The Pros And Cons Of IPL Hair Removal

People may have excessive or unwanted hair on various parts of their bodies that they want to remove. According to MedlinePlus, excessive vellus hair development is commonly found on the upper lips, cheeks, legs, and belly. It can be brought on by elevated testosterone levels in males or by heredity factors. According to MedicalNewsToday, there are several techniques to get rid of unwanted hair, including shaving, depilatories, epilation, and intense pulsed light (IPL). Among them, IPL is considered the last word in hair removal. 

Because of its reportedly lasting results, IPL eliminates the need to shave or wax frequently to remove rapidly growing hair. According to the 2020 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report from The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, minimally invasive IPL was one of the top five most popular cosmetic procedures of 2020. While IPL was originally used in a clinical setting, the constant rollout of user-friendly handheld IPL devices in recent years has made the treatment possible to do at home. Although IPL equipment is relatively effective for the removal of unwanted hair, it is not without drawbacks. Here is what to anticipate while zapping away your hair with IPL.

IPL hair removal can prevent unwanted hair growth

"The light that comes out of an IPL device is absorbed by the pigment in the hair, causing a buildup of energy which turns to heat (think of a black T-shirt on a sunny day)," facialist and laser specialist Debbie Thomas explained to Harper's Bazaar. "The heat travels down the hair and disables or destroys the cells that make new ones." After several treatments, you'll notice a significant reduction in hair growth. What makes IPL a much healthier hair removal solution than shaving or waxing is that the treatment can help preempt ingrown hairs and potential skin irritation. IPL is also effective in diminishing skin discoloration to restore to it a more even complexion.

Contrary to popular opinion that laser and IPL are the same, these two technologies adopt different types of lights. According to Braun, both laser treatments and IPL target the melanin in the hair follicles to reach the roots and deliver long-term results. However, professional laser treatment is more concentrated. The energy released from the laser is directed at the hair follicle rather than the surrounding skin. Therefore, professional laser treatments can offer faster results. However, IPL — due to its broad spectrum light distribution — has greater coverage and can tackle a larger amount of hair in one setting. IPL is also less painful than laser hair removal therapy, as many IPL machines have a built-in cooling system to help cool the skin and shrink pores, Tay Medispa points out.

Potential side effects of IPL hair removal

Although IPL hair removal has plenty of perks, it's not without shortcomings. Although IPL is often referred to as a permanent hair removal method, its results are semi-permanent at best. According to Clinetix, although IPL treatments initially help zap away all of the hair follicles, hair strands will regrow on the body — they just might be lighter and finer. To preclude unwanted hair regrowth, clients need to have a follow-up treatment every six to 12 months. Generally speaking, laser therapy offers longer-lasting results than IPL. 

Several side effects that are common to IPL hair removal therapy — per the UK Health Centre — include temporary swelling and soreness, in addition to pigment changes in the treated areas. Blistering and scarring might also occur from the overheating of the skin. However, those with darker skin tones are more prone to this complication compared to those with lighter tones. IPL is available to everybody, but the results might vary from person to person depending on the treated individual's skin tone and hair growth rate. Those with fine, dark hair, as well as light skin, usually see results quickly. For those with darker skin tones and thicker, coarser hair, laser therapy might be a more effective treatment than IPL, per The Victorian Cosmetic Institute. Before trying out any hair removal treatment, it's best to discuss your medical history and expectations with a dermatologist to see which therapy is most suitable for you.