*Update: This post was originally published back in 2013. I’ve been using the Lumea a lot longer now, and new models have been released so I thought it was time to update.*
I’ve tried every form of hair removal out there: shaving, waxing, epilating, depilatory creams, you name it, but they’re either too painful or the results too short term or both. I’ve thought about in-salon laser/IPL hair removal, but the price has always put me off. This fact, coupled with my love for all things DIY (see my at-home juice cleanse for another example!), led me explore at-home IPL hair removal systems. After reading tons of reviews on the Philips Lumea range, I decided to bite the bullet and buy myself one. It’s been about two years now, and it’s still one of the best investments I’ve ever made.
How does it work?
The Philips Lumea uses a version of the IPL technology used in professional beauty salons for permanent hair reduction, adapted for safe use at home. The device applies gentle pulses of light, which travel down the hair shaft to the root and stimulate it into a resting phase. The hair then sheds naturally and regrowth is inhibited.
Using the Lumea Precision
When I first got the Lumea, I used it on my underarms, bikini line, legs and upper lip once every two week. The area has to be shaved first (except upper lip!! See below) and then it’s ready to be treated. It’s really easy to use – the hardest bit is getting the device to make full contact with the skin. If it’s not properly positioned nothing will happen, but it’s very light and it’s cordless, so very easy to manipulate.
Battery life: Since I treat quite a few areas, the battery doesn’t last if I try to do them all at once (the legs require quite a lot of “flashes”), so I normally do my armpits and bikini one week and then my legs the next week, with each area being treated every other week (Sunday is my IPL day). Treatment is really quick – I’d say it takes less than a minute for me to do each underarm, a couple of mins for my bikini and maybe 10 minutes to do each legs.
Pain factor: It does hurt. That’s probably partly because I have darker skin, and the darker your skin the more light it absorbs. I have quite a high pain threshold too (I used to epilate my armpits and bikini line, which is incredibly painful), but every flash makes me jump. My solution to this is to ice the area before treating it to numb it, and then I don’t feel a thing. So there’s some advice if you find that it does hurt too much. There are five settings of increasing light intensity, which, in theory, allows you to treat more sensitive areas. Lowering the intensity of light does make it much less painful, but I personally find that if I use it below level 4 it doesn’t “kill off” the hairs at all.
Using the Lumea on the upper lip: You’re supposed to shave the area you want to treat before using the Lumea Precision. You can’t wax or pluck prior to IPL because the light needs to travel down the hair shaft in order to stunt the growth and you’re not supposed to use depilatory creams either. This is fine in general but I don’t really fancy shaving my upper lip. This could be a HUGE disaster if the Lumea didn’t work. So when I treat my upper lip, I don’t do anything to the hairs first. Apparently if you leave the hair there it can damage the lens, but it’s so short and fine I can’t see it being much of a problem. Plus the alternative seems much worse! And actually after the first go there was practically no hair left. So far so good!
You need to be consistent and patient – the hairs don’t fall out immediately and they don’t all stop growing back at once. Having said that, it wasn’t long at all before I saw results. After one session, my bikini line and underarms were noticeably very patchy (I’d say maybe 40% loss), and after two sessions the treated areas had almost no hair. I’ve had the machine for almost two years now, it’s still going strong, but I don’t use it religiously anymore. I still use it on my underarms and upper lip every now and then for maintenance, and even the more stubborn hairs have almost completely disappeared.
I don’t really use the Lumea on my legs – it just takes so long. When I first got it, I used it 2 or 3 times, and they did get quite patchy, but I’m bad to shaving now. Maybe I’ll go back to them eventually, but I’ve noticed that the machine works better on coarser hair, because it is able to absorb more of the light.
It’s worth pointing out that the hairs don’t fall out immediately after treatment. After session one, the hair started to grow back, and it was only when I was ready for my next session, two weeks later, that started seeing significant shedding.
At least four to five sessions are recommended before you will be hair free, this has been my experience too At any one time, if hair is at a different stage of it’s growth cycle, and for the hair to be treated it needs to be in the “active” stage. When inactive hair follicles become active, they will be treated. Philips recommends using the Lumea every two weeks on armpits and bikini area and every four weeks on legs will keep your skin smooth and hair free. But once you reach your desired level of “smoothness” you only need to complete maintenance treatments every 6 to 8 weeks.
I will say, even when you are happy with results, you will need to go back to an area every now and again for maintenance. I went through a period of not using the Lumea at all – 5 or 6 months – and I started seeing hairs sprouting again in the underarm region. Even with salon laser and IPL treatments recommend maintenance sessions. I thought this was just a money spinner, but having experienced it first hand, I’d say you do want to give the area a quick flash (lol!) at least once every two months, although this will vary from person to person, and hair growth cycle to hair growth cycle. Also don’t worry, all the hairs won’t grow back at once, but they may start creeping back.
Is it right for me?
According to the Philips website, the Lumea works effectively on (naturally) dark blonde, brown and black hairs. It is not effective on red, light-blonde or white/grey hair and is not suitable for very dark skin. The chart below shows what skin tones and hair colours work with the Lumea. I’m mixed race with medium to dark brown skin and dark hair. I probably have the darkest skin you can use with the Lumea. Even with my less than optimal skin tone/hair combination (IPL machines work best with dark hair and light skin), the results have been amazing. However, the maximum light intensity I can safely use is level 4.
What is the difference between Philips Lumea Models? Updated!
I have the Philips Lumea Precision SC2002/01. It’s a dark purple 2013 model (since I got it waaaaaay back when). Looking at the Boots website, not a huge amount seems to have changed since then. As usual, there are three models available, the Precision Plus SC2003 (silver), which was available when I was buying mine, the new Philips Lumea for Body SC2004 (light pink), and a newer Precision Plus SC2006-11 (also silver). They all vary in price. When I was buying mine, I spoke to a Philips sales rep in Boots, who explained the differences between models. As far as I understand, there are a couple of differences…
The first is the number of flashes the lamp has before it will run out. Each Philips Lumea has a finite number of flashes before it runs out, and once its run out, that’s it, the machine is useless and you have to buy a new one. So the price varies by the number of flashes. Apparently Philips has upped the ante a little bit, because both the Philips Lumea Body and the Pricision Plus have 100,000 flashes (mine ONLY had 80,000), and the “new” Precision Plus SC2006 has 140,000 flashes. To put that into context, my underarms need a maximum of 10 flashes each. So if I only used the machine on my underarms, 80,000 flashes would give me 4000 sessions for the pair. Woah. I don’t only use the machine on my armpits, but you get the picture – it will take a while to run out… Philips suggests around five years. Some IPL machines have a much smaller number of flashes but they give you the option to buy replacement lamps. It’s just preference whether you’d rather pay for the machine upfront or buy replacement bulbs regularly. Personally, I think it’s a false economy to buy a cheaper machine.
The second difference between models is in the attachments. Both Precision models come with two attachments – the standard one for the body and a second “precision” attachment, which has an integrated UV filter that makes it safe to use on the face. The original pink Philips Lumea doesn’t have this attachment, so can only be used on the body. There is no difference in the intensity of flashes between the models.
So when choosing which model to buy, consider whether you will be using the machine on your face – if not, you might not need to buy the precision model (although the precision attachment is useful for getting full contact on smaller areas, like fingers and toes, and the build-in filter makes the flashes significantly less painful). Next, it’s just a question of deciding if you want to pay a little more for 40,000 extra flashes. When I purchased I compromised and got the precision model with less flashes, and saved myself £50. The equivalent now would be the Precision Plus SC2003, which has gone down in price as new models have been introduced. At the time I didn’t want to invest in the extra flashes before I knew whether it would work. As a first timer that’s what I would recommend. When I eventually have to repurchase, I’ll probably decide on a cost-per-flash basis.
Update! New Feature: Slide & Flash
Reading over the Boots website I noticed that the new models have a Slide & Flash mode, which allows you to glide the device over flat areas (like legs), as opposed to lifting it and moving it incrementally with the traditional Step & Flash mode. Obviously, I can’t comment on the effectiveness of this new addition, but I wonder whether it would make doing legs easier and quicker… If you have got the new model with this feature, please let me know what you think!
I think this is a great product and I recommend it to anyone who wants a permanent solution to unwanted hair. It’s really easy to use and the results are excellent. For me, the results have been comparable to what I’d expect from a salon, minus the embarrassment and inconvenience associated. Although it’s not cheap, it’s MUCH less costly than having the same kind of thing done by a professional. Probably my favourite beauty product that I own and still my best buy of the last two years.
Where to buy
They’ve stopped selling my model, but the closest, the Philips Lumea SC2007 is currently on the Boots website for £275.00.
Since I purchased my Lumea, Philips has released a bikini attachment to sit alongside the face and body attachments. This model is also available on the Boots website and currently retails for £349.99 (£175 off the RRP).
The Philips Lumea for Body (SC2005/00) is currently £475 on the boots website: here. I wouldn’t recommend this model though, as you might as well get a cheaper model which has more attachments.
The “new” Precision Plus (SC2006/11) can be found here and currently retails at £449.99.
They’re not cheap but considering that in-salon IPL can cost £50+ per area per session, I was happy to pay that amount!
I hope this review was helpful to anyone thinking of buying an IPL device. I know this is an older model, and I assume the new models are similar, if not better. Of course do your due diligence before you buy! I will definitely be repurchasing when mine runs out! But, if you own a newer model, let me know how you got on with it. Did you like it as much as I love mine?
(NB: All prices were correct at the time of publishing)