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Braun Makes Strategic Move Into IPL With Launch of Silk-Expert

P&G's Braun is rolling out a new hair-removal device said to have the fastest IPL technology on the market.

Braun has seen the light. Intense Pulsed Light, that is. The Procter & Gamble grooming brand is rolling out a new IPL hair-removal device, called Silk-expert, that it hopes will smooth its way to success in this segment.

“We are planning right now to come up with a full portfolio within IPL,” said Ihab Rafik, global vice president for Braun and female grooming at P&G.

The device kicking this off claims to have the fastest IPL technology on the market today, with flashes every 1-2 seconds. Silk-expert also has a special sensor, called SensoAdapt, which continuously monitors the skin as you pass the device over it. It automatically adjusts light intensity on the basis of skin color, said to make the process of hair removal safer and more efficient across different parts of the body. It also has a “gliding mode” that allows the user to quickly and easily treat larger areas in a continuous motion.

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“This is really where we have an edge in usability and the speed of treatment,” explained Miriam Rietzler, who oversees global scientific communications for P&G’s Braun and appliances segments. She noted that both lower legs could be treated in eight minutes; underarms and bikini line in about one minute.

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Braun Silk-expert has a suggested retail price of 399 euros in Europe. In North America and Latin America, the device will be sold under the name Venus Silk-Expert; the suggested retail price in the U.S. is $399.

The name change references Gillette’s best-selling women’s Venus razor which has high consumer awareness; according to Rafik, “the U.S. is a shaving market.”

Still, North America is targeted to become the number-one market and growth engine for the new IPL device. Focus will also be on Europe’s big five countries — Germany, the U.K., Italy, France and Spain, as well as Russia, where Braun is also strong. After that, the next priority is Asia, Rafik said.

It’s not the first foray into at-home IPL for Braun. In 2012, the brand released the Venus Naked Skin in limited regions in Europe. This will be taken off the market to make way for the new improved version, with more to come.

“We are starting from the top, so we are launching a product that will be in the range of 400-450 euros or so, and then we’re going to complete the portfolio up and down from this anchor price point moving forward,” said Ihab Rafik.

Industry sources estimate Silk-expert could generate global retail sales of 20 million dollars in its first year on the market. The product will be sold online and at select drugstores and beauty retailers. It is currently rolling out across Europe, and will be in stores in the U.S. in March.

As it currently exists, however, IPL will never be for everyone due to limitations of the technology. It isn’t a quick fix — while visible results can be evident from 4 weeks to 3 months, permanent hair removal requires two years of regular usage and touch-ups. And because IPL performs best when there is a contrast between skin tone and hair color, projections suggest it is effective for only around 40-45 percent of women globally.

P&G can still serve the other 60%. Gillette has a plethora of razors on offer, and Braun has a full line of epilator devices, for those who wish to get to the root of the issue of hair removal.