The Philips Lumea IPL Advanced works well but it’s only for those who have a lot of patience
- Good value
- Brilliant results
- App connectivity
- No SenseIQ
IPL is an effective, long-term hair removal method you can do from the comfort of your home. After years of having to save up for laser hair removal, products like the Philips Lumea IPL Advanced have now brought this treatment to the consumer market.
While IPL (intense pulsed light) flashes aren’t as powerful as the lasers you’d find at a professional clinic, the process works in the same way, slowing the growth of the hair by using intense light to damage hair follicles at the root. With long-term use, the hair usually stops growing back at all or grows thinner, lighter, and slower than before.
The Philips Lumea Advanced is one of the most affordable at-home IPL machines you can buy and it’s the cheapest in the Philips range. With a recommended retail price of over £200 less than the top-of-the-range Lumea 9000, I was intrigued to see how well the machines performed alongside each other. In my testing, the hair reduction results were similar, but the Lumea Advanced wasn’t as quick and easy to use. Still, the results were impressive for the price.
Philips Lumea IPL Advanced review: What do you get for the money?
The IPL Advanced is the most affordable Lumea device in the Philips range, which means you don’t get any fancy design features to make the treatment faster and easier. However, at its core, the IPL treatment is the same and is just as effective at reducing hair long-term as the more expensive models.
There are two models in the Lumea Advanced range: the BRI921, which costs £259 and comes with standard body and face attachments, and the BRI923, which has an additional bikini attachment and retails at around £300. However, these prices regularly fluctuate during sales periods and you’ll often find the machine sold in a bundle with a free battery-powered compact pen trimmer thrown in.
Each attachment is designed specifically for the area of the body it’s treating to ensure the most effective and safe treatment possible. For example, the face attachment has a built-in red filter, which helps treat sensitive areas of the body like the upper lip without damage or discomfort. The bikini attachment uses a different coarse-hair filter for treating these more stubborn hairs. The body attachment can be used to treat the rest of the body, including the armpits and legs.
It’s a good selection but the attachments on the Lumea Advanced aren’t as easy to use as they are on the more expensive Lumea 9000 and Prestige models. Not only are the treatment windows on the face attachment significantly smaller, measuring 9 x 19mm on the Lumea Advanced compared to 8 x 26mm on the 9000, but they’re also completely flat. That’s an issue because the window needs to be pressed flush against the skin for the Lumea to flash, which means bonier areas of the body are more difficult to treat.
The higher-end models also come equipped with a “SmartSkin” sensor, which recommends the most comfortable light intensity based on your skin tone, using Philips’ “SenseIQ” technology. With the Lumea Advanced, you have to set the light intensity manually by using a simple patch test and the skin tone and hair colour chart in the user manual.
As IPL uses intense flashes of light and no bulb lasts forever, the flashes you can get out of each Lumea are limited. The Advanced reviewed here is rated at 250,000 flashes (as is the Prestige) and the Lumea 9000 lasts 450,000. While that is a big difference, we did the maths and you’d have to do 544 full leg treatments to get through 250,000 flashes, or 22 years’ worth, so don’t let this put you off.
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Philips Lumea IPL Advanced review: How does it work?
Intense Pulsed Light, or IPL, uses intense light flashes to damage hair follicles at the root which, over time, makes them grow back thinner and lighter until eventually, the hair stops growing. This doesn’t happen overnight. The initial treatment phase for the whole Lumea IPL range consists of four treatments spaced two weeks apart, which aim to catch all the hairs at the right point in their four-week growth cycle.
When I tested the Lumea Advanced, I noticed hairs grew back much thinner and lighter after two treatments but, after four, most hairs were gone entirely. If I missed a few hairs, I simply went back in two weeks later and treated those spots again.
It’s important to note that I have dark brown hair and light skin, which means I’m the ideal subject for IPL hair removal. That’s because light colours reflect light and heat, whereas dark colours absorb it; the lighter your skin is and the darker your hair is, the better the intense light pulses will be at damaging the hair.
If you have blonde, grey or light ginger hair, IPL won’t work well. More importantly, if you have darker skin, the intense light from IPL can cause burning and hyper-pigmentation as it is absorbed into the melanin in the skin. Luckily, the Philips website has a handy colour chart to help you figure out if the treatment is safe for your skin type.
Also, all Lumea IPL devices, including the Advanced are fitted with a safety sensor, which won’t allow the machine to flash if it detects your skin is too dark. That means you’ll always be protected from damaging your skin and, if the treatment isn’t suitable for you, you can return the Lumea thanks to its 100-day money-back guarantee.
Philips Lumea IPL Advanced review: What is it like to use?
IPL isn’t a one-and-done treatment – you have to do regular treatments at a specific time to get the best results. That means that, unlike shaving or epilating when you remove hairs as they grow back, it’s not obvious when an IPL treatment is due. The Philips app helps to keep your treatments on track with handy reminder notifications, as well as rescheduling treatments if you fall behind.
When you first open the app, it asks for the model number of your Lumea to give you specific advice for the device you’re using, which includes setup, preparation, treatment, scheduling and after care. It doesn’t connect to the device directly via Bluetooth, but having this information at your fingertips during treatment is incredibly useful. Also, if there’s something else you’re unsure of, there’s a handy archive of blogs from other Lumea users with extra information and guidance.
The only problem is that, once you’ve scheduled a regular four-week treatment, there’s no option to go back and add in an extra fortnightly treatment if you notice rogue untreated hairs growing back. For the most part, though, this is a small problem for what is a really handy tool.
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Ease of use
With the app to guide you through safety and treatment plans, operating the Lumea is ridiculously easy. The device has two buttons: a control button on the top and a flash trigger on the handle. Above the control button, five indicator lights show which light intensity setting you’re using.
To turn the device on (or off), you press and hold the control button and then press the button again to scroll through the intensity levels. Once you’ve set the intensity level, simply press the treatment window up against the skin, wait for the indicator light on the back of the device to light up, press the flash button and repeat.
If you’re treating larger areas of the body like the legs, you can hold the flash button down to use the slide and flash function. That means the device will flash immediately when it’s ready, rather than having to watch for the indicator light before you press the flash button.
As the Lumea IPL Advanced has flat treatment windows that don’t fit particularly comfortably around bonier areas of the body, it can take a bit of adjustment to get the indicator light to switch on. This, alongside the smaller windows and the slower 3.5-second flash rate, slows down treatment significantly compared with higher-end models.
To put this into perspective, the Lumea 9000 flashes once every 2 seconds – that’s nearly double the length of time between each flash with the Advanced model. When treating small areas of the body like the armpits, this won’t make a huge difference, however, it took me a whopping 27 minutes to treat one leg using the Lumea Advanced, compared with 18 minutes using the Lumea 9000.
Do note that these timings are significantly longer than the advertised times on the Philips website, which could be because I treated the whole length of my legs, while some users may only want to treat below the knee. Either way, 27 minutes per leg adds up to almost an hour of treatment, which is a significant time commitment.
Alongside this, the Lumea Advanced is corded, which means you lose out on the cordless convenience offered by the Lumea 9000. Still, the cord is 192cm long, which is plenty enough to manoeuvre around your body during treatments. It’s also much lighter than the cordless version, weighing nearly 200g less than its cordless counterpart.
While IPL is generally known for being relatively pain-free, you could be forgiven for being reluctant to take this at face value, as some people say the same thing about epilating. Having tried both methods of hair removal, I can safely say the pain levels are worlds apart.
When treating my legs using the highest intensity level, I found the process completely painless – I did feel a gentle prickling sensation but it’s by no means painful in most areas of the body. For more sensitive areas like the armpits or bikini line, this turned into a slight zapping at the same intensity level, which felt similar to snapping a rubber band against the skin. In that case, it was easy to adjust the intensity back down to a more comfortable level.
Again, this is where the patch test becomes more important. There’s no SmartSkin sensor to recommend an intensity level on the Lumea Advanced, which means you have to make that decision yourself to avoid slight discomfort.
Although the Lumea Advanced treatment process is long and tedious at times, the results are worth it. I found that after two treatments my leg hairs were growing back slower and lighter than before. By the fourth treatment, most hairs had stopped growing entirely and, if they hadn’t, this was likely down to me accidentally skipping over small sections of my leg during treatment.
In areas of the body where hair grows thicker and coarser, like the armpits, the treatment wasn’t as effective at stopping hairs from growing completely after a mere four treatments. However, after these treatments, the hairs were thinner and lighter, and the growth rate slowed significantly.
To see longer-term hair removal in these areas, I’ll likely have to continue with fortnightly treatments for a while longer. That’s good enough for me, though, as the armpit treatments only take around two minutes, so it’s much easier to fit into a busy schedule.
Philips Lumea IPL Advanced review: Should you buy it?
If you’re looking to get effective, comfortable IPL hair removal on a budget, the Lumea Advanced is a great option, especially if you’re only treating smaller areas of your body. I say this because larger areas of the body take a long time to treat; two full legs take almost an hour, which is a huge amount of time to spend.
If you have a little extra cash to spend, or you get lucky and find it on sale, the £360 Lumea Prestige has a significantly faster flash rate and an increased window size to speed up treatments.
However, if the Lumea Advanced is the only model in your price range, and you’re happy to pop on a movie in the background while you do your treatments, don’t rule it out for use on your legs. You’ll still get great results if you’re thorough and consistent with your treatments.