IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light. Basically the technology is named for what it is. Intense wavelengths of light are distributed on to the skin in order to reduce hair permanently. This is achieved when focused broad-spectrum light heats and damages the hair follicles by travelling through the skin until it reaches the root of the hair. Melanin is at its highest concentration at the root, and this is what the light is targets. The hair follicle is then rendered incapable of reproducing as the light is converted to heat energy.
Laser is by no means the same. Although both are used as hair reduction treatment, laser only uses a single wavelength of light whereas IPL contains hundreds of different wavelengths of light. Apart from hair reduction, IPL can be used to reduce pigmentation, fine lines, wrinkles, rosacea, spider veins, acne, sun damage and improve the skins texture through various settings.
For instance, when treating thread veins, the light is absorbed in the blood within the vein. This causes the blood to coagulate and the vein breaks up into small particles to be flushed away through the lymphatic system in the body. When treating fine lines and wrinkles, the light boosts collagen production to give skin a plumper and firmer look. Treating pigmentation on the other hand will cause the skin to scab as the pigmentation is targeted and broken down by the light. The broken particles rise to the surface of the skin resulting in a scab. This will be exfoliated away naturally in several weeks.
Many places claim that their IPL treatments result in “permanent hair removal” or leave the client “permanently hair free”, however this is actually not entirely true.
Without getting too technical, only active hair follicles can be affected and destroyed by IPL treatment, but not all hair follicles are active at the same time. That said, inactive hair follicles can be treated eventually once they become active over time.
Some people who have undergone IPL treatments claim that up to 20% of hair continues to grow back, however it is often much finer and the growth cycle is much slower.
When describing the long-term results expected with IPL treatments, the more appropriate terminology would be “permanent hair reduction”.
Different skin types and hair types respond differently to treatments, so it depends entirely on the individual and which part of the body, treatments are being performed. Lighter skin tones coupled with darker hair will be more responsive to IPL treatments, whereas lighter hair and darker skin tones are likely to respond to a lesser degree.
Light blondes for instance do not respond well to IPL treatments because the hair contain much less pigment hence the light is not attracted enough to the hair follicle to destroy it. Likewise, this is true for grey and white hair. Red heads also fall into the same category as the colour of the hair makes it invisible to the light. Research however is already underway to improve the machine’s capability to be effective with these hair colour groups.
Generally speaking, in order to achieve the best hair reduction results an average of 8 – 10 treatments are required. Treatment sessions are usually 4 to 6 weeks apart.
There are a number of variables which can determine if person is suitable for IPL treatments.
It is therefore essential that a full consultation is performed prior by a qualified beauty therapist. This typically includes a skin and hair type assessment as well as a medical history and medication check as these factors have the potential to affect the outcome.
The client should also bring up any concerns that they may have prior to treatment with their beauty therapist.
The most common contraindications for IPL include:
• If you have undertaken recent hair removal including but not exclusive to waxing, plucking, electrolysis or depilatory creams.
• If you have a tan, real or fake, or if you are sunburned.
• If you have any open sores, wounds, lesions, scarring, moles or skin cancer.
• If you are currently taking any medications or applying ointments, this includes St John’s Wort and any citrus essential oils.
• If you have a contagious skin disease in the area to be treated, for example Herpes.
• If you experience epilepsy or other seizures potentially caused by flashing light.
• If you suffer from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or Hyperthyroidism which affects hair growth.
• If you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
• If you have any tattoos or permanent makeup in the area to be treated.