IPL Hair Removal: Ultimate Guide To Intense Pulsed Light

What is IPL?

As mentioned in our overview of the best hair removal methods, IPL stands for “Intense Pulsed Light”; this kind of hair removal systems is some of the best you can get for use in the comfort of your home. Pulsed light hair removal devices emit a burst of intense light at various wavelengths, which uses the melanin in the pigment of the hair to get to the follicle (root).

The highest concentration of melanin is usually located in the root of the hair. This is why the light burst targets that specific spot. This light is then converted into heat, this heat energy which vaporizes the hair follicle (and most of the hair itself) is believed to also destroy the cells that cause hair growth, allowing you to get a permanent hair reduction over time besides a good probability of permanent hair removal. It might be confusing at first, but no, these products do not actually use laser although they are often confused with Laser hair removal products; they simply use light, which is one of the main reasons they are believed to be a bit safer and also less painful.

What’s the difference between IPL and Laser Hair Removal?

Both type of devices use light to destroy the hair root, so substantially the difference lies in the technology. Lasers only use one specific wave length (1 color) and target only one chromophore (the dark spots such as melanin), whereas IPL machines, as mentioned before, use many different wavelengths. You might have heard that because IPL machines use various wave length they are less effective than laser, well, that’s half true…This might only be the case for people with very dark skin, which would make it harder for the IPL device to target specific hairs. On the other hand if you have pale or olive skin with medium to dark hair, intense pulsed light is going to work just fine.

Does IPL Work?

You’re now probably wondering if these IPL treatments actually work… well, the answer is: usually yes, they do work. It depends on many factors, which we are going to cover later, and it is not an overnight miraculous method for permanent hair removal. So yeah, just don’t expect to wake up the next morning and be as smooth as a baby BUT ipl machines are probably the best and (compared to laser) cheapest solution for permanently remove hair at home. You’ll just need to be careful, check that you’re physically suitable for ipl treatment and apply the right treatment schedule.

After the first 2/3 weeks a don’t let the first impression mislead you; yes you’ll see some hair, but those are just the ones that were treated in the first session, the root was removed but they remained “trapped” inside the outer skin. Just wait a few more days and as the new skin grows back the unwanted hairs will fall off.

What is a Typical IPL treatment like?

Most common IPL therapy sessions are simple, fast and most likely painless. More people reportedly experience a “snap” feeling and some redness in the area after the treatment, but the overall process is pretty much pain free and most importantly, it can be done everywhere you want in your home 🙂

Nothing special has to be done before nor after the session, in particular, you shouldn’t be shaving or tweezing because that will remove your number one targets for future sessions. The first session should be able to remove around 20% of the hair and as much as 95% can be accomplished with 6 to 10 sessions, this may vary if you’re a woman or a man obviously and according to your skin and hair type it might take less or more.

Is IPL good for facial hair removal?

As described above, light hair removal devices use the pigment in the hair follicle to remove hairs from the root. It becomes pretty clear that the lighter the hair is, the harder it’ll be for the machine to take action on it. If you’re considering to try an IPL machine on your facial hair, you just need to verify that those tiny hairs are “dark enough” for the device to see them and perform well. Also check out the next paragraphs to know more about the side effects and complications you might get into.

How Do I Know if I Can Use Intense Pulsed Light Devices?

Although being for both men and women, intense pulsed light hair removal products are not for everybody, you must make sure to have the right type of skin and hair before choosing one of these tools. The skin must be healthy, not too sensitive and have the right levels of melanin otherwise the treatment wouldn’t be effective. In fact, too light or too dark skin types must carefully pick the right product and there might not even be a product for their needs. The same goes for the hair color, different products might work best for different types of hair. That said, a little research is much needed if you’re not sure your hair and skin colors can be treated. If you have red or very pal hair, IPL devices won’t probably be suitable for you.

Who Can’t Use IPL hair Removal Devices

A few medical conditions such as acne or eczema can make IPL machines off limits for you for their duration. You can’t also use laser hair removal if you’re pregnant or suffer from diabetes and should avoid treatment on areas with cuts, lesions or burnt skin.

How much does IPL cost?

The average prices for IPL portable devices go all the way from $150 to $500, numerous options and brands are available, it all just depends on your specific needs. Some devices have more unique features like intensity setting adjustment, others are specific for certain skin or hair types and most of all, some are high quality, tested and FDA cleared while others are not. What’s obvious about this, is that IPL is way cheaper than traditional laser treatments where each session could cost you half your paycheck. That said, we know intense pulsed light devices are not cheap either, but they should be considered more like an investment, which is going to save you money on the long run.

​And now let’s break it down to the benefits and the problems of using these products!

The benefits of IPL hair removal at home

  • COST – If compared to conventional laser treatments and considering that once bought, the product is yours, IPL devices are pretty inexpensive.
  • SAVINGS – It will basically remove the costs for shaver replacement, depilatory creams or any other at-home hair removal method that requires continuous purchases.
  • PERMANENT – That’s right, pulsed light is the only method (with Laser) for getting rid of unwanted hair FOR LIFE.
  • COMFORTABLE – The only things you’ll experience during treatment will probably be a little warmth and tingle on the area.
  • SAFE – All the best IPL products are rigorously tested and are declared safe for most types of skin. Plus there is no risk of cutting as with shavers.

The problems of intense pulsed light

  • RECHARGE – This kind of devices have components such as bulbs or enhancement gels, which will expire after extensive treatment.
  • NOT FOR EVERYONE – As mentioned if you hair very pale or red hair, these products will not work on you. Also there are many skin or health conditions that don’t play well with laser home devices.

If you think you know enough and are ready to start removing unwanted hair with IPL in the comfort of your home, check out our pick for the best product or get acquainted with various models before you pick your favorite! Here’s a list of the best 5 IPL devices on the market 🙂