IPL stands for intense pulsed light. This hair removal treatment uses powerful light rays to provide an effective means of hair removal, as well as treat other various dermatological ailments. Early experiments that tried to gauge the efficacy of IPL for hair removal used unfiltered light, and resulted in unwanted side effects and high levels of discomfort. However, over time, the method was improved to use technology that added inbuilt filters to block harmful wavelengths of light and add cooling features. As a result, the side effects and pain were minimized. Nowadays, you can have IPL treatment for hair removal done in a clinic, salon or even at home as they are safe and affordable.
How It Works
The aim here is to prevent hair regrowth by permanently damaging the hair follicle. Permanent hair reduction does not necessarily mean the elimination of all hairs in the treatment area. It means that the number of hairs regrowing must be stable for a period longer than the normal duration of regrowth.
IPL uses the full spectrum of light, to target and destroy melanin, a dark pigmentation found in hair and skin. Melanin is found in higher concentrations at the root of the hair, in the hair follicle. Filters in the device, block the most harmful wavelengths of light, leaving behind a broad range of wavelength to be used. The light energy hits the hair and is absorbed by the melanin around the hair root, generating heat in the process and destroying the papilla, which produces hair. Hair is destroyed slowly and completely sheds in a week or two.
Suitability of IPL Treatment
IPL is only effective when hair is in the actively growing stage, when new hair is produced, and grows to the maximum length but is still attached to the follicle and blood supply. Because it relies on skin pigmentation, IPL is only suitable for people with a good contrast between their hair and skin color, such as a person with dark hair and pale skin. If the contrast is not clear, for instance for a dark skinned person, the melanin in the skin can absorb the light wave instead and get burned. The Fitzpatrick scale, named after Thomas Fitzpatrick is used to classify skin tones in terms of response to ultraviolet light. Hair color is also important, because a blonde, white or grey-haired person is also not suitable for IPL treatment.
Clinic vs At Home
As mentioned, IPL devices are available for home use. Having the treatment done at home reduces cost compared to doing the procedure at a salon. Salon sessions are expensive and require regular follow-ups. Additionally, home treatment means you can do it at your own convenience, without the need to schedule appointments, and in the comfort of your own home. You are also afforded your own privacy. On the other hand, a salon has a trained professional handling the equipment, which means you’re in safe hands. The treatment requires close attention as the machine is quite powerful. In addition to that, some areas of the body, such as the back, are impossible to reach on your own, and you would need trained help.
IPL and Laser Treatment
Although they are often lumped together, IPL and laser treatments for hair removal are quite different. IPL uses a broad spectrum of light rays for the procedure whereas laser treatment uses a specific band of wavelength and pulse duration depending on the person’s skin and hair type. But contrary to the many claims, neither technology has been found to be more efficient than the other.