This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase.
Tired of setting aside a lot of time to shave, wax, or pluck unwanted hair from your body regularly? We’ve all been there.
Not only do these procedures use up a lot of our time when we’re better off doing something else, but they also cause us to hurt and bleed sometimes!
Fortunately, there’s a great alternative for removing unwanted hair: IPL or Intense Pulsed Light.
But what is IPL? How does IPL work for hair removal? In this article, we’ll answer these questions and tell you all about this treatment.
We’ll also show you some IPL hair removal before-and-after images, so you can see if this procedure is something you want to try!
What Is Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)?
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatment or therapy, also called a photofacial, is a cosmetic procedure that uses light energy from a handheld device to target certain problems on your skin to improve its texture or remove unwanted hair.
The end goal of IPL is to make your skin clearer and give it a more even and youthful look. It’s also used to achieve and maintain hair-free skin.
Like other laser treatments, IPL is light-based. However, as opposed to diode lasers used in other treatments, which only produce a single wavelength of pulsating light, IPL devices send out multiple wavelengths.
This means that IPL treats the targeted area and the surrounding areas of the skin at the same time, whereas laser treatments — which have very concentrated high-energy outputs — focus on one small area at a time.
How Does IPL Work?
When wavelengths of light energy from the IPL device hit your skin, they are absorbed by the melanocytes (cells that produce melanin) and red blood cells in the skin.
These cells then generate heat, creating a superficial injury on your skin to trigger its healing process without actually causing harm to delicate dermal tissues.
This way, your body removes the outer layer of the skin with pigmented and damaged cells and reveals newer, more supple skin.
IPL targets skin problems like the following:
- Acne scars
- Stretch marks
- Sun damaged skin
- Unwanted hair
How Does IPL Work for Hair Removal?
IPL is quickly becoming a popular alternative for waxing, plucking, or shaving unwanted hair from your body.
Similar to how it works on skin cells, the heat and light from an IPL device can also be absorbed by hair follicles, which can damage them.
So unlike waxing and shaving, which work by only removing the surface hairs, IPL can destroy them at their roots and target the melanin in the hair follicles, making each hair fall off and significantly slowing its regrowth.
This makes the results of hair removal from IPL laser therapy longer-lasting.
Several studies have already been conducted on the effectiveness of using IPL for hair removal.
One study even showed that hair removal in several patients was reported to have immediately occurred after a single treatment.
In another study, 95% of patients noted hair-count reduction at the end of the clinical trial!
This is proof that if you want a treatment that gets rid of unwanted hair and gives you long-lasting results, IPL may be the perfect solution for you.
Take note that because the light from the IPL device targets the melanin in your hair follicles, this treatment will work best if you have a skin tone lighter than the unwanted hair you want to treat.
As such, those with naturally light-colored hair may need more treatments than those with dark-colored hair.
Where Can IPL Hair Removal Be Done?
IPL is a preferred hair removal method for different areas of the body, like the face, hands, chest, and neck.
Please note that while using IPL hair removal is safe for the bikini line, it’s not as suitable for the genital area. This is because these areas usually have darker colors and/or have greater hair density.
Treating them with IPL would make them absorb more light energy, which may lead to more discomfort in that area after treatment.
So for this area, you may want to opt for other hair removal methods.
IPL Hair Removal: Before and After
The before-and-after results of IPL hair removal on different parts of the body can be striking. Check out these videos for reference.
Before and After: IPL Hair Removal for the Underarms
The video below shows the results of using IPL on underarm hair after seven treatments every two weeks.
And here’s one that shows underarm hair removal results after just 12 weeks of regular use. The creator also shows leg hair removal results!
Before and After: IPL Hair Removal on the Legs
The video below shows the results of using IPL on leg hair after one year of regular use.
And here’s one that compares the results of using IPL on only one leg for three months versus not using it on the other.
What To Do Before An IPL Treatment
After seeing those before-and-after pictures and videos of IPL laser hair removal, you may be convinced to try it out.
At this point, you’re probably asking yourself: now what?
Well, before you undergo an IPL hair removal session, here are a few steps you need to take:
Consult Your Doctor
First, talk to your doctor to see if IPL is a good treatment for you.
Ask if it’s safe for you to try IPL, especially if you are
- very dark-skinned; or
- on medication for any health condition.
Note that IPL may not be safe or effective for dark-skinned people since IPL can’t distinguish between melanin in the skin and melanin in the hair, which means using it can lead to blistering, burning, or scarring.
So if you have dark skin, it’s vital to ask your doctor about whether you can safely get IPL.
Additionally, be honest with your doctor about your skin issues like active viral or fungal skin infections, so they can advise you correctly about whether IPL is suitable for you.
Schedule An Appointment
Once your doctor has advised you that you’re ready, it’s time to schedule an appointment at your preferred clinic.
If you haven’t selected a particular clinic yet, be sure to look through different clinics in your area and read the reviews of the IPL hair removal treatment each one offers. This way, you can select the best clinic for your treatment!
What To Avoid
There are certain things you should avoid before walking into the clinic for your first treatment.
- Avoid the sun. Exposing your skin to sunlight within 72 hours before your IPL treatments might put you at risk for burning or scarring.
- Avoid using tanning beds or tanning creams/lotions for at least 2 weeks so that the IPL will be able to clearly differentiate the melanin in your skin from the melanin in the hair follicle that it is targeting to remove.
- Avoid waxing, plucking, or bleaching the area for at least two to four weeks. Doing so before your IPL hair removal treatment session may reduce its since your hair follicles need to be intact during the procedure.
- Shave the area to be treated a few days before your visit. This is because while IPL should be done on visible hair follicles, doing it on longer hair may cause more pain. Shaving the area a few days before should lessen your discomfort.
What To Expect During An IPL Treatment
During your appointment, the clinic will clean the area to be treated to ensure that there aren’t any products on your skin that will prevent the device from working efficiently.
Next, they may offer you a local anesthetic or apply a cool gel on the area to help you overcome the discomfort of the pinching sensation caused by the handheld device delivering the light therapy.
They may also offer you dark glasses for your eyes’ protection.
IPL treatments may last anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes; this largely depends on the part of the body getting treated.
This is a video clip on how IPL is done to remove hair around the chest and stomach area:
What to Expect After An IPL Treatment
The treated area may look reddish or pinkish immediately after the procedure. This may last up to 8 hours or longer.
You may also feel a bit of a stinging sensation, like a sunburn on the treated area. Mild swelling may also occur.
At this point, following IPL hair removal aftercare instructions is important. To help treat any discomfort you may be experiencing post-treatment, you can do the following:
- Apply cold packs or cool cloths to the area that stings.
- Avoid using products like makeup or lotion for about 24 hours or more if the treated area is still red or stinging.
- Apply moisturizer to the treated area at least twice a day.
- Wear sunscreen and reapply it every two hours.
Two weeks after your IPL treatment, you may notice that the hair in the treated area will shed and fall out. This means their roots have already died.
Letting these hairs shed naturally is best. Don’t wax or pluck any hair in the area that hasn’t fallen on its own. This may mean their roots are still alive, which means they can be targeted in the next session.
Additionally, you can expect to see quicker hair removal results in the underarm area than on the leg or bikini line. It may take a few sessions before those areas are completely hair-free.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does IPL Have Side Effects?
The side effects of IPL hair removal may include swelling, redness, light bruising, peeling, itching, and scabbing. However, these are rare and minimal.
This means that aside from your hair not growing back, IPL hair removal typically has no long-term side effects or serious complications. Any discomfort you may feel after the procedure should subside within a day or two.
If you think you are at risk of infection from these side effects, call your doctor immediately.
How Much Does An IPL Treatment Cost?
Prices for IPL Treatments may range from $85 to $400 per treatment.
How Many Sessions for IPL Hair Removal Should You Have?
Each treatment may eliminate anywhere between 10% to 30% of your hair.
Most clients need around six treatments on average, but this will depend on certain factors like hair color and thickness as well as skin color.
For more efficient hair removal, it’s best to have a four-to-six-week interval between each session.
How Long Does IPL Hair Removal Last?
Many people ask if IPL hair removal is permanent.
Well, IPL is more of a semi-permanent hair removal treatment. While it can destroy your hair in its follicles during treatments, your body will eventually develop more.
As such, if you notice any hair growing in the treated area/s after a few months, you may need to come back for a follow-up session every six to twelve months.
In short, no, this treatment is not permanent.
Can You Do IPL Hair Removal At Home?
Given how expensive multiple treatments at the clinic can be, looking for IPL at-home solutions is definitely a good idea to try.
Fortunately, some handheld devices are available in the market to buy and test for yourself, like the Braun IPL Long-Lasting Hair Removal Device.
You can watch this video with a demo for at-home IPL hair removal and some before-and-after shots.
Semi-Permanent Hair Removal is Possible with IPL
If shaving, plucking, and waxing just don’t cut it anymore when it comes to dealing with unwanted hair, go ahead and try the IPL laser treatment for hair removal!
Not only is it painless with little to no downtime, but it also targets unwanted hair at the roots to give you smooth, hair-free skin.
Remember that if you want dramatic before-and-after results from your IPL hair removal treatment, it’s crucial to follow our guidelines above to help you make the most out of your sessions at your preferred clinic.
Plus, with at-home IPL devices available in the market, you don’t have to go out of your way for a session.
We hope this article has helped you learn more about IPL hair removal and how it works.
So if you’ve decided to get this procedure, just make sure you know what to do and what to expect before, during, and after treatment, and you’ll be good to go!