The Boots Smooth Skin Home IPL Hair Removal System
When Smooth Skin's PR people contacted me and asked if I would like to try their new Boots Smooth Skin home IPL hair removal system, I was naturally slightly reticent. Thoughts like "Does it really show that badly that great grandpa Fred was also known affectionately to his friends as the yeti?" raced through my mind.
The road a transexual woman has to walk to achieve a body part way towards what would make life easy for us socially is best likened to doing the Grand Slalom in reverse, starting at the bottom of the mountain and working your way up the icy slopes with skis on. Small wonder then that we become such divas of beauty enhancement! I've had a lot of experience of various hair removal methods and though none have been completely perfect, several have changed my life for the better.
I initially thought "could a home IPL hair removal system be strong enough to deal with some of the coarser hairs I have?". Jokes about Yetis aside, for an honest description I would best describe myself as averagely hairy with fair skin and dark hairs in the areas where it is a bother, blonde peach fuzz elsewhere. A perfect candidate therefore to try home IPL. I decided to give an honest and open minded trial as I figure that some areas would be ideal for such a device and it'd doubtless be more economical too compared to salon IPL hair removal treatments. I personally am so grateful to those clever men who've designed these technologies so people like you and I can lead happier lives free from self concious thoughts and I'd love to try the IPL machine just to see what it can do, whether it works for me or not!
The Boots Smooth Skin home IPL kit comes well presented as one would expect in a box showing an enviably smooth looking woman's body. It's suprisingly small and light too. Most people remember when mobile phones were suitcase sized and like that, many of the early salon IPL hair removal systems I was treated with were sized similar to a dishwasher. Not so the Boots Smooth Skin Home IPL kit; I have a Boots Facial Sauna and that takes up more room. It's a little bigger than the box your last pair of trainers came in so even if you've not much room for new things, you won't find it a space invader. This isn't the type of IPL hair removal system that needs you to transform a spare room into an at-home salon. You'll need room to lie down, depending on where you are treating, and space to place the unit so if you've room to spread out a towel you'll be fine. You could even do that from the comfort of your own bed.
Unpacking the box, I was pleased to see that the Boots Smooth Skin home IPL system was clearly designed with non-technical people in mind. My electrolysist Sarah is a complete geek when it comes to beauty machines but has no idea about cars or videos. Likewise my huge ability and natural talent is replaced with an expression like I've a question mark stuck in my throat when I'm faced with anything electrical that's not for cooking or making phonecalls.
I don't consider myself dumb or technophobic, in fact when I was a young child I was encouraged to learn about such things far more than my sisters. It's more that I'm a very busy lady and I have far too many things to read and understand everyday as is. Things with too many buttons and dials and bleeping things tend to turn me off them rather quick. Like the MP3 player that sits in it's box on my shelf waiting for the day that the world stops spinning long enough for me to have time enough to read the manual. Give me a TV controller with on/off, volume and channels 0 - 9 and I've all I need. With the Boots Smooth Skin home IPL system all you have is the unit, a power supply, some cooling gel and an instruction booklet. I could see we had the potential to become friends!
Obviously, I didn't want to give myself a treatment end up looking like this, so my first job was to check through the instructions.
As with most types of IPL hair removal on the market today, the Boots Smooth Skin system officially states it is a method of 'permanent hair reduction'. As I understand that's because results do vary.
I personally have had some areas treated with salon IPL systems and it just did nothing. My jawline is by far the most dissappointing failure of hair removal I've had. Either the hair is too light coloured or too coarse to be treated. I had a salon IPL machine treat the same moustache area on full power twice per session and other than bringing me to tears with the pain and the let down, it accomplished nothing. We did it tons of times too - I think it was the 12th treatment when I decided to call it quits.
However the same salon had used the same IPL unit to treat my chest previously and there I had radically different results. After the 3rd IPL treatment I was almost hair free, or so I thought. I then got busy with a whole load of other things which meant there was a delay between treatments. One day I was lying in the bath when I suddenly noticed little hairs had started growing back in places I'd since considered hairless. They were much finer and softer than the escapees from a horror movie that used to frequent my chest, yet they were still visible enough to not be considered 'peach fuzz'.
I went on to have another 10 IPL treatments on my chest before concluding I'd gotten about as far as I could through that method and switched to doing my jawline. My chest still isn't as tidy as I'd like it to be so maybe once a fortnight I'll shave it and that shave is just for odd patches of hair rather than a lawn mowing session. It only takes a few seconds to shave, literally. The hair that returns is soft yet grows too long for peach fuzz. It doesn't make a stuble when growing as it is very gentle.
It's not perfect.
But it has been life changing.
I no longer have to worry that people will ask if I wash my chest with Vidal Baboon if I wear a low cut top.
It might sound a simple thing but you'd be surprised how much a hair free chest helps a girl fit in.
Although undertaking IPL hair removal does run the risk that the results may not be as slinky as the body on the front of the Boots Smooth Skin box, the rewards can change the way you and others feel about yourself.
If you only have a few hairs to remove, you may well find that electrolysis - the only method officially classed as permanent hair removal - may be more economical and effective.
However if you have a bigger area to clear like underarms, bikini line, arms, legs or chest, then an IPL system has clear advantages in that areas are 'blanket treated' rather than hair folicles being individually treated as with electrolysis. This means you can reduce the hair to a level that you can live with fairly fast. You can always spot treat subborn hairs with the help of an electrolysist afterwards if perfection matters to you. And apparently some people get either outstanding results or the hair becomes so light and 'peach-fuzzy' that they need no further work. I wasn't lucky enough to be one of them and yet I wasn't far off either. Going from the rigmarole of shaving head to toe on a daily basis to just a little maintenance every week or two was well worth it. To me, that was outstanding.
There are few things other than which button to press that you need to know before treatment with the Boots Smooth Skin and most of these are general things that apply to all IPL hair removal systems. What are they?
Well, there's the usual dissappointment for darker skin types. Sadly the scientists are still yet to find a way of making IPL hair treatments that don't damage your beautiful skin if you have a colour tone typical of Bangladeshi to African people. If that's you, you'll need to find an electrolysist near you as an IPL hair removal treatment will end up leaving you looking like this.
For the transexuals reading this, the biggest pity is that the instructions state specifically you mustn't use the Boots Smooth Skin for facial hair removal. I guess they say that because you'd generally want some type of eye protection to treat there and the temptation to treat yourself might well make it easy to blind yourself or damage your vision.
There are a few other places you can't treat too. Ladies, be advised that whilst the bikini line can be made much skimpier with the Boots Smooth Skin system, you can't treat inside the camel's hoof so to speak. It's a mucous membrane in there and will burn if treated with an IPL hair removal system. Pluck up the courage to visit a friendly local electrolysist if you've a few strays you'd feel moved to remove.
Guys, the same goes for you. The Boots Smooth Skin can't help you if you want to become Mr Baldnuts and the anus is also a mucous membrane that'll burn if you treat it with IPL. No matter how fiery a curry you have a taste for, I have it on good word that wet wipes won't save the man who sets alights his own end.
Using the Boots Smooth Skin home IPL kit is easy. You shave or trim the hair in the area you want to treat. I've decided to work on getting my bikini line ready for the best summer yet so I trim with an electric trimmer rather than shave as I don't want to risk ingrown hairs or other nasty red bumps. Definitely not the sexiest thing to see when you get your undies down...
After preparing the area you apply a special cooling gel (called Activator Gel) to it. This helps to protect the skin against to intense pulsed light. After all we want to kill the hairs, not fry the skin. We don't want to end up like this.
Next, choose the setting appropriate for your skin type. There are 3 settings from dark to fair with the intensity of the light being greater the fairer the skin setting. This is because there is less chance of burning the skin due to it's lack of pigment. Hence the reason why you'll want to quit tanning if you are using IPL hair removal.
The instructions suggest that on large areas you mark sections with a white eye liner pencil. This helps you know where you've treated as only one pass per session is needed. As I'm starting with a relatively small area, I didn't need to section it.
The main unit has a button to turn it from standby to ready. Once primed, you take the application head and position it where you want to treat. A nice safety feature is that you can't fire the IPL head without all four sensors on it touching the skin. So if a sneeze should suddenly grab you whilst you have it in your hand, you can't blind yourself or anyone else present. Phew! I wouldn't want them ending up like this. Tempting at times, but no.
Once the sensors detect contact, the button on the IPL application head glows red and you can press it to apply treatment. A split second burst of light shoots out and follows the pigment in the hair to it's root where it damages the folicle. Although it doesn't say to in the instructions, I've always worn goggles at salons and so I prime the head and look away before pressing the fire button. There is little point in being curious to see whether your eyes can withstand the brightness when damaged eyesight would be the way you'd tell if they can't.
The following flash is short but intense, like a photographers flash but a different, hotter colour. The physical sensation of the treatment causes a little shot of warmth and heat into the area. The Boots Smooth Skin is much more mild than salon IPL treatments I've received. I've described those as feeling similar to being hit by an elastic band followed by a short surge of heat. With the Boots Smooth Skin, I didn't feel much of an initial slap although there was the warmth after. That heat quickly subsides, lasting just a second or two for my skin. I think it hurts slightly more if you've missed shaving a hair as the light will concentrate in on that one, making a split second burning pin prick sensation before dissapearing. It's probably not as painful as tweezering a hair out and yet it's not the sort of thing you'd consider pampering either. It's a light to mild discomfort that if endured promises a more lasting pleasure - freedom from wax and razor!
After a shot you reposition the head and zap the next patch. The Boots Smooth Skin IPL kit only takes a few seconds to reload in between however it will force you to take a break after making a larger number of hair removal treatments. It does this because the bulb in the application head gets hot after continuous use and so it sets itself to standby to force a minutes chill out. You can still cover a large area in a small time period. I took under 10 minutes to do mine, so even if you have quite a busy schedule or you're amongst that most overworked class of people - the mums - you should still be able to fit it into your day with the minimum of disruption. When you are finished you switch the machine off and clean the application head (which takes all of 30 seconds) and wipe the gel from the areas you've treated. Finish by applying an Aloe Vera or Aloe Ferox based moisturiser to the treated area as these botanicals are the only known natural substance that causes collagen to regrow, thereby helping any damaged skin cells to immediately repair themselves.
The Boots Smooth Skin home IPL hair removal system states that it should be used weekly for 6 to 12 weeks. That surprised me a little as all the salons I've ever had IPL, laser or electrolysis at have always gone on about the hair growth cycle lasting 6 weeks. By that I mean they said that if any hairs shed now, in 6 weeks they may regrow which is the perfect time to zap them. Salon treatments are often spaced to take advantage of that. I'm therefore curious to see if weekly hair removal treatments prove any more or less effective than 6 weekly ones. As I write this, I've given myself 2 treatments so far with the Boots Smooth Skin. I didn't notice anything immediate from the first go so we'll have to have patience and allow it a fair trial before passing judgement on it's suitability for me.
I've been impressed by the ease of use of the Boots Smooth Skin home IPL kit so far. And if it delivers at least a good level of hair reduction then it's price tag - a tiny £299 - would make it an absolute bargain. Especially as you get almost 1,000 Boots Advantage Points to go with it.
I've promised Boots I'll trial the kit faithfully and fairly and I promise my readers that I'll report the results impartially. I'm so pleased that companies like Boots are finding innovative ways of making this type of technology available to home users as there will undoubtedly be some people who get fantastic results. Think back to where people were in the 70s - all that hair spilling out of collars and cuffs and around armpits and ankles. Compared to a lifetime of waxing, IPL has a lot of promise. When I next write about the Boots Smooth Skin system, I'll let you know whether it's delivered that promise for me.