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Frequently Asked Questions

IPL hair removal FAQs

Here are some of your frequently asked questions that relate to flashlamps, products used to remove hair permanently for both men and women:

What is intense pulsed light?

Intense pulsed light (IPL), is a technology used to producing high intensity light bursts for very short periods of time. It involves the use of flash lamps to provide the required high energy.

It is a method of permanent hair removal, similar though cheaper than laser treatment. Besides removing unwanted hairs, IPL can be used as a skin therapy in a process known as photorejuvenation to treat skin conditions including rosacea, wrinkles, and more.

When IPL is used, the light is applied to the skin's surface from a hand-held or mechanical device. This light is converted to heat energy, then it vaporises the hair shaft and destroys the hair-producing papilla or the entire follicle.

What skin type is appropriate?

Like any form of light treatment used in hair removal, people with dark hair and pale skin will benefit the most from using a flashlamp. This is because light targets the melanin which is most abundant in dark hairs. People with pale hair and dark skin have more melanin in the skin, which results in the skin absorbing most of the light energy and a less effective treatment.

Which areas of the body can IPL treat?

Flash lamps can be used to remove hairs from their face, chin, upper lip, neck, chest, nipples, armpits, stomach, back, bikini line, and legs. This product is not recommended for the use around the eyes due to the potential to damage the retina.

How does flashlamp differ from laser treatment?

Although intense pulsed light works in a similar manner to laser products, and both can give permanent results, there are some important differences. IPL uses a number of specific wavelengths of light that are set at the optimum for their absorption by the melanin pigmentation in the hair, yet at the same time minimising the trauma to the skin. Flash lamp products use a set of filters to ensure the correct types of light (or wavelengths) are used in the treatment. As there are more variables to adjust using a flashlamp than with a laser, its effectiveness is more dependant on the experience of the operator.

Does the method hurt?

Some people have reported that the sensation of having IPL treatment is like having a rubbed band snapped against the skin. The light energy is emitted in short bursts (fractions of a second) and each burst results in this mild to moderate stinging sensation. Those that have had laser treatment have reported a similar sensation. It is always worth speaking to patients who have had the treatment to understand their experiences.

What are the side effects of IPL for therapy?

The worst side effect that most patients experience is a reddening of the area that has been treated. A very few patients experience small blisters but this is very rare and these effects usually disappear within a few hours to a few days. Most people do not experience any side effects from these products as long as they wear protective glasses during treatment.

If you have had a hair removal accident or disaster then find out what you can do to set things right.

What type of light is used?

Xenon is the most commonly used light source because of the brilliant, full spectrum illumination it provides when exposed to energy. It is used in many other applications such as the flashes in photographic equipment, surgical lighting equipment and paint stripping.

When was flash lamp first used to remove hair?

The xenon flashlamp was first developed as an energy source for laser beams. It wasn't long after its development that it was being used therapeutically with direct product applications of its energy. Intense pulsed light began to be used for medical purposes in the early 1960's. The latter half of the 1960's saw the emergence of published data on using flashlamps to treat eye and skin disorders.

Early attempts in the 1970's at using IPL did not result in permanent hair removal. These early devices delivered xenon light energy delivered via fiberoptic filament. Some of these devices are still in use but they are are not as effective as the more recent flash lamp products.

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