The Philips Lumea IPL 9000 promises long-lasting hair removal with cordless convenience – it delivers but at a cost
- Amazing app connectivity
- Faster than other IPL machines
- Curved windows for easy treatment
- Fiddly to clean
Laser hair removal is well known for being an effective method for reducing and eliminating hair growth – and at-home IPL (intense pulsed light) devices have brought this once-expensive specialist treatment into the hands of the masses.
IPL technology uses flashes of high-energy light to shock the hair follicles at the root, preventing the hair from growing back long-term, and the Philips Lumea IPL 9000 is Philips’ top-of-the-range model, offering the fastest cordless treatment and a great range of attachments for treating all the different areas of your body.
As someone who has been blessed with thick, dark body hair, I was excited to get my hands on the Lumea 9000 to test what many people believe can get rid of hair for good. While this might be true for some, Philips only claims its devices can reduce the average user’s hair growth by 78% with long-term use. As you’ll see, I was impressed with its effectiveness, but it isn’t without its problems.
Philips Lumea IPL 9000 review: What do you get for the money?
The Lumea 9000 is the most highly equipped IPL machine in the Philips range and it starts at a pricey £460, stretching to £470 if you want the full range of attachments. The cheaper BRI-955 model gets you a body, face and precision attachment, whereas the fully equipped BRI-958 comes with a body, face, bikini and underarms attachment.
All of the attachments are specially designed to help treat the different areas of your body safely and with ease. Each comes with a rectangular shaped window that fits over the glass treatment lamp on the main body of the device; this is where the light pulses come from. The Lumea 9000 has the largest treatment windows of any Lumea model, with the bikini attachment’s window measuring 10 x 30mm and the face attachment measuring 8 x 26mm.
Additionally, each attachment has a slightly different shape, designed to match the area you’re treating. For example, the body attachment has a slightly concave shape that fits around the contours of your legs and arms, whereas the underarm and bikini attachments are convex.
By comparison, the cheapest Philips Lumea IPL, the Advanced, has completely flat attachments, which can make it more difficult to get the treatment window to sit flush against the skin. The treatment windows are also much smaller, with the face and bikini attachments measuring 9 x 19mm. This cheaper model also can’t tell you which light intensity setting to use as it doesn’t have a SmartSkin sensor. This scans your skin and uses Philips’ SenseIQ technology to suggest the optimum, most comfortable light intensity setting for every user. I’ll touch on SmartSkin again later, but don’t worry because every Lumea device has a safety feature that detects if your skin is safe for the treatment, regardless of light intensity levels.
The mid-range Philips Lumea IPL Prestige offers the same SmartSkin sensor, but the bulb only lasts for 250,000 flashes, as opposed to the 450,000 in the 9000 model. This might seem like a huge difference, and it is, but in reality you’d be hard-pressed to get through 250,000 flashes in the machine’s lifetime.
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Right now, the Lumea IPL 9000 is the only machine in the Philips range that can be operated cordlessly. This is a huge bonus, especially as treatments can take up to 15 minutes at a time, and having a cordless machine also means you can sit in the most comfortable spot in your home without bending to the restrictions of a wire.
One full charge of the IPL 9000 lasts 30 minutes when used on a lower intensity level, which is plenty of time to treat most areas of your body. The only caveat is that cordless operation slows down the device’s “flash rate” by around half a second, which means treatment takes significantly longer.
Philips Lumea IPL 9000 review: How does it work?
Knowing that IPL uses flashes of light to damage the hair at the root, to allow the light to effectively access the hairs as close to the root as possible you’ll need to shave, epilate or wax before treatment. If you’re waxing or epilating, be sure to do so a few days before your treatment to allow the root to heal.
Those who have fair skin and dark hair will typically see the best results from IPL treatments. That’s because dark colours absorb heat and light, whereas light colours reflect it, making it easier for the intense pulses of light emitted by the IPL 9000 to do their job.
This also means that IPL won’t be effective on every skin tone and hair colour. Blondes won’t have much luck using IPL and, most importantly, if your skin is particularly dark, it can cause hyper-pigmentation and burn as a result of the higher amount of melanin in the skin. If you’re unsure about how safe the treatment will be for your skin type, you can find a detailed guide and colour chart on the Philips website.
Luckily, the Lumea 9000 is suitable for the widest range of skin tones of all the Philips machines and, thanks to its safety sensor, the machine won’t flash if it detects your skin is too dark. The SmartSkin sensor also suggests the most comfortable setting to use on your skin tone. That means you’re always protected from skin damage; you can also return the Philips IPL if the treatment isn’t suitable for you, thanks to a 100-day money-back guarantee.
As with many good things in life, the results aren’t immediate; in the initial eight-week treatment phase, users will need to do four treatments, one every two weeks, to catch every hair at the right point in its four-week growth phase. In my experience, the hairs get thinner and lighter and grow back much slower with every treatment. Although different parts of the body took different amounts of time to treat, it took four treatments on my legs to see a significant improvement.
Philips Lumea IPL 9000 review: What’s it like to use?
I was apprehensive about IPL treatments at first. Reading through the lists of warnings and complicated technical instructions made the process feel much more intimidating than it needed to be. While this information is good to know from a safety perspective, it can feel like a lot of information to take in at once, especially when you probably want to get the ball rolling as soon as possible.
That’s where the Philips Lumea app comes in: simply enter your Lumea’s model number and create an optional account and it will talk you through every step of the setup process. That includes advice on patch testing, sensitivity levels, pre-treatment preparation and aftercare.
The app also hosts links to further reading and advice blogs from other Lumea IPL users, which you can browse if you’re having any problems. Once you’re done, the app can also send you reminders to let you know when your next treatment is scheduled, which is really helpful to keep you on track with treatments. If you’re a few days late, the app will also guide you through how to get your treatments back on track.
For the most part, the app is intuitively designed and allows you to get tailored advice at nearly every step of the process. The only niggle I had was that I couldn’t adjust my treatment times to add in extra touch-up treatments in the middle of the month if I had extra hairs coming through or the hairs needed more sessions to go away.
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While the app is there to help guide you through the process of treatment, the hardware is child’s play to use. On the top of the device, there’s an on/off button, five LED lights to indicate which power setting you’re using, plus and minus buttons to switch between the settings, and a SmartSkin button to activate the SmartSkin sensor.
Once you’ve set the device to the correct intensity, simply position the treatment window at a 90-degree angle to the skin until the large white indicator light on the back of the body lights up. Then you can press the large trigger button on the handle to flash the skin. After that, move the treatment window to a new spot, wait for the indicator light, flash again and so on. Just be sure you don’t treat the same area twice.
All in all, the process is simple and comfortable. Owing to the intuitive, curved shape of the treatment windows, keeping the device at 90 degrees flush with the skin is really easy. On bonier areas such as the ankles and knees, I had to wiggle the device about a bit to get the indicator light to flash; I found that turning the device 90 degrees to get the treatment window lengthways helped a lot with those areas.
One thing that sped up the treatment was the “slide and flash” function. If you’re treating larger areas of the body such as the legs, you don’t need to stamp and press the flash button every time. Simply hold the button down and move the device every time the device flashes. This saves time but it can make your hand ache after a while.
The treatment took 18 minutes per full leg compared to an advertised ten. Still, that’s ten minutes quicker than the same treatment using the Lumea Advanced. That’s a huge time saving and is almost certainly faster than travelling to a beauty clinic, getting laser hair removal there and travelling back again. Despite that, you have to be willing to spend around 45 minutes treating your whole body if you’re working thoroughly to get the best results, which is a big time commitment in a busy schedule. That means there’s no way you’d be able to treat your whole body cordlessly without recharging in between.
IPL is hailed by its manufacturers as pain-free, long-term hair removal, and it’s certainly a more comfortable process than other methods of hair removal such as waxing and epilating. However, that’s not to say it’s completely painless. When using higher intensity levels on areas where the skin is particularly thin or sensitive, such as the upper thighs or armpits, you might feel a slight zapping sensation, which feels similar to having a small elastic band snapped against the skin. This isn’t particularly painful but it can feel uncomfortable.
For the most part, though, the treatment is simple and pain-free at all settings. And, even if it isn’t, you can reduce the intensity level. That’s why Philips recommends doing a patch test first to see how sensitive you are to the treatment or if you react to it before treating your whole body.
While the treatments are easy and painless, it’s only worth the time and money if it actually delivers long-term hair removal. Because I have very pale skin and dark brown hair I’m a prime candidate and, I have to say, it delivered, especially on areas of my body such as the legs, stomach and face, where the hairs grow thinner. After four treatments, the hairs in these areas had disappeared almost entirely and, if they did come through, they were much thinner and lighter than usual. Now all I need to do is one treatment every four weeks to keep the hair away for good.
Other areas where the hairs were thicker and more established, such as the armpits, didn’t go away entirely after the first four treatments, so I will have to continue to use the Lumea every two weeks in these areas to achieve the desired effect. Even so, the hairs were already growing slower, lighter and thinner, which is good enough for me.
Another thing to bear in mind is that you have to clean the device properly between sessions using the microfibre cloth provided. This isn’t difficult, in theory, but can be tricky if dead skin or hair fibres have baked onto the treatment window, especially since the treatment windows are quite narrow. To avoid this, make sure your skin is exfoliated, clean and free of loose hair before you treat it.
Philips Lumea IPL 9000 review: Should you buy it?
There are, of course, a few caveats to IPL. It doesn’t work on all skin tones or hair colours, and it’s a fairly slow process. Treating larger areas of the body can take a lot of time and, while this has the speediest flash of any IPL I’ve tested, it still took 18 minutes per leg.
However, if you have the right skin and hair colouring and are willing to fork out to get the fastest IPL treatment, the Philips Lumea 9000 has plenty going for it. If you want the flexibility of cordless operation, the most comfortable treatment and great results, it’s an excellent option.
If you’re going to splash out, though, make sure you choose the BRI-958 model to get the full range of attachments as there’s normally only a £10 price difference with the cheaper model and you can’t buy the attachments separately.