‘Intense pulsed light’ (IPL) is a form of light therapy that is used to treat wrinkles, spots, and unwanted hair. In terms of hair removal, such therapy can be used almost anywhere on the body including on the face and neck, on the back and chest, on the underarms and legs, and around the bikini line. Because intense pulsed light hair removal is so similar to laser hair removal, the two are often confused. Let’s distinguish the differences between them:
What is the difference between IPL and laser?
The main difference between laser therapy and IPL therapy is that laser focuses one wavelength of light at your skin, whereas IPL therapy focuses many different wavelengths. While laser therapy is very focused, IPL is more scattered. It works by sending wavelengths into the dermis layer of your skin. Once in the dermis, pigment cells in your skin absorb the light energy and convert it into heat. This causes damage to the hair follicles and when enough damage is done, the hair will simply stop growing.
Before and after procedures to follow
There are a list of activities, medications, and products that you should avoid two weeks prior to treatment. These may include, but are not limited to, avoiding direct sunlight and tanning beds, staying away from waxing and chemical peels, and avoiding collagen injections and drugs that can increase risk of bleeding. An extensive list of pre-treatment instructions should be provided by your practitioner during your initial consultation.
After treatment you should be able to go back to your daily routine immediately. With that being said, you may experience more sensitivity than usual and should avoid direct contact with sunlight and hot water until your skin has had time to heal.
What should you expect during treatment?
- The area being treated will be cleansed and a cool gel will be applied to skin
- Dark sunglasses will be supplied so your eyes are protected during treatment
- Light pulses are delivered to the skin through specialized equipment.
Is there anyone who should avoid IPL?
Intense Pulse therapy is not recommended for anyone with darker skin tones, or those who are prone to raises keloid scars. Those with light coloured hair can receive intense laser therapy, but the results may not be as effective as for those who have darker hair.
Is IPL painful?
Most people liken the pulses of IPL to that of a rubber band snapping at the skin. Each patient’s tolerance level to this is different.
How long is treatment and how many treatments will I need?
Depending on which are of your body is being treated and how large the treatment area is, you should expect to be in a session anywhere between 20-30 minutes. For lasting hair removal, practitioners recommend 6-12 treatments with one-month gaps between each session.
Are there any side effects?
Side effects of IPL may include, but are not limited to, mild redness and swelling, bruising, blistering, change in skin colour, or in rare cases infection.
Does it work?
According to some clinical assessments, while IPL may be a great treatment for things like broken blood vessels, it is not the best treatment for hair removal. He states that the results of IPL are quite limited and the procedure itself can be uncomfortable. While intense pulsed light therapy is the cheaper alternative, laser may be the more effective one.