After years of mowing the hairs on my back, I finally got my hands on an at-home lasering device, Braun’s Silk Expert IPL Pro 5. I’m so happy to report that after a few months of use, I’m confident that the results have kept my back hairs at bay.
For the sake of clarity: I’m a hairy guy. Mostly, I’ve got tons of fuzz on the front, and I like to keep it there. I’ve got a mild amount across the backside and shoulders, more than most guys but probably on par with a lot of you. Personally, I’m less keen on preserving the back hairs (but more power to you if you sprout them proudly — that just ain’t my preference).
Hair removal has been on my radar for a while. Dating back to my single days, I’ve tried just about every hair removal method. This includes hacking away with the best body groomers, depilatory creams, and good ol’ reliable waxing, which always caused terrible breakouts. Thankfully, my partner has been kind enough to help with the trimming, but recently we’ve swapped out the clippers for something a little more futuristic — the Braun Silk Expert IPL Pro 5 laser hair removal device.
I’ve said this in many reviews, but I’m not coming at you with Before & After photos here, because the “After” could very well be a gimmick. I’ve been in this trade for 10 years, and I write for the best of the best (SPY included), so I ask you to take my word. This device isn’t working miracles, but it is doing its job, and damn well. Let’s examine this further with my Braun IPL review.
- Three levels of intensity, meaning sensitive individuals can go with a lighter pulse.
- Sensitivity meter also adjusts its intensity based on the treatment area (skin and hair tone, as well as hair quantity).
- Rapid and targeted use are both easy, whether you want to glide the tool across the skin or carefully zap each section individually. Similarly, you can alternate between a wide-set head attachment and the more precise standard attachment.
- Tested and backed by the Skin Health Alliance.
- Difficult to self-administer on the backside.
- Corded use and bulky body make it more difficult to travel with the device. (But it’s not necessarily bad that it’s corded, in terms of power and efficacy.)
|Flash Repetition Rate||0.5-0.9 seconds depending on setting|
|Flashes Per Minute||Up to 125 flashes on continued use|
|Wave Length||510-2000 nanometers|
|Longevity||Approximately 400,000 flashes / 6 years of continued use|
|Treatment Windows||2 options (Standard 3cm and Wide 4cm)|
|Suitable for Use On||Chest, back, legs, arms, groin, armpit, neck and face (proceed with caution)|
|In the Box||Braun IPL device, battery, standard treatment window head (3cm), Additional wide head treatment window (4cm), Gillette body razor, unit storage box, cord storage strap|
|Warranty||2 years, applicable for factory defects and workmanship issues|
A Quick Intro to IPL Treatment
If you’re wondering what the heck IPL treatment is, I was too. Intense Pulsed Lasers, commonly seen as IPL, is a hair removal method involving, you guessed it, a laser. En route to living the hairless life, I consulted with Dr. Michele Green, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City to shed more light on the topic and what I could expect from the Braun IPL device.
I highly recommend reading my interview with Dr. Green in which she dives into the question “What is IPL” prior to treating yourself.
The hot takeaways here are many, but this is essentially what you should know before an IPL treatment:
- The IPL targets the pigment in the hair follicle and destroys the hair follicle during the growth phase.
- That means it won’t work across all skin tones and hair tones and is most effective in targeting darker hair tones against lighter skin tones.
- Multiple IPL treatment sessions are required actually to achieve total hair reduction in any given area
- At-home IPL treatments are far less intense than professional-grade treatments.
- NO IPL treatment is 100% permanent.
- It takes at least 12 weeks to see solid results from the first IPL treatment cycle, but results vary from person to person.
Using the Braun Silk Expert IPL Pro 5
There isn’t a huge learning curve with this device; you quickly see that it has two different-sized treatment heads (targeting areas 3 or 4 cm wide), three levels of sensitivity (standard, gentle, extra gentle), and automatically assesses the treatment area to gauge its own intensity (based on skin tone, hair color, and hair quantity/density). The only thing you have to get used to is the pressing and zapping; it’ll take a try or two to make sure you have fully pressed the tool down before you get that good zap. And if you didn’t shave your hair closely enough (like me, the first time), then you’ll smell the burnt hairs right quick — and will feel their coarseness as soon as you put a shirt on. But once you’re past those rookie blunders, it’s smooth sailing, literally.
You plug the device in and it quickly begins to whir as it accumulates power. It is instantly ready for use, and you can decide between a gliding effect (in which you hold down the button and it zaps continuously as you go) or a stamping effect (in which you more carefully zap every few centimeters of skin. We prefer the latter method in this house because the gliding isn’t as easy as you wish it to be, since the head of the Braun IPL device doesn’t hug curves; it needs to be pressed flat and flush against the skin to shoot out its lasers (which is good, or else you might get a headache from all the errant lasers appearing out the sides of the head).
Between my partner and I, we use the tool on two different sensitivities. He’s extremely sensitive and finds the standard setting to be really hot. On the other hand, I feel next to nothing on the extra gentle setting and find the standard option perfectly tolerable. Good thing, too, because I’m about 100 times fuzzier than he is across the back.
Since with him, we’re just zapping about 30 hairs in different spots around his back and shoulders, it’s already proven effective in that I can barely find hairs on him anymore, some four months later. Each session is just me searching his back for a lone two or three hairs, at most. Woo!
As for my back, it’s equally good news, scaled accordingly. He says there’s a very obvious and drastic reduction in thickness, density, and quantity across the board. Each session is shorter than the last, in how long it takes him to stamp across my back. Even if it were easier to glide the device, stamping makes it easier to spot-check, and that becomes a much more useful tool as you progress.
You can feel the device warming up as you use it, but it never gets overly hot or anything; a vent on its underside keeps things tempered. And since each session (for us) has been relatively short, maybe 5-10 minutes at most, we’ve never had to worry about letting it cool down. I don’t think you’ll run into problems here, even if you use it for multiple body parts, but just pay attention to whether or not it feels overly warm.
I do notice that when we trim the hairs around the base of my neck and atop my shoulders, it’s a little more sensitive than the rest of my back. I’m not surprised about that, but I would advise considering using the two more sensitive modes when you’re navigating areas like the neck, groin, and dare I say it, face.
The Verdict: Should You Try the Braun Silk Expert IPL Pro 5?
I’m three weeks out from hitting the beaches of Brazil and let me tell you, I am so pleased with the results of this device. Never before have I been so grateful for having a pasty-white year in terms of a lack of tan, either. It’s probably going to be a while before I can use the tool again, since I’ll likely return with a tan and won’t be able to touch up until I’m paler again in the spring. But even then, it feels like the four-ish months of use will have been more than optimal as a baseline here. My hairs grew out for a three-week period in November, after the first eight weeks or so of use and my partner noted that they were easily a third of what used to be there, at least visually (since maybe some of them were just thinner and lighter, so the overall effect appeared to be less dense).
In my book, that’s a huge success, especially considering roughly the 12-week timeframe before measuring final results (I’m past that point now, and my partner requires just a few minutes per session vs. ~10 minutes in the first weeks).
The tool is extremely intuitive, too. Very easy for first-timers. Just make sure it’s laying flat on the skin (even as it hugs a curve), and wait for the laser zap to ensure that it did its deed. Don’t mistake any humming for the treatment itself. You need to see the zap, and the recipient will feel it on their skin as a quick hot zing.
As someone who has never had professional-grade hair laser removal (yet!), I think this has been a terrific introduction to the technology, and one with noticeable results that will be easy to maintain at regular-enough intervals. Even if I get overly tan through summer or vacation, it should be easy to deploy this for a few weeks in a row, or more, whenever my skin and hair contrast is sharp enough. And even then, the hair volume/density is going to pale in comparison compared to where I started this summer.
I think the device is a bit too cumbersome for travel, so don’t expect to take it with you on the road unless you have a lot of extra room in your carry-on luggage. Secondly, I wish that this Art of Shaving release has a more precise treatment head (like many other versions of the same device, targeted at women). I wouldn’t mind having the ability to zero in on a problem area, especially around the shoulders and, if I were to zap other areas, like the knees and feet. And you know, now that I think of it… I might get around to lasering my Grinch feet, too… great idea.