Review
Hair Removal for the 21st CenturyBimbo:
The Philips Lumea BR1956 Prestige

Philips Lumea Prestige at a Glance:

Over-all Rating:
Cost: $600 USD (but see discussion!)
Manufacturer: Philips
Technology: IPL
Power: 100-240 V (will work in USA with supplied adaptor)
Medical Approval: CE (Europe), Not yet FDA (USA)
Warranty: 2 years
Expected Lifetime: 15+ years

In Depth

What you get:

A very solid box:

Lumea box

Which contains:

Lumea box contents
  • The IPL device
  • Body attachment (on device)
  • Facial attachment
  • Underarm attachment
  • Bikini attachment
  • Power supply and cable
  • U.S. Power adapter
  • Instruction manual
  • Storage pouch
  • Cleaning cloth

Philips is a world-class company and this device is solidly built. It is spec'ed to deliver a minimum of 250,000 flashes which is over 15 years of full-body treatments. It comes with a full 2-year warranty, and Philips has a good track record for repairs should you need them.

What it is

This is the latest in a series of IPL devices from Philips, and the first one that I have owned. People describe it as a "hair removal device," but IPL technology doesn't remove any hair. I would describe it as a "hair prevention device." Philip's advertising claims that, properly used, it is possible to remain hair-free for as long as six months!

"IPL" stands for Intense Pulsed Light. This is not the same as a laser. Laser's are a single "color" or frequency of coherent light, while IPL has many different colors or wavelengths. When you hold the Lumea against your skin, and it flashes, the hair absorbs the wavelengths of light and heats the hair follicle. The heat causes the cells to shut down and enter a resting phase. How it works is pretty interesting and I've written a short article about it here. Understanding the details of how IPL hair prevention works can help you use the Lumea better and might help you with your decision to buy it, so have a quick look at it.

Who can use it?

Unfortunately, IPL treatments don't work on everyone. The success of IPL will depend partly on your skin tone and partly on your hair color. Philips gives the following chart of skin tones:

Skintone chart

These are the famous six "Fitzpatrick" skin-tones and, as you can see, the Lumea is safe to use with the first five. The Lumea's skin sensor will disable the device if it detects that you have skin type VI since you can get serious skin reactions (hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation, or burns). Skin type VI's are the lucky people who rarely or never get sunburn and have very dark tanning.

Philips also provides the following chart of hair colors:

Hair Color Chart

As you can see, the Lumea works on black to dark blonde hair. It won't work on light blonde, red or greyish/white hair. It is most effective on skin-type I with black hair and works more slowly as you move away from that combination. A huge number of people will be able to benefit from the Lumea!

Safety concerns

Philips is very safety conscious and there is a long list of medications, pathologies and skin conditions which, if you have them, will modify your use of the device or keep you from using it at all. Some of these conditions are rare and some are quite common. I was interested to note that if you have silicone implants, they tell you not use the Lumea in those areas. I don't want to scare you away from using the Lumea, and most people will be able to use it. I've included the lists of issues below. The LUMEA is expensive, and you don't want to buy it only to find out you can't use it or have your implants explode, do you? So, for your information, here are the lists:

Don't use the LUMEA:

  • If your skin is being treated with AHAs, BHAs, topical isotretinoin, and azelaic acid. These are common acne and wrinkle treatments, so you might be taking them and not necessarily know it. Check the ingredient list of any face creams or body lotions you might be using. You could still use the LUMEA on untreated areas, of course.
  • If you have taken any form of isotretinoin Accutane or Roaccutane in the last six months. These meds make the skin more susceptible to tears, wounds and irritations.
  • If you are taking any medicine that can cause photo-allergic reactions, photo-toxic reactions or if you are told to avoid sun exposure while taking these medications.
  • If you are taking anticoagulation medications, including heavy use of aspirin.
  • If you've had radiation or chemo within the past three-months.
  • If you are on painkillers which reduce your sensitivity to heat.
  • If you have had surgery in the area to be treated in the last three weeks.

Here's the list of pathologies:

Don't use the LUMEA:

  • If you have diabetes or other systemic or metabolic diseases.
  • If you have congestive heart disease.
  • If you have a disease related to photosensitivity, such as PMLE, solar urticaria, porphyria, etc.
  • If you have a history of collagen disorder, including a history of keloid scar formation or a history of poor wound healing.
  • If your skin is sensitive to light and easily develops a rash or an allergic reaction.
  • If you have a skin disease such as active skin cancer, you have a history of skin cancer or any other localized cancer in the areas to be treated.
  • If you have a history of vascular disorder, such as the presence of varicose veins or vascular ectasia in the areas to be treated.
  • If you have any bleeding disorder.
  • IF you have a history of immune disease (including HIV or AIDS)

Then there is a list of skin conditions:

Don't use the LUMEA:

  • If you have infections, eczema, burns, inflammation of hair follicles, open lacerations, abrasions, herpes simplex (cold sores), wounds or lesions and heamatomas in the areas to be treated.
  • On irritated (red or cut), sunburned, recently tanned or fake-tanned skin.
  • On the following areas without consulting your doctor first: moles, freckles, large veins, darker pigmented areas, scars and skin anomalies.
  • On the following areas: warts, tattoos or permanent make-up.

Finally, you are encouraged to avoid the following areas:

Don't use the LUMEA:

  • On lips, nipples, areolas, labia minora, vagina, anus and the inside of the nostrils and ears.
  • Men must not use the device on the face and neck, nor the whole genital area.
  • On areas where you use long-last deodorants.
  • Over or near anything artificial like silicone implants, subcutaneous injection ports (such as insulin dispenser) or piercings.

Of course, if you are like me, you will form your own opinion of some of these recommendations. You know your body better than anyone and, of course, Philips includes this to cover their corporate butt in case something bad happens to you. That's life in the modern world. I will admit to ignoring some of the conditions above which apply to me. I'm not going to say which ones because, well, I want to cover my butt. I will say if you do ignore this list, you do it at your own risk, not mine or Philips'.

How you use it.

Before using it for the first time, really, read the fucking manual. Seriously. There's a lot of good information in there. Philips also recommends that you do a skin test. They give complete instructions on how to do it, but basically, you test a patch of skin and wait 24 hours to see if there is a reaction. If there is a reaction, then you try again with a lower intensity of light. Doing a skin test is fantastic advice and, if you are like me and have sensitive skin, you should most definitely do it. However, in the interests of full disclosure, I must confess that I did not do a skin test but just dived right in. I have had no reactions but, truthfully, that was luck. I could have ended up walking around for a week in agony. What can I say? Bimbos are stupid. Don't be like me. Do the damn skin test.

Once all this is out of the way:

  1. Shave, wax, epilate. It is recommended to do this a day or two before you use the Lumea.
  2. Turn on the Lumea. You can use it cordless (but must charge it first), or you can plug it in. The treatment goes quicker if you plug it in.
  3. Select your intensity level. If you're not sure what intensity level to use, the Lumea has a built-in skin sensor so you can ask it what the right setting for your skin tone is!
  4. Put it on your skin at a 90-degree angle. The ready light will turn on. If it doesn't turn on, the angle might not be right.
  5. Press the trigger. Slide it to the next spot and repeat. You can keep the trigger held down as you slide it, that's a bit quicker. It takes a second or so for it to flash again.
  6. That's it, you're done.

The controls on the Lumea are simple and intuitive:

Lumea controls

The row of numbered lights along the top shows the current intensity setting of the light, with five being the highest. The two arrow keys allow you to adjust the intensity manually. You can also use the devices built-in skin sensor to get a recommendation. To do this, press the button labeled with the "magnifying glass" icon on the left and then hold the Lumea at right angles to the skin area you want to treat. Wait a few seconds, and the numbered lights will turn on. The flashing light is the recommended setting for your skin tone. If you agree with the devices recommendation, just hit the button with the "check-mark":

Using the skin sensor controls

Your skin varies in color. Areas with greater sun exposure (or that are artificially tanned) might need a lower intensity setting than the lighter ones. It's easy to readjust the Lumea for any skin area: press the magnifying glass button again or use the arrow keys. While I admit to ignoring the manual's advice to wait until my fake-tan disappears before I treat it with the Lumea, I do use the sensor on those areas to make sure the light intensity is correct. In my case, my untanned skin warrants a 5, while the brown areas get a 4. Now that I've learned this, it's quicker to use the arrow keys to set the device up.

The ready light:

Lumea's Ready Light

turns on when the device is ready to flash. If it doesn't turn on, it might not be making complete contact with your skin, or you might have type VI skin. Make sure you are holding the device at a 90-degree angle to the skin and that no part of the 'window' on the front of the device is not in touch with the skin. Philips provides several attachments which differ in size and in other ways to treat specific areas. There are attachments for the face, underarms and bikini line as well as a large, general-purpose attachment for your torso and legs. These attachments are easy to change. Just pull off the current attachment and push in the new one. You will need to set the light intensity again after you switch attachments.

Clean-up and storage

Turn it off and let it cool (it gets pretty hot). They provide you with a small cloth which you wet with alcohol and clean the important parts of the Lumea. It takes only a few seconds. Then you put it in the provided pouch and forget about it until next time:

Lumea storage case

Treatment Schedule

Philips gives a treatment schedule and I recommend that you follow it for the best results. Most people don't realize that hair grows in cycles. Not all of your hair will be growing all the time. They take turns. The initial treatments, spaced at two-week intervals, are designed to catch your hair in every possible cycle. Philips divides the treatment phases into three-parts:

Initial Phase

Use the Lumea every two weeks for the first 4-5 treatments. If you have hair growth during the early treatments, you can epilate/wax/shave to remove them, of course.

Touch-up Phase

Touch-up Phase

After the initial phase, you should redo the treatment every 4-8 weeks, whenever you see the hair growing back.

Final Phase

Philips has said that after the touch-up phase some people have been hair free as long as six months! Impressive, if true.

My Lumea Experience

I'll say up-front that I have become a big Lumea fan. I was going to wait a few months before writing this review, but I have experienced such fantastic results after only two treatments that it didn't seem worth waiting. Of course, I will update you over the year as I continue to use it.

As I write this, I am one week past my third treatment and am completely hair-free. Two weeks after my first treatment, when it was time for my second one, my hair growth was noticeably less. I have fairly thick hair on my torso and arms, and it was substantially less. Two weeks after that, for my third treatment, it was amazingly, incredibly less. There was almost no hair growth on my arms, and I would estimate that the hair growth on my torso and tummy was reduced by 60-70% My body is, sadly, an enthusiastic grower of hair and two weeks after I epilate I am usually a gross, hairy mess. Now? Not so much.

I have to add that I am in the 'sweet-spot' for the Lumea. I have Type I skin and fairly dark hair. If you have darker skin or lighter hair, it might take you a bit longer to see this kind of reduction. But in my case, I'm feeling quite optimistic that I might have a fairly hairless future ahead of me!

Caveats, Qualms and FAQ's

The two questions I get from people who find out I'm using the Lumea are: (1) Is it heavy? and (2) Does it hurt?

It is on the heavy side. According to the manual it weighs in at 560 g - that's a bit over a pound. That does sound like a lot but keep in mind that you will mostly be resting it on your body - you aren't holding it in the air, unsupported, with one arm. So, basically, not a problem. Most of the weight appears to come from the lithium battery. I don't know if the device would work without that, but probably. If so and the weight bothers you, you could remove the battery and use it with the power cord, which I do anyway.

It kinda hurts some of the time. I use the Lumea at its highest intensity most of the time and, most of the time, it is completely painless. Occasionally, I will get a little "ouch," similar to what you might feel if someone snapped a rubber band against your skin. It hurts slightly, like a pinch, but not much.

What I don't like

There are a few things I don't like. Mostly minor:

  1. It's boring. It takes a couple of hours to move this stupid device all over your body and, well, it's boring. You can't watch TV while you're doing it, because you need to watch where you are going. Ditto with anything else that will distract you, because you need to pay attention. Bear in mind that if you have darker skin, it will go much quicker for you. This is because you will be using a lower intensity setting and the flashes come much quicker.
  2. If you're a cis-man, you can't use it on your genitals or your face. It's not a big deal for me to keep waxing my genitals, but I was hoping to get rid of my facial hair. I'm not sure what the problem is, but I suspect that due to the dense hair and sensitive skin in both of those areas on typical male anatomy, there is a much higher risk of burning or scarring. Of course, this also means that one of the attachments, for the face, is a waste of money if you're male.
  3. It is hard to use on some areas. I find it difficult to get the device to work on my fingers, elbows, and some parts of my knees. Using one of the smaller attachments helps as does fiddling with the position of the device, but it's annoying. It would be nice if Philips would provide a smaller attachment for these tiny areas. I mean, who enjoys having hairy fingers? euwwwwww!
  4. The carrying case is lame. They describe it as luxurious. Well, maybe in Denmark. Where I am from, it is not. It's barely big enough to pack all the stuff in, and you can't fit the manual in there, which is a shame.

Should you get it?

The big problem with the Lumea is the price. Is it worth it? If you are currently going in for monthly waxings, it would be an economic no-brainer. If you can avoid waxing for two-months, the Lumea will pay for itself right away. But if you, like me, are already using a lower-cost alternative to waxing such as epilating, or if you shave, there's no real economic case to be made for purchasing the Lumea. It's a luxury. In a busy life, if you have to stay up late the night before a date to epilate, you do it. With the Lumea, that sort of thing is going to happen a LOT less. And the thought of going even four-weeks without having to epilate sounds like heaven to me. So yes, it's a luxury, but boy oh boy am I glad I'm experiencing it.

Speaking of the price, it is worth searching around. I wish I had looked harder before I bought it. I paid the full $600 on Amazon for it, but in researching for this review, I discovered there are alternatives. Right now, on Amazon's UK site, you can find the Lumea for under $400. Even with the cost of shipping to the US, that is a better deal. And some people are selling the Lumea on eBay for similar prices. You might also consider trying some of the earlier Lumea models, which are much less expensive. Since the FDA has not yet approved the Lumea, it is not generally available in the USA. This is probably one reason that it is so pricey. (Philip's USA Website doesn't even list it as one of their products.)

Will it work for you? Chances are quite good, as long as you fit into the skin tone and hair color guidelines. As far as Philip's "six-month" hair-free claim, there is a footnote on their website that clarifies this result is based on a study of 48 women in the Netherlands and Austria. Well, there are some problems with that. To begin with, that's very few women. What's worse is the group is not randomized - most women from those countries have similar genetics, hair color, and skin tone. Having been to both of those countries, I'm not surprised that the women there have amazing results with the Lumea. if you find yourself more on the bronze-ebony skin tone scale, I wouldn't count on being hair-free for six-months. But four-eight weeks at a time is probably possible and, in my opinion, it would be worth it.

If you have questions and, especially, if you try out the Lumea, please get in touch with me and let me know how it works out for you. To do that, you can