And is it good?
Razors are out, waxing is for the Sex and the City generation, and epilating is, well, painful. What’s the new kid on the block? IPL. I know, it sounds like an insurance company but actually it’s the best thing in hair removal. Now.
IPL has actually had a pretty long history and has got a bit of a rubbish rep thanks to the fact it wasn’t all that effective when it was first invented. Years have passed though and this technology has improved in leaps and bounds and has even left the salons and spas and is freely available in the domestic home.
What does IPL stand for?
IPL means Intense Pulsed Light. It’s a light therapy that emits pulses of multiple wavelength light into the skin to achieve certain results; in our case, long term hair removal. What it should really stand for is Incredibly Pleasing Legs. Because really, that’s what it amounts to.
How does it remove hair with light?
The light used in IPL is different depending on your skin and hair colour and these differences are achieved through the intensity settings you’ll find on the devices.
The light is absorbed into hair, in the pigment within the hair specifically and it turns into heat energy and destroys the hair from within. Because it targets hair specifically, it doesn’t damage skin cells (unless you are, wrongly, using it on very dark skin), although it does affect them.
The light destroys the hairs, which then fall out and don’t regrow. The reason why you can’t just do one treatment and be done with it, is because hair follicles have different growth stages and don’t all grow at the same time. So you need to repeat the treatments semi-regularly at the beginning and then once every few months afterwards to ensure you’ve caught all those previously snoozing follicles in the act of growing.
Does IPL hurt?
If you’ve checked out the skin/hair colour charts and are using the right intensity setting for your skin type then no, IPL doesn’t hurt. It does however warm up the skin, because while the light targets the darker hair, it still hits the skin cells. So sometimes the heated skin can feel sensitive after treatment and should be protected from the sun for at least 24 hours afterwards. In general, IPL shouldn’t hurt and if it does, cease treatment and try a lower setting.
Can I use it if I have a tan?
Using IPL before you hit the beach on holiday is a great way to be smooth and hair free but a bad idea if you do it afterwards. As you tan, the pigment in your skin changes and IPL can hit this pigment and cause damage or scarring. If you’re tanned, wait it out until you use IPL. This also applies to those who’ve used self-tanning products or have spray tans; IPL works on what’s there, not what is normally there.
How long does IPL take to leave skin hair free?
Because the hair is destroyed during the treatment, it’ll fall out soon afterwards. This only applies to the hair that was actually treated. So dormant follicles won’t have been affected and you’ll need to wait for them to start growing again in a few weeks before you can treat them.
Sadly, follicles aren’t the most organised bunch and tend to stop and start growing with little regard for what their neighbour is doing. This is why you need multiple treatments in the first few months.
Within a couple of treatments though, you’ll see major differences and after the first five, hair growth will be considerably lessened. After this, it’s just a matter of doing a treatment every few months to keep on top of the tiny amount of regrowth. Sound good? It is.
How much do home IPL systems cost?
Decent IPL home systems start around the £200 mark, although can sometimes be found for cheaper with deals and discounts. Impressive and complete systems can cost £400-£500 but these prices shouldn’t put you off.
Certain brands never require replacement parts, never need new batteries and never run out of flashes – which is how the life of an IPL device is usually measured. That means a £450 device will last you years and years. If it lasts you ten years, that’s only £45 a year! How much do you spend on razors and waxing? And then when you include the time you spend on hair removal, pfft! £45 a year is a bargain.
Other brands may need replacement flash bulbs, which is a faff and more expense and you have to rely on that brand still making the bulbs a few years down the line when you actually need them. These devices usually start cheaper to mitigate this somewhat, but a system that gives you everything from the word go is really the easiest to manage.
Is it better to go to a clinic?
Technology has moved so fast that IPL treatments are easily done at home and going to a clinic is a needless expense. Costing around £100 for a single treatment in a professional salon, investing in a high quality home IPL hair removal system is definitely the way forward.