Tired of your daily shaving or monthly waxing routine? It is time to consider the alternative method – IPL for hair removal. IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light, which works by focusing flashes of light on your hair follicle. It is known for its long-term and visible hair reduction, which can also save you from multiple salon trips and the pain of waxing.
If you wonder whether IPL at home is safe and if its effective, here’s a guide that talks about it all. So, wait no more and read on!
How Does IPL Work?
Although IPL is a progressive treatment offering full body hair removal, you can use IPL for hair removal of separate areas, such as your arms, legs, or bikini area, depending on your individual needs. IPL works by aiming the dark pigment – melanin around your hair follicle. It then targets the follicle thereby making the hair fall out and restricting its ability to regrow.
Since melanin is very dense at the base of the root, it provides an absolute target for the strong light pulses emitted by the IPL hair removal device. While performing IPL at home, you’ll hold a flashgun-like device that delivers a spectrum of light to the skin. The melanin absorbs this light and produces heat energy, which then reaches the hair root, has the right effect, and disables the key areas within the follicle. Your hair then falls out, and the repeated process reduces the growth of hair in the following weeks.
Is IPL safe to use?
Generally, a thought that might strike your mind is whether is IPL hair removal safe? Well, worry not. IPL is safe to use at home; however, there are a few common and mild IPL side effects like redness or pigment change. You can soothe these IPL hair removal side effects by applying a cool antiseptic gel, making them fade away in no time.
When done correctly using the right IPL device, it can be easy to achieve silky smooth, hair-free skin. To help you understand better, here are some safety tips that you must follow:
IPL has been suitable for those with light skin and darker hair, so it's best to choose a device that is technologically advanced with a skin tone sensor to minimise these restrictions. This way, the device will sense the UV range of your skin tone and adapt to the flash intensity accordingly without absorbing the melanin in your skin. Make sure the device is dermatologically accredited as skin safe.
Speak to your dermatologist before you opt for IPL if you have any skin conditions like psoriasis, chronic skin disorder or if your skin is photosensitive.
It is best to avoid IPL during pregnancy.
Never use IPL to remove hair from moles.
Avoid waxing, tweezing, epilating, or threading to remove hair in between the IPL treatments. But you can shave to keep the growth in control.
Prepare your skin well before the IPL treatment by shaving the area of treatment and then patting it dry.
If your device comes with different modes, make sure to use each mode for appropriate areas for efficacy.
After each session, wipe the device clean and maintain hygiene to avoid skin problems.
Keep your skin hydrated by moisturising it every morning and night.
Can I use IPL for private parts?
It’s important to note that some areas of the body may be more sensitive than others and require a gentler form of hair removal: such as the bikini line. You can use an IPL device that comes along with a mode to treat these gentle areas. That being said, never use your IPL device on extra-sensitive areas such as the genitals, nipples, or anus, as this could cause inflammation.
Can I use IPL for the face?
If your IPL device is also suitable for sensitive or smaller areas, you can use it on your face. However, if you bleach your facial hair or they are naturally lighter in shade, then IPL may not be effective for you on the face.
If you are using IPL for removing facial hair, it is recommended to do it from cheeks down. It’s not recommended to use IPL anywhere near the eyes or for eyebrows, as it can cause eye damage. Check your device's manual and read the instructions carefully to understand the areas it is suitable for. Certain devices come along with separate settings for facial use.
Does IPL Hair Removal Hurt?
It’s a common assumption that IPL isn’t a pain-free method of hair removal, due to the fact that it uses beams of light to heat the hair follicle. But the truth is, IPL hair removal pain barely feels like a light flick or pinches during the flashes. It’s not even close to the pain you’d experience when waxing or threading.
Busting other myths about IPL hair removal
1) It won’t work on dark skin tones
When there is more melanin present in the skin, the IPL needs to adjust the intensity of light to avoid the beam from focusing on the skin, instead of the hair follicle. When IPL was new to the market, most devices were ineffective for darker skin tones, as there wasn’t a technology yet available that could adapt the IPL intensity to a person’s skin tone. Nowadays, there are IPL devices that can automatically adapt the light intensity to match your skin pigmentation, whether you have fair, olive, or dark skin – though it’s important to read the label carefully, to ensure you’re buying the best IPL for you.
2) IPL hair removal isn't permanent
While IPL doesn’t get rid of every follicle of hair on your body at the same time, it can progressively deliver permanent hair reduction. As hair grows in stages, not all follicles will be ‘full’ of hair when you undergo an IPL treatment. Since only hair in its growing phase is susceptible to treatment with light, it is important to do multiple IPL treatments to achieve long-lasting, continuously smooth skin.
3) IPL devices are expensive and require maintenance
Using IPL at home means you can remove hair across most body areas and only spend on one treatment. While multiple trips to the salon can add up and become expensive, you can save money in the long run by performing IPL at home.
4) You cannot opt for IPL in the summer
It’s perfectly safe to opt for IPL during the summer months, though you should take extra care to wear sunscreen of at least 30 SPF to avoid sunburn.
Dos and don'ts for IPL Treatment - Before and After
Before your treatment
Avoid tanning booths, sunbeds, spray tans and tanning creams.
Ensure there are no open wounds, broken skin, or inflamed areas on the skin you’re planning to treat.
Avoid intense exfoliation treatments, such as microdermabrasion, as this increases the risk of inflammation and side effects after your IPL hair removal.
Shave the area you’re planning to treat 12 to 24 hours beforehand.
After your treatment
Don’t wear tight-fitting clothes after treatment, as this can irritate your skin.
Don’t use skin products that may irritate your skin, such as perfume, cleansers or exfoliators, for 24 – 48 hours after treatment.
Avoid hot showers, steam rooms and saunas.
Wear sunscreen with a high SPF to keep the skin protected.
Benefits of IPL
Not quite convinced yet? See below for some of the main benefits of using IPL, compared to other hair removal methods:
You can undergo IPL hair removal from the comfort of your own home, applying these gentle flashes of light around your desired body areas (as mentioned in the product manual) after shaving.
IPL results in your hair becoming thinner and less noticeable, as it naturally sheds and regrows at a much slower pace.
With epilating or waxing, you’re advised not to shave for a few weeks before treatment, which can lead to stubbly body hair during that in-between period – not ideal if you want to hit the beach and try out that new swimsuit! You won’t have to worry about this with IPL, as you’re actually advised to shave before treatment. Shaving before your IPL hair removal treatment helps the light beam to focus on the hair root.
When using IPL, you’ll need to shave less and less as your treatments go on. As the hair follicles will be empty, you’ll notice fewer ingrown hairs and less stubble ‘shadow’.
IPL treatment helps to smooth out the texture of your skin, whereas waxing or threading can cause inflammation.
Who should not use IPL?
Although IPL is safe to use at home, there are certain conditions in which IPL isn't recommended. So, IPL may not be for you if:
You are sensitive to light
You have tanned your skin recently through sunlight, tanning beds, or tanning creams
You use a retinoid cream
You are pregnant
You have a skin condition or disease
You are taking medication for any health condition
You have a skin re-surfacing disorder
You have severe scarring on your skin
You have keloid scar tissue
You have tattoos or permanent makeup.
IPL is a great way to get rid of unwanted body hair growth. Although the results take some time to be visible, it is a one-time investment, with lesser pain and hassle-free method towards a silky-smooth skin.