Hair Removal Cream vs IPL (UK): Which One Should You Choose?

Hair Removal Cream vs IPL (UK): Which One Should You Choose?

Hair removal options continue to increase with almost every decade witnessing a revolutionary innovation. Our ancestors who primarily relied on shaving and plucking to stay hairless will be mesmerised to discover just how much progress we have made over the years to overcome this agelong problem.

Besides appointment-based treatment options like electrolysis and laser treatments, depilatory creams and IPL devices are some of the reigning options in the UK nowadays for hair removal. But which of these is better, and which one should you choose?

From a face value, it seems so much like a decision between convenience and outcome. But relax; this post will reveal everything you need to know about these two methods in addition to comparing them. Let’s start with depilatory or hair removal creams.

What are Depilatory Creams?

If we must say things the way they are, depilatory creams are nothing short of chemicals, with the primary active component being thioglycolic acid. As a hair-removal pantheon, it has been around for over a century. Therefore, it’s older in the line than Intense Pulsed Light (IPL), which is a relatively new method that is still evolving.

Advantages of Hair Removal Creams

The thioglycolic acids in depilatory creams can be calcium or potassium salts, and they contribute to their thick nature. To use, you would have to rub the cream on the body area where the unwanted hair is and leave it for a few minutes. It’s important you adhere to the specified waiting time by the manufacturer to avoid damaging your skin. That is to say, if the instruction says leave it for 5 minutes, don’t add an extra 2 or 3 minutes to it.

Hair removal creams work by altering the structural integrity of keratin, the protein present in hair. Due to this alteration, the hair collapses, dissolves, or breaks, and you are able to wipe it off nearly painless with a towel. The trick with depilatory creams is that you can’t tell exactly where the hair will break or dissolve, but it doesn’t work beyond the skin surface. Therefore, it is not in the class of waxing or epilation, which removes hairs from their roots.

Advantages of Hair Removal Creams

Easy Application:- arguably the easiest hair removal pantheon, depilatory creams do not require technical knowledge. Beyond rubbing them on your skin and sticking to the recommended time before washing them off, you have nothing else to do in using them.

Affordability:- Most depilatory creams cost between $10 and $25, and assuming you use one per month, that brings the total annual spending on it to $120 or, at most, $250. Compared to other removal methods, this amount is quite affordable.

Privacy Protection: Since you won’t be needing the assistance of anyone in using the cream, you can protect your privacy, unlike Brazilian waxing or professional laser that requires undressing before a stranger.

Little or No Pain: Unless the cream isn’t compatible with your skin or you left it longer than recommended, depilatory creams possess little or no side effects. It won’t give you nicks or cuts like shaving, nor does it cause excruciating pains like waxing.

Fast Results: There is no waiting for three weeks or more to see the effects of depilatory creams; within minutes of applying it, your hair is gone, and you can look the clean YOU you have been anticipating. Compared to IPL or other modern methods that take time, this is a great advantage.


Disadvantages of Hair Removal Creams

Not a Long-lasting Removal Method: The chemicals in depilatory creams only work on the hairs outside the skin and do not get to the roots. Of course, that makes them equal to shaving, which results in quick regrowth. Sometimes, the dissolution or breakage of the surface hair does not even get to the skin level, making it a less desirable method for a long-term hairlessness mission.

Stinging Sensation: Although depilatory creams do not cause pain, they produce a stinging sensation during application, which many people find discomforting. This sensation is, however, short-lived as it disappears once you wipe it off or wash it with warm water.

Offensive Odour: Hair removal creams don’t smell nice, and I honestly think I should let you know. Yes, some brands try to garnish it with pleasant fragrances like vanilla and co, but the chemicals smell like rotten eggs. If you aren’t tolerant of odours like this, you may want to rethink this approach.

Not Suitable for Everyone: Delicate skinners and people who react to thioglycolates will not find depilatory creams helpful because of their damaging effects on their skin. Unlike shaving, which almost everyone can use, hair removal creams are meant for a few people who can tolerate them.

IPL Hair Removal

Unlike depilatory creams that have been around for over 100 years, IPL is a relatively new hair removal technology that came on centre stage in the mid-90s. It involves using condensed or energy-packed lights to hit the melanin in the hair follicles inside the skin. Melanin - a pigment-producing molecule of the skin - absorbs these energy-packed lights, producing heat in the process. The heat produced in the follicles destroys the hair roots and interferes with the regrowth process.

IPL hair removal device

The more IPL treatments a person gets, the more the hair roots get destroyed, hampering the chance of any regrowth. Consequently, IPL can be an excellent long-term hair removal method for anyone who has patience. Typically, treatment involves shaving off bushy hair and a possible exfoliation before getting exposed to the lights.

When this method surfaced in the mid-90s, only experts could conduct it on people. That’s because beyond being a hair removal technique, it was also adopted medically to treat skin-related conditions like ageing, chronic acne, etc. However, these days, the technology is within the reach of everyone through the portable machines now produced by many manufacturers. With most of these gadgets, users only have to press a button, and it flashes the light into their skin at intervals. These machines are popularly called IPL handsets.

How to Choose the Best IPL Device

Since there are many of them in the market today, you need to know what really matters while you shop for an IPL device. Critical factors to consider include:

Brand Reputation:- A brand’s reputation is not just how long it has been in the business but what customers are saying about its products. Therefore, read reviews from credible sources about the IPL device you want to purchase. Marketplaces like Amazon also offer reliable reviews and ratings, so check before making a purchase decision. Any brand with a rating less than 4.5/5 is not worth your time.

The energy of Light:- For a faster result, the J/Cm rating of the IPL device must be high; it is the energy of the laser hitting your follicles. If it is very weak, you will spend more time and treatment sessions before you can record any meaningful progress. Often, this parameter and other ones to be mentioned determine the pricing of an IPL device.

Price: It is true that consumers naturally want to get the best product at the lowest price possible. However, note that excellent IPL devices aren’t cheap. Therefore, if any brand or seller promises to sell one for you for less than £250, they are like subpar. Budget between £300 and £450 for a premium IPL gadget.

Regulatory Clear:- Securing a major regulatory clear like one from the FDA is no small feat. It means that the device has been expert-vetted and found perfect for human use. Besides, there are professional bodies and associations that endorse devices like these; check out if your choice has this clear and if it has ever won any award. These are pointers to its excellence and reliability.

Design: While an IPL device’s design may not be a major consideration, it is nonetheless imperative. Because they are handheld, they need to be ergonomic so you don’t feel strained when using them for a long time. Also, check if they have a digital display that reveals the intensity and battery level; these things improve users’ experience of the device.

Pain-Free Technology: Here is where most IPLs differ. Normally, without any intervention, IPL treatment gives a burning sensation, which makes them unsuitable for sensitive skinners. Besides, some body parts such as the face, groyne, and pubic areas are very sensitive, requiring gentle treatment. For these reasons, you need a device that nullifies or cancels the discomfort an IPL treatment may bring.

Pros of IPL Hair Removal

  1. Convenience

From operation to privacy maintenance, IPL devices are just so convenient to use. The instructions for using them aren’t strenuous, and if you're using them for the first time, you won’t have challenges understanding their working mechanism. For most types, you only need to charge the battery or connect it to the man supply for usage.

  1. No Ingrown Hairs or Cuts
Pros of IPL Hair Removal

The working mechanism of IPL devices does not permit ingrown hairs, especially since it deals directly with hair roots. Also, since razors are not built into the device, there is no risk of getting cuts or nicks while undergoing treatment. So, it’s a safe method that you can try out if you’ve suffered the pain of nicks, cuts, or ingrown hair beck.

  1. Long Lasting Effect

Because IPLs tackle hairs from their roots, they are able to give you months of hair holiday, if not a long-lasting one, once you use them correctly. Yes, you may stay up to three months before the hair quantity reduces by 95%, but they will never come up again if you perform maintenance treatment as instructed.

  1. Suitable for All Body Parts

Of course, not all hair removal methods are suitable for all body parts. Some are either ineffective in some areas due to the hair texture, or they will be too painful if used. Thankfully, IPL - outstanding ones - are appropriate for everywhere hair grows on the body.

  1. Nearly Painless Hair Removal

Well-designed IPL devices are not only portable but nearly painless when in action. If you purchase one with modern cooling technology, you won’t even feel any discomfort as you flash in those lights.

Demerits of IPL Hair Removals

  • High-end IPL devices can be expensive. Some cost as much as £450.
  • The long time it takes to give a satisfactory result can be very discouraging. Consequently, they are not the go-to method for immediate or emergency hair evacuation needs.
  • The technology only favours light-skinned and dark-haired people. Other skin and hair tones will have to look elsewhere for a compatible method.
  • It is not safe for diabetic patients and other health conditions.

Hair Removal Cream vs IPL: Which One is Better?

We have now come to the heart of this article. Even with everything we’ve talked about the two methods, you can begin to answer the question. Nevertheless, let’s compare the two methods in a table to help determine which is better quickly. The comparison will be between the best that the two methods have to offer. That is the best of IPL vs the best of depilatory creams.


Hair Removal Creams




Very affordable (£20 - £30)

Quite expensive (£300 - £450)

Depilatory creams

Suitable for all skin?




Nearly painless hair removal?




Long-lasting/ Long-term hair removal




Odour or irritation during treatment




Immediate result?



Depilatory creams

Hair regrowth rate

Fast (a week or two after treatment)

Once action begins, there is no regrowth.


Bottom Line: IPL is clearly the better option between the two. Its long-term and nearly painless hair-removal prowess are things that the best depilatory creams cannot match. Besides, if used correctly, there are no side effects, unlike depilatory creams whose long-term use can cause skin reactions in otherwise compatible skin.

Recommended IPL Device: Ulike Sapphire Air3 IPL Hair Removal Handset

Ulike Air3 IPL

This IPL device is the 2023 winner of the British Vogue Best Laser Hair Removal Device. From the design to the packaging, you cannot but love it. However, beyond aesthetics, the handset meets all the conditions earlier mentioned as the determinant of an excellent IPL device. These include:

  • FDA and dermatologist clear
  • Ergonomic design
  • Sapphire Ice-Cooling technology to eradicate pain
  • High-energy light that produces results in just three weeks
  • £319 price tag with a 30% price slash.


IPL may not produce an immediate result like depilatory creams, yet when it does, the results are long-lasting.