Unwanted body hair has been the bane of people’s lives for centuries. Finally we have a solution, and it comes in the form of a handheld device that zaps hairs using pulses of light. While this may sound scary, the process is actually very effective and straightforward.

There are two kinds of machines available for home use – the majority are IPL, or intense pulsed light. IPL isn’t a laser, but rather a spectrum of light and wavelengths that reduces hair growth gradually. A laser delivers one single wave or red light to directly disable the follicle and is a quicker process. Anyone using an IPL machine will find that there will be some regrowth, so areas would need to be redone, possibly every six to 12 months. 

Before opting for this type of hair removal, check the brand’s skin and hair charts. The ideal combination for these devices is dark hair and fair skin. Many do not work if your skin is dark or hair is light (blonde, grey, white or red). Be sure to read the handbooks thoroughly as they detail all instructions, including where you can and can’t use the machines. 

Dr Raj Mallipeddi, a leading consultant dermatologist, said: “Generally those with darker skin should be more cautious as there is more risk of discolouring and pigmentation. A trained specialist in a clinical setting will be able to tailor settings for an individual’s requirements. There is less flexibility with a home device, but it may suit those who prefer the convenience of home treatment. It may also be less expensive.”

We tested these machines over three months on men and women aged from 20 to 50, of all skin tones. All the machines on this list resulted in a significant reduction in hair.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent. 

Smooth Skin Muse IPL hair removal device: £349, Current Body

This is possibly the most attractive machine on our list from award-winning IPL maker Smooth Skin, with a slick black body, curved so it fits neatly into the palm, and patterned with flecks of gold. It even has its own material pouch for safekeeping. But this machine isn’t a style over substance cliche. Use once a week for 12 weeks to make sure you catch all the hairs in the growth cycle.

We saw signs of improvement after four weeks. Hairs were less, thinner and even lighter in colour. The device is easy to use – the on button is displayed clearly on the top and once pressed is ready to use. There is a super-intelligent skin sensor on the side of the device with 10 lights – the number of lights flashing will depend on your skin tone. If 10 lights are illuminated, this means you’re using the higher power setting, few lights means skin is dark and so the machine will use less power. This is crucial for skin safety reasons.

Normally on other machines you choose the energy level but Muse does it for you. We would recommend for all people who know their skin tone varies across their body. For sensitive skin, there is also a gentle mode indicated by a feather symbol on the button. Only use this if you have really sensitive skin as it will lead to less effective treatment and you will end up needing more sessions.

Put the treatment window against the shaved area, and press the large activation button on top of the device. It will flash and you will feel it’s slightly warm. For large areas hold down the activation button and glide along the skin once with no overlap. For small areas you can stamp, by holding down and pressing the activation button. It was quick – legs were done in 10 minutes, arms and underarms in 10 minutes, too. The only downside is it does need a plug socket to use, which could be annoying if you’re not near a seated area.

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Iluminage Touch permanent hair reduction device: £455, Amazon

This one is the first home IPL and radio-frequency device approved for results on all skin tones and hair colours. And it’s effective and very easy to use.

Simply plug in and turn on, then choose between three intensity settings. Press the start button and glide slowly over the chosen area, two to three times. It is the only device we tested where the button doesn’t need to be held down, hence no finger ache.

Flashes of light will emit from the handheld device, which do not hurt but instead create a warming sensation. Protection glasses are included with this one.

Repeat every week and hair will be noticeably reduced by the fourth session. We found areas such as our arms saw next to no hair grow back while legs only grew back in tiny patches, on light, medium and darker skin tones.  

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Philips Lumea Prestige: £324.99, Amazon

With its four detachable curved heads for specific areas, Philips’ IPL device is ideal for anyone planning to use it on multiple parts of the body. It’s very simple to use; the techy “smart skin” sensor will identify which of the five power settings is right for your skin tone.

Reassuringly, it will lock itself if skin is too dark or hair is too light. Hold this at a 90-degree angle on the skin and the device will emit light once you press the flash button. For smaller areas, press the flash button, wait for the flash and remove from skin.

For larger areas like legs, hold down the flash button and keep moving slowly over the legs as the flashes are emitted from the device, while adhering to the guidelines as to how many minutes to use on different areas.

If skin is too dark or hair too light, the machine will flash orange-red and will not emit any pulses of light. We liked the fact you can use it plugged in for larger areas or cordless on smaller patches.

When used biweekly we found hair was almost gone after four or five treatments.

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Tria hair removal laser 4X: £219, Current Body

Tria’s machine is the only home laser hair-removal device we found. It uses the same diode technology found in clinics, albeit at a weaker intensity. It requires concentration and precision because when used correctly it permanently removes the hair.

Charge up before use, and to unlock, lay the bottom of the laser on the top of the skin. Rub the cooling gel onto the skin then place the small laser head on the area and it will bleep once, but only lift off the skin after you hear the second bleep.

There are five intensity settings, the highest of which does feel like an intense rubber band flick, so just choose the setting you can bear. As the laser head is small you have to place it across the skin in overlapping circles.

It is time-consuming but the end result is worth it as we found we got little to no regrowth.

The only negatives are that the cooling gel was used up after four uses and we found it had to be recharged every 30 minutes or so. But by using it every other week, hair will be significantly reduced in five sessions. 

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Braun Silk-expert IPL: £248.50, Amazon

We’d recommend this IPL device for anyone with more sensitive skin. It has “gentle” and “extra-gentle” settings which we found were the most comfortable to use.

It’s also the only device we tested that adapts the power setting to your skin tone as you use it, meaning you don’t need to change things manually. You can see the power level changing on the light bar along the side of the device.

Hold down the button for continuous flashes, ideal for legs, which can be treated in around seven minutes. For smaller areas, press once and it will release a single flash. It must be plugged in for use, so you don’t need to worry about battery life.

If you use this once a week, by the fifth week you will see a noticeable improvement – and by the 11th or 12th week, the remaining stray hairs will be so fine, they’re practically invisible.

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Remington i-Light Prestige: £232.99, Amazon

Another straightforward machine, Remington’s device uses “pro pulse” technology, a high-quality form of IPL that really works to destroy the hair follicle.

You start by placing the skin sensor on the base pad to identify if the device is safe to use on your skin. If so, a power setting of your choice can be chosen out of five levels.

Although level five is not painful, it’s always best to start low on the first treatment and work your way up. If you do want to use on the face, there is another attachment with a smaller head to ensure more concentrated results.

Like most of the devices, the button can be pressed once for small areas or held down for larger areas. This also needs to be plugged in but comes with a long lead so it can be moved around with relative ease.

Use once a week, every other week for a month and you will find, particularly on smaller areas such as underarms and lip, that hair won’t grow back at all.

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Silk’n Infinity 400,000 hair removal device: £169, Current Body

Silk’n arguably lead the way in professional aesthetic devices for home use. This product uses something called eHPL which combines galvanic energy with standard optical energy. Galvanic temporarily widens your pores, allowing light to reach hair follicles without pain, irritation or ingrown hairs.

This means hair can be treated twice as fast, your whole body can be done in 20 minutes. What is even more impressive is that Silk’n has managed to make this device suitable for all skin tones, however, it does still include a sensor to stop the machine if skin is too dark.

Unlike other devices that don’t recommend using after sun exposure, this is safe to use – as long as you opt for the lowest energy level (there are five to choose from).​

Silk’n recommends doing treatment numbers one-four two weeks apart, then treatments five-seven four weeks apart, and after treat as needed. We found hair started to get thinner and to disappear only by the fourth treatment.

This isn’t the easiest machine to hold – the metal base electrode at the back must be touching your fingers while the pulse button on the top is pushed, but after a few treatments it becomes easier to use.

It is one of the most affordable machines but should not be discredited for this – in fact for tech-savvy people, this is probably the best device for you. The reason being this connects to Bluetooth – you can download the Silk’n hair removal app to make sure you are up to date with your treatment plan. It even comes with a grey protective box for safekeeping.

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Sensica Sensilight RPL hair removal device: £99, Current Body

Made by experts in professional medical aesthetics, this machine uses RPL – or reactive pulsed light. What this means is inbuilt skin sensors are constantly reacting to your skin tone to make sure the correct amount of light is used. There are three energy levels, but the machine won’t work if skin is too dark. Due to this we would recommend for anyone with fair to medium skin tones and darker hair for the best results.

During the first four treatments, spaced out in two week intervals, we saw a decent hair reduction. The machine itself is relatively small and easy to hold. It works the same as most IPL devices where the treatment window is held flat on the skin and then the trigger is pushed to release the flash. Start on the low setting and work your way up if you feel comfortable with the sting and heat. It needs to be plugged into a socket, so you’ll need a spare one nearby.

As the least expensive IPL machine of the list, the light pulses seem a little slower than some of the other machines, but if you’re got relatively fair skin, dark hair and are a naturally patient person, this is definitely worth a try.

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The verdict: Best laser and IPL hair removal machines

For a machine that ticks so many boxes it has to be Smooth Skin muse. It’s easy to use, offering a bespoke treatment by adapting the energy level to your skin tone, it is cost-effective and achieves results with not too much upkeep. However, if you are serious about ridding the body of hair for good, then you should invest in Tria. Yes, it may sting more than the IPL machines, but it is the only home device offering permanent hair removal.

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