Intense pulsed light (IPL) treats unwanted hair with quick and safe bursts of light, offering a  permanent solution to hair removal.

IPL for hair removal works by producing an intense pulsed light (IPL) The light Is a broad spectrum beam often used in the treatment of hair reduction whereby, the light travels through the skin detecting the hair follicles & upon detection the light is converted to a heat energy,  destroying most of the root (bulb) of the hair follicle.

A small hand held device will be placed upon the skin to deliver the flashes of light to the treatment area. The light generated by the machine can be extremely harmful to the eyes therefore, eye protection must be worn by yourself and the treating practitioner at the time of treatment. A course of sessions between (2-7) at monthly intervals will generally be required due to the ‘hair growth cycle’ as only ‘active hairs’ can be targeted and treated at any one given treatment time, meaning, the ‘inactive’ hairs will require treatment as they become ‘active’ A patch test will be required 24 hours in advance with most hair removal machines.

Intense pulsed light treatment can be used anywhere – so whether it’s facial hair, bikini line, underarm or legs, this treatment is ideal for long-lasting removal of unwanted hair.

The hair follicles are damaged by the IPL treatment and the hair generally falls out within 1-3 weeks as the epidermis renews. During this period, the hairs may seem to grow as they are pushed out of the skin. The length of treatment depends upon the size of the area being treated – e.g. the underarms are quick (approximately 15 minutes) and the whole of the legs will take longer (approximately 1 hour).

More than one treatment is required because of the phases of hair growth – follicles have active and inactive phases and can only be destroyed during an active growth phase. Repeat treatments are often necessary with a minimum period between treatments of 4 weeks. Typically 6 or more treatments are required for optimal results.

You should expect to return to your normal activities immediately afterward, however the skin may appear quite red for a few hours to days.  Following treatment, an ice-pack can be applied to the skin if it feels warm or red or the practitioner can recommend skin-care products for this purpose.

Possible side-effects of IPL treatments include:

  • Excessive discomfort
  • Redness/heat in the treated area (usually resolves within a few hours to days)
  • Burns or crusting of the treated area (usually resolves within 2 weeks)
  • Swelling of the treated area

Other side effects include darkening of pigmented areas (this is normal on treated lesions and will disappear along with the lesion after a week or so), itching of the treated area, infection at the treated area, an outbreak of cold sores in susceptible people and failure of the treatment. Very rarely, there may be hypopigmentation (pigment loss), hyperpigmentation (increased pigment), blistering or scarring.

Hairs do not fall out immediately; they will normally come out after 1-3 weeks with normal epidermal shedding of the skin. They may even appear to grow more initially as they are pushed out. Due to the normal phases of hair growth, not all hair in a treatment area will be successfully treated as they may be in a ‘resting’ growth phase. Hair growth will still occur in between treatment sessions, albeit they may be finer. Depending on the area of the body, hair colour and coarseness and skin type, several treatments will be required – usually ranging from between 6-12 sessions.

After the treatment it is vital that you follow the following guidelines:

  • Avoid sun exposure/sun-beds/fake tans and ALWAYS wear sun-cream when outdoors (UVA/UVB protection of SPF30 or above) for at least a month.
  • Avoid plucking/waxing/depilating/bleaching/electrolysis for 4 weeks pre-treatment.
  • Avoid perfumed products and do not apply make-up to the treated area for 24hrs.
  • Do not pick or scratch at the treated area, especially if there is a reaction as this may result in scarring or
    infection – these will settle if left alone.
  • Avoid moderate-heavy exercise and alcohol for 24 hours following treatment (can exacerbate any skin
  • Avoid exfoliating or peels for at least 2 weeks, and further IPL treatment for at least 1 month.
  • Drink plenty of fluid/water during the 48hrs after treatment.
  • Apply ice, recommended skin care products or Aloe Vera to the treated area if uncomfortable or red until it settles down.

  • Clinical trials conducted on intense pulsed light have shown its safety and effectiveness and it has been used on millions of people worldwide. During treatment, eye protection will be used and a cooling gel applied to the skin to minimise discomfort. Additional cooling can be applied using a skin cooling probe.
  • Intense pulsed light hair reduction is not generally suitable for people with very fair hair (grey, white, very light blonde and even red) because it relies on the presence of melanin within the hair, and these hair colours have very little. Likewise very dark skin types (and suntanned people) may not be suitable as their skin will have very high levels of melanin and so may absorb too much energy.
  • With so many differing devices on the market, the risks may differ depending upon the machine to be used, your skin type & hair & eye colour – discuss this in length with your clinician at the point of consultation.
  • Certain medications are known to be photo-sensitive so you should always go through a thorough medical history with a medical practitioner prior to undergoing any treatment.
  • Not suitable for those with photo-sensitive epilepsy.

With technological advances IPL/lasers are generally well tolerated and described as mildly uncomfortable with certain treatment areas being more sensitive than others. It is often described as the sensation of a rubber band being flicked against the skin.

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