What is IPL?
Intense pulsed light is the use of intense pulses of non-coherent light over a range of wavelengths from 500 nm to 1200 nm. Xenon flash lamps produce high output bursts of broad spectrum. Cooling is used to protect the skin in contact with the device.
Regulations governing IPL vary by jurisdiction. “Intense Pulsed Light” is not a registered trademark. A distinction is sometimes made between beauty-grade and medical-grade machines, mainly to get around regulations.
Treatment is generally safe and effective, but complications can occur such as hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation. The light can reach multiple chromophores in human skin: mainly hemoglobin, water, and melanin. This results in selective photothermolysis of the target, which can be blood vessels, pigmented cells, or hair follicles.
Hair Removal with IPL
IPL can permanently reduce hair growth, most effectively in darker, courser hair. Laser hair removal is different and uses coherent, monochromatic laser light.
Broad-spectrum light is applied to the surface of the skin, targeting melanin. This light travels through the skin until it strikes the hair shafts or the bulb (root). The bulb is usually where the highest concentration of melanin is located. As the light is absorbed the bulb and most of the hair shaft are heated, destroying the hair-producing papilla.
For IPL treatments an average of 8–10 treatments are required to remove most visible hair. Commonly the treatment area needs to be clean, shaved and free of sunburn. Treatment sessions are usually 4 to 6 weeks apart at a beauty salon.
Although IPL treatments will permanently reduce the total number of body hairs, they will not result in a permanent removal of all hair.
Certain skin conditions, health irregularities, and medications can impact whether it is safe for a person to receive a light based hair removal treatment. Photo-sensitizing medications or damage to the skin are contraindications to treatment. According to manufacturer of an IPL device, all IPL and laser devices should only be used on light to medium skin tones, and work best on darker hair.