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Cheat Guide to IPL

Sick of shaving, waxing, threading, plucking? More and more people have been ditching their razors for light therapy, such as laser hair removal or IPL. Whether you plan on doing it at home or at a doctor’s, check out our guide to hair-free living via the lesser-known of these methods, IPL.

What is it?

IPL is an acronym for Intense Pulsed Light. It’s a kind of light therapy that, among other uses, removes hair in a process similar to but not exactly the same as laser hair removal.

How does it work?

All forms of light-based hair removal send pulses of concentrated light into the hair follicles. The pigment in the hair follicle absorbs the light and converts it to heat, which destroys the hair. Over the course of a full treatment, which takes several sessions, the hair follicle no longer produces new hair.

What’s the difference between IPL and lasers?

A laser has one specific wavelength, whereas IPL has many. In layman’s terms, this means that a laser is going to be more targeted whereas IPL wavelengths spread out across the skin.

Important note: because of this, IPL is not recommended for people with olive-toned or dark skin since the scattered wavelengths would target the skin’s pigment as well as the hair follicles, which would lead to skin burns and scarring. The Nd:YAG Laser is a safe way for people with dark skin to remove hair permanently.

To read more about laser hair removal, check out Skin Tour’s guide.

What should I expect with IPL?

cheat guide

Multiple sessions

Typically, people start seeing results after about three treatments over five to eight weeks. You can only target the hair that is currently growing, and only about a third of your body’s hair is alive at any given moment. Most dermatologists will recommend six sessions spaced approximately a month apart, to meet the hair’s growth cycles. Patience is required before you can ditch the razor entirely! Speaking of…

Shave prior to treatment

You may be surprised to hear this one, but you need clean-shaven legs to treat them with lasers. Longer hairs are the most painful to remove. You can also shave or trim in-between sessions, but make sure not to wax or pluck as these methods remove the hair from its follicle.

Stay out of the sun

No bronzing a month before the procedure; skin that’s had sun exposure is at risk of burning. Pregnant or on antibiotics that make you sensitive to light? Stick to waxing or shaving!

It’s more effective on certain parts of the body

The areas with thick hair and thin skin – such as the underarms, legs, and bikini line – respond best to treatment. IPL doesn’t work as well on areas with thicker skin, such as the back.

Be prepared for pain

We all have different pain thresholds. Though the process is often described as feeling like someone is flicking a rubber band against your skin, some people compare it to a greater discomfort like a bee sting. Since IPL works by burning the follicle, be prepared to experience some pain.

Speak to your dermatologist if you think this procedure is right for you.

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