because of the difference in treatment areas. Lumea didn't hurt at all when I used it, though I had it on a fairly powerful setting. However the Smooth Skin did actually really STING, especially on the areas where the hair was thickest. I started out on the most powerful setting ("fair") in accordance with my skintone, and then switched down to "medium", though it still smarted quite a bit. Next time I will use "dark" and hope that alleviates the problem, but as there are only three settings, if it doesn't I'm a bit stuck.

So as far as user experience goes, the Lumea is ahead of the game, though admittedly under biased conditions.

For general build-quality and customer support, there isn't much to choose between the two units. Both are solid, pleasant to handle and thoroughly backed up with instructions, multimedia guides, precautionary caveats, etc. As you'd expect from the large corporations that produce them, both seem to have been researched to the back teeth and made pretty much foolproof for the consumer market.

Aesthetically, I do prefer the Lumea. It has a familiar "hairdryer" feeling in the hand, and I like the reassurance of knowing that the power-adjust button is right there under my thumb if I need it (Smooth Skin's controls are on the base unit). Also the lack of a cord makes it much more portable and easy to store (although the Smooth Skin was supplied with a natty faux-leather vanity case for discreet storage, which I like a lot).

The most important thing to remember if you're trying to choose between these two is that the claims for the two products are not the same. Lumea offers an easy hair-free result ONLY if you repeat the treatment every fortnight. If you stop, the hair comes back. This is because the light energy is only powerful enough to put the follicles into a dormant state, not to disable them altogether. Smooth Skin is strong enough to damage follicles enough for permanent hair reduction - i.e. you should be able to stop using it for good at the end of the treatment period and the hair won't grow back.

There have been some criticisms of the Smooth Skin's 10,000 flash lifespan (after that, you have to pay out again to replace the head unit). But (if it does what it says) there will come a point where you never need to use the thing again, and hopefully that'll be well within 10,000 flashes. Lumea contains 40,000 flashes, which should buy you 5-7 hair-free years. (Still not bad!)

Lumea has not been safety tested for use on the face, and is so far only suitable for use by women. Smooth Skin can be used on the face, and by men on their backs and shoulders (though not face), so if you're considering home IPL for those purposes, Smooth Skin is your product.

I haven't seen any results yet from Smooth Skin (it should take a few more sessions to see visible hair loss). Lumea has produced definite bald patches on my armpits after two sessions.

Stay tuned for more results, and as before, please do ask me any questions and I will do my best to find the answers for you.


  1. I have been researching both Boots Smooth Skin and Philips Lumeas cos I am keen to get rid of my body hair once and for all!
    But I don't really get why you would buy Lumea if the results aren't permanent? Especially cos it costs so much :o/
    I think I'm gonna give Boots Smooth Skin a try - has anyone else used it?

  2. I have to agree with Liz, I'd be after permenant results for something of that price, even if I had to endure a bit of pain to get it! So if I was to get one, I'd try Smooth Skin. A bit more researching and a bit more saving before I take the plunge though.

  3. Great post! The difference between the 3 settings on Boots Smooth Skin seems to be massive. I don't feel anything on the weakest setting, but the flashes sometimes smart a fair bit on the medium setting. I've never, ever attempted to use the strongest setting - I can't imagine who could go to that level!! I wince just thinking about it!

  4. @Liz and @Anonymous I know what you mean - that was my reaction too - what's the point if it's not permanent? But then I think of it a bit like a painless, no-ingrown hairs version of waxing, but without paying for a salon visit or home waxing kit each time. If you look at it like that, it's definitely going to pay for itself even before you factor in the discomfort element.

    @Beauty Scribbler I am very reassured to hear that. Let's hope the darkest setting is less painful when I next use the unit. And thanks!

  5. I think I'd have to go with Smooth Skin, since my hair seems to grow so fast that I reckon Lumea wouldn't even last a full week on me :(

  6. I trying out the Smooth Skin at the moment. I'm doing my underarms to begin with. I used it for the first time on Sunday and it went really well. It didn't hurt - just felt a bit stingy for a second.

    I've actually noticed a difference after only one session. I have some small bald patches and it appears to have stunted the growth already! I can't wait to see more results with it.

  7. I read somewhere that there is a dye which can be used pre-treatment. The hair absorbs the dye but the skin does not, allowing even light blond hair to be darkened and treated. Can anyone shed any light (if you'll pardon the pun!)

  8. I've read that with Boots smooth skin the hair grows back after not using for a while anyway. If that's the case it would be very expensive to replace the handset - £159!

  9. @Anonymous I heard of that dye too - Zara at Kiss and Makeup wrote this post about it.

    @Anonymous #2 As per Beauty Scribbler's review, it seems that the body can "re set" the follice in response to hormonal changes in some people, and that would mean re-growth, yes. Also you might miss some hairs or not get them while they were in the right phase of growth.

  10. Re the matter of hormonal changes, I took Tamoxifen (for breast cancer) for 5 years, and am now taking Femara. Does anyone know how this might affect the success of the Smooth Skin treatment?

  11. My hair grows really fast. Uncontrollably. Underarm hair grows starts to grow through in less than a week after waxing. What puts me off these products is shaving before hand (as this would speed up my hair growth, negating the benefits!). Is it ok to epilate or wax before using it - or do you *have* to shave? Other than that, I'm really keen - more so for the Boots one. Maybe best to wait until they have a double points offer on though!

  12. I expect you'd need to shave as waxing and epilating remove the hair from the root, and it seems IPL needs some hair in order to travel down to the root to kill/disable etc it.

  13. I am an Indian and have a wheatish complexion and dark thick hair. Will Boots Smooth work? Also my daughter is 14 years, can I use the machine on her?

  14. There are suitability charts and general warnings at the following URLs:



    They do say that Indian skin is too dark to safely use the device, so I'd imagine that would apply to both you and your daughter.

    Yes, you do need to shave - for the reasons Claire laid out!

    We can't advise you how Femara might affect your experience - nor would we want to try! Best advice would be to consult your doctor beforehand.

  15. As someone who has also struggled for years with fast growing dark hair and the horrible rashes/spots from shaving or waxing, I've been comparing these products.

    Does anyone know if you can use the Boots Smooth Skin product once you have a tan? The Philips Lumea blogs I've read seem to imply that you shouldn't use it if you have a tan.

  16. @Shirley - The same applies to Smooth Skin (and probably all IPL devices) re. having a tan. You shouldn't use these machines on tanned skin because the light is absorbed more easily by dark colours and you risk burning your skin.

  17. Thanks for that. A winter "defuzzing" project I think!

  18. Hi there, just curious about how the iPulse is working for all of you who are trying it? They say 12 sessions (12 weeks) would make the trick. Has it been like this for any of you?
    Also... curious about the Rio IPL 8000, but I cannot find any information regarding the jules/cm2, nm or anything... Can anybody share any technical info? They all are more or less the same regardig use, so I want to know the technical differencies.
    Many thanks! Evamar

  19. Hi Folks. I have used the smooth skin twice without seeing any results. Apparently I should be using dark skin setting but I have been using the fair skin one.
    I don't think it smarts at all. Even on the fair skin setting which is supposed to be the strongest.
    I had 2 sessions professionally done...Now that smarts!!!
    When should I expect to see results with the smooth skin?

  20. @Evarmar & Nic - My mum loves her Smooth Skin unit and has been noticing the results after 4 or 5 sessions. It's supposedly permanent after 10 sessions but I guess as with anything that may vary per individual!

  21. Hello all, I am fed up of shaving and am toying with the idea of splashing out on either the boots Smooth Skin or the Phillips lumea, But I wondered how Sarah is getting on with her trial?
    Can you post the updates please with your comments about results.

    Is it possible to do your legs with this too or would that take too long??
    would be grateful for peoples results with either as for me its rather a lot on money to splash out and I want to make sure I make the best choice! Thanks all happy hair removal!!!






  23. hi i purchased product from boots wolverhampton and was advised the product was safe for my use having spoken to a so called 'trained smooth skin professional'. I am asian with medium skintone and was a little concerned about whether the product was safe for my use, i was assured the product had been sold to many people with my skin tone. I have had IPL professionally at a salon and had no problems. I did patch test and a week later decided to use product on my arms. whilst carrying out the treatment it felt quite hot, but presumed this was normal, twenty mins after tx my arms started to burn up and blister badly, it left me scarred all over my arms. have photo evidence. for over 4 weeks I had to keep my arms covered it was so bad, finally healing but left with what i suspect will be permanent scars all over my lower arms. I dread to think what would have happened if i had used it on my face. Boots are denying having said product was safe even though my receipt was issued by their so called trained proffesional. They gave refund but thats no consolation to the distress i have had to go through. please DO NOT USE THIS PRODUCT if you have asian skin!!!

  24. I would like to try the Boots Smooth Skin, as my main problem is upper lip hair, and this is the only one(so far)that can be used on the face. However, I want to remove the DARK hairs only, which are at the outer areas, and are mixed in with lots of light hairs, which I DO NOT wish to remove! Is anyone currently aiming for the exact same result? How are you getting on? (P.S. I am post menopausal)

  25. Having had a number of IPL sessions done professionally I can assure you that if you want permanent hair removal then you have to set it to a level where it stings, otherwise you are just sending the follicles into hibernate mode. The stinging is the hair roots being burnt out, os the more dense the hair the more intense the stinging. IPL can only permanaently remove the dark hairs as these are the only type of hair that absorbs the light down to the root.
    You will also need to go over the same area 3 or four times about 2months apart as not all hair is active at the same time. So using it every week is probably a waste of time but once a month is probably a good routine to follow.

    Would like to hear a long term report of how effective it is, say after 6 months of use, as this is a more realistic period to see results.

  26. I wonder if anyone can help? Recently purchased the Boots Smooth skin - patch test fine, then 2 sessions on axilae & then a week later whilst on my hols developed a large abcess - requiring surgical intervention etc. Was it the machine or am I unlucky - not keen to use again until reassured.....................

  27. Wow! I Am seriously so lost as to whether I should buy the boots smooth skin machine !!!! ..... I'm indian with very fair skin, as well as my sister and mother. We were planning to buy this in the hope of NO more waxing salon costs etc. But after the horrid comment of the lady left with permanent scars on her arms i'm left very weary of buying it now. has anyone else experienced this? and does it REALLY work? . I've not read from ANY comments where anyone has said they're permanently left with no hair growth ! .

  28. kimmi
    it could have been i had a faulty system, but boots deny this. I would say try at your own risk. to be honest the phillips lumea is supposed to be safer for our skin tone. but they do say you have to use it every 2-3 weeks longterm which again is not permanent.

  29. the rio 8000 is pretty good, ive not tried any others but it is really simple and safe to use and delivers exactly what it promises

  30. I bought the Smooth Skin system and have been using it for 12 weeks on the medium setting with absolutely no difference! I have now continued using it on the fair setting, but 3 weeks in still no results. I have fair skin, dark hair but I wouldn't recommend it at all.

  31. on fri, sat and sunday 10th, 11th and 12th we are doing promotion for Boots iPulse Smooth Sking. Its in Manchester, Trafford Centre and If you guys want to come and try it? Lucia x
    (PS: £50 OFF whilst this promotion as well)

  32. If you are using the ipulse, and it doesnt hurt, you are on too low setting. if IPL doesnt hurt, it means it is not working. Of course this will vary with how thick you hair is, black hair is supposed to hurt. Im a guy, and professional IPL puts tears in my eyes (my hair is thick though).
    And ps, do NOT was before IPL, only shave (and shawing doesnt speed up your hair growth, thats a myth...).

  33. I am a 14 year old girl who is in desperate need to remove leg, arm, bikini and armpit hair.
    I am aloud to use boots smooth skin iPulse?
    I really want to buy it, but I read somewhere that you can't use it if your under 16. This is kinda depressing. But I am quite older for my age... if you know what I mean.

    So yeah, can I use it?

  34. My advice to the 14 year old - for now, shave your legs and underarms.

    Leave your arm hair - is it really that bad?

    Bikini - JML sell eyebrow trimmers which are excellent and getting rid of the bikini line, without the need to shave or wax. It's brilliant for that, don't use it on your eyebrows!

    At 14, your body is hormonally charged. Hormones affect the hair and they way it grows. Your skin might be too sensitive, hence the reason for the minimum age. Wait a couple of years, grow into your skin - there is no rush. I didn't do any of this stuff until I was 23. You don't want to damage or blister your skin by using a piece of equipment which may be too strong for you. The safety precaution is there for a reason.

  35. I have had hair removal at a salon on my bikini line and underarms and it worked very well. I think both the Phillips and Boots smooth skin would work well on those areas as I have light olive skin and dark brown hair, but I would like to treat the hair on my arms and legs too, which is dark but not very thick. I also have red bumps on my upper arms and scars on my legs from picking at ingrown hairs :s
    Do you think the Lumea or Boots smooth skin would work on my arms and legs and smooth the skin there as well?

  36. I would advise you all to DO NOT BUY THE I-PULSE MACHINE FROM BOOTS. I'm really disappointed with everything about this machine. First of all the 12 weeks effectiveness it's unreal. It might be real for hairless woman but for thick hair it probably takes way longer. My point is: The 10.000 flashes lasted only 5 months, I don't know how some people managed to use for one year without replacement, I have to say I was really surprised when the bulb was finished. I was doing my bikini line,underarm, half legs and upper lip it was bad enough that it lasted so little, but my nightmare started when I tried to get the replacement handset that costs more than half price of the whole machine or just the bulb that is also very expensive a 100 pounds. In store they've got no information about it, and they also gave me 3 weeks to get replaced wich means I would have to stop the treatment for 3 weeks. Before you buy it any of this machines reserch a lot ( not only boots website ).Is just a piece of advice from someone that really needs hair removal and had a bad experience after spending more than 300 pounds in one machine that doesn't really do what it says. I might do after a while, as I said I haven't finished the treatment yet, but you end up spending way more than you tought you would, with the gel and replacements etc. Thanks

  37. What would be good, is if Boots stores could offer trial sessions prior to buying the product, that way, you could experience how the treatment felt, see if there were any adverse reactions before parting with what is quite a lot of money. I'm seriously considering getting one of these machines but as the area I am most self conscious about is my face it would mean the Boots product. Other than the lady with the scarring on her arms, no one has mentioned getting red marks/spots as a result of using these. Has anyone had this problem?

  38. hey.... m an indian wd fair skin.. i hve had professional laser hair removal settings 4 my entire body....m fair wd thick n blak hair so even a single settings doin wonders 4 me.....bt 1 sittin 4 d whole body is costin me round 400 pounds.... dats 20-30,000 rupees... so i wana buy dis 4 me....bt cnt find it in ndia.. :( can boots ship it or sumthn.....i wana use it 4 my whole body so if i do get a frnd 2 get it 4 me...how long wud it last wdout any replacments?

  39. Im pakistani and very light. the machine suited my skin and i done my first treatment today. I done my side burns upper lip and chin. hopefully after my second treatment i will see that its working........

    But it does suit asian skin however it does depend how dark u are.

  40. thnk u! well m very light myself... very fair so i knw it would suit me...n i cn get it in a month frm a frnd....bt my major concern is whthr it'l evn last....cz 10,000 flashes i hear r very less....i don wana spend all dis money n effort in getting it n then atleast it shud last me min 3-4 sittings 4 d body atleast u kmw....!!!pllllz help!

  41. i have been using the boots ipl for 3 months just for my face, and i love it. My facial hair was bad...very bad. Was to shy to go to a salon, had to pluck over 2 hours a day. Now its all over ! I must add i use the machine every other day in order tohave got results...also zap the same area 3 times, if your skin is not sensitive you can handle it. I just love this machine..its changed my life.

  42. I have just finished treatment to my lower legs using the Boots iPulse. I have found the results remarkable, to the extent I would even say it has changed my life.

    Before I explain my story, I should probably mention that I am the ideal candidate for treatment: very fair with very dark hair.

    I used to suffer horribly with very thick, dense, fast-growing hair on my legs. After shaving, I'd have stubble within 6 hours. To make matters worse, after shaving or waxing I'd end up with terrible ingrown hairs which would infect and leave my legs looking as though they had acne. Even immediately after shaving, 'black dots' would remain under my skin, making it look as though I hadn't shaved. The only way to get round this was by using a lot of fake tan.

    The iPulse has completely reduced the hair growth. I have very few patches of extremely fine, light and soft hair left (and you need a magnifying glass to see them)! I cannot wait for summer! I haven't had to shave for one month.

    The disadvantages to this device are of course the cost, the length of time for treatment (due to the probe size, my lower legs would take me about 50 mins), the messy gel and the need for replacing the bulb (which hasn't happened to me yet).

    Despite these drawbacks, I'd massively recommend this product simply because for me it works. Now I am onto my thighs!

    1. I also used the IPL successfully and have hair free bikini line and underarms. (though took much longer that the book suggested) legs are now very fine so still need bit of work however I need a new handset but finding it impossible to get replacement as Boots have now introduced the Smooth Skin Plus and the ipulse is no longer available. The site says the handsets will be available soon but after several months it is still not available. I have emailed them today for more info. :(

  43. just wondered if anyone has tried using emla cream - a topical anesthetic before treatment - I used that before laster treatment at a clinic and it worked perfectly to numb the pain

  44. Hello all,

    i used to get waxed every 4 weeks £42 a time thats £546 a year!! so i opted to go for laser hair removal.

    i tried these machines from colleagues and i have now opted to go privately, i have had 4 courses of laser hair removal treatment- privately- on extended bikini (the whole lot!) and on my upper lip- THE RESULTS ARE AMAZING. these machines DO NOT work- trust me i tried both of them for 9 months- the hairs grow back if you stop using them!- and compared to the four treatments i have had- these do not even come close- overall i have paid a total of £560 to go privately so far! and i now have nearly no hair on my extended bikini (only really really fine her in my labias), no ingrown hairs EVER and only need another 2 treatments max!! if you can afford to go privately! THEN DO... but let me just warn you, from 3rd treatment, it's really really painful, so i would suggest numbing cream (emla 5%) is what i'm using. Hope this helps with your decisions of buying these products, that don't guarantee being hair free.

  45. I have been using the Boots IPL machine for two years on and off. I've not been doing it religiously as it is a bit fiddly and my attention span is pretty dreadful. But despite this, I am absolutely delighted with the results. I have pale skin and dark hair and the latter has been the bane of my life since I was a teenager. Epilating and waxing lasts no tine at all and leaves me with ingrown hairs, I have spent a small fortune on faddy treatments over the years. But the Smooth Skin has changed everything! It took maybe four sessions to see a result, I nearly gave up, but as soon as I noticed some patchiness it encouraged me to persevere and i am so glad I did. Underarms, extended bikini line, lower legs and arms all free of hair! The only bit it seems to be less effective on is upper leg and moustache, both show good results but aren't quite there yet. I am perplexed by those reviews that say it did nothing as i am so pleased. In terms of cons - it is fiddly, time consuming and once my boyfriend walked in on me and the look of horror on his face was priceless. But i do not regret my purchase and have recommended it to plenty of people. With regular use (as per the instructions, not my fair weather approach) I would imagine you would see very good results in the twelve session time period. I only wish it had been around ten years ago, I would have been a great deal more body confident!


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