Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy is a form of light therapy. It emits a series of different wavelengths that scatter within the skin reaching various depths. Depending on its use, IPL can treat various beauty concerns including reduction of blemishes, pigment from photo-aging, wrinkles, and even hair. The technology is versatile and thus has gained widespread adoption for its breadth of functions!
Laser Treatments vs IPL
The principle of both Laser Hair Removal and IPL are the same- light energy is absorbed by areas of high pigment, such as hairs, heating the follicles and causing them enough damage to slow down growth, and in some cases, prevent growth entirely. So what's the difference?
The underlying difference is that not all the light energy is created equal. IPL uses a broad spectrum of light with multiple wavelengths, meaning there is less control in application. The varying wavelengths and broad unfocused light span is thus safe to be used at home, similar to red light therapy devices. IPL is not a laser treatment.
On the other hand, laser treatments utilize single spectrum targeted and controlled bursts of light that penetrate small areas, damaging the hair follicles, and causing hair growth to slow significantly or stop altogether. Laser machines use different light colors to target different types of skin and hairs. This means that darker skin tones can be safely treated with a certain laser type.
To summarize, IPL can give the same standard of results as laser-treatments, as long as you follow the prescribed treatment regime – and maintain continued use!
In return for your dedication to your regime, you can save time, money and endless trips to the salon, completing your treatments in the comfort of your own home. What’s not to love?
How often do I have to use an IPL at-home device to see results?
When used for hair removal specifically, IPL usually requires six to eight treatments to see a complete removal of hair in an area. This is dependent, however, on the person's skin color, hair color and also the thickness of the hair.
Who can use IPL?
Home laser & IPL isn’t for everyone. It works best on lighter skin tones and dark hair.
IPL devices produce bursts of light that actually consist of a range of colors, while lasers shine in only one wavelength. In the latter case, only a specific molecule, melanin, is targeted. Melanin is the pigment found in both skin and hair. This is true for all races – we’re literally just different shades of the same color. Light pulses from an IPL device also affect melanin, but not as selectively.
So, if you have light skin and dark body hair, your hair contains a much greater concentration of melanin and will be better at absorbing the light energy. Your hair roots will therefore be eliminated much more easily, without needless pain or damage to your skin.
If you have darker skin, however, more light is taken up by the skin before it penetrates down to the follicles. This can result in skin irritation a little like a sunburn, and may lead to discoloration lasting from days to months. Light-skinned people aren’t immune to these side effects, but problems are much more common with darker coloration.
Will it hurt?
IPL essentially works by hair shaft and follicles heating up with the absorption of light energy. If the correct amount of light energy is used, the hair follicle cells are heated up to a critical temperature that results in an interruption of the hair growth cycle.
Take those reviews saying that IPL is completely painless with a grain of salt! Both IPL and laser treatments hurts; how much depends on your skin and hair structure and pain tolerance. Some people report that it feels a little like being flicked with a fingernail, while others compare it to getting a tattoo or worse. Luckily, on most home use units, the power level is adjustable. Lower power, of course, means less effective hair removal, but if you’re in agony something is definitely not right.
When using at-home devices, do not use on sensitive areas—like your face, neck, breasts, or bikini. It is always best to begin by patch-testing on a smaller area, then waiting three to four weeks to make sure there are no complications.
Is IPL suitable for me?
Due to the way the technology itself works, IPL isn’t suitable for the darkest skin tones, or Fitzpatrick skin tone 6. IPL is also not recommended for use on red, grey or very light (blonde) hair.