IPL hair removal - the best devices, and how it works
Hair removal rituals can be inconvenient, painful, and irritating. But what if there was a way out of your remove, regrow and repeat routine?
Laser hair removal is a booming trend, with the global laser treatment industry – worth more than USD 440 million already – predicted to grow another 21 per cent by 2028.
However, the main rival to conventional, professional laser treatment is IPL (intense pulsed light). And while both options have their devotees – it’s IPL hair removal that is really upping the ante as a gentle yet effective treatment for those of with more sensitive skin, darker hair, and a more conservative budget.
4 to 6 sessions
Duration of results
Back to work
Full recovery time
No recovery time
30 to 45 minutes
OTC pain relief
How IPL hair removal works – and why you might have it
IPL hair removal can help break the cycle of seemingly endless tweezing, shaving, and waxing by stopping hairs completely in their tracks, making your grooming routine easier and ingrown hairs, redness and bumps a potential thing of the past.
IPL treats the root of the problem, so to speak, to prevent each follicle from growing back.
A smooth process?
The treatment is simple and relatively painless. A flash gun is passed over your skin and you’ll feel zaps of energy – it can be a bit like being flicked with an elastic band, but as pain is subjective, even an elastic band can hurt if you are slightly more sensitive.
IPL rays deliver a spectrum of light through the surface of the skin. Once this light reaches the root of the hair, it’s absorbed by the melanin (colour) present in the shaft. This heats up and disables the follicle, preventing further growth.
However, it’s important to note that the treatment will not work perfectly for everyone. Darker skin tones and lighter hair are both less suitable for IPL in general.
Darker skin contains more melanin, making it more susceptible to burns with IPL, while lighter hair lacks melanin.
That said, new advanced treatments and technologies are being created all the time, and this sector is constantly evolving. At the moment, though, Nd:YAG lasers or electrolysis are better options in these cases.
Zap, rest, repeat
After just one treatment, there will be reduced hair growth. But as IPL only targets actively growing hairs, the process needs to be repeated a few times to get all the hair follicles in different stages of growth.
You will also need top-ups throughout life. There is currently no permanent hair removal technique on the market, only hair reduction. As it stands, electrolysis is the most successful at keeping hair follicles dormant for longest.
The cost of convenience
Prices vary from one clinic to the next. IPL can be as little as 175 SAR per session. Many clinics will offer discounts for repeat visits – which you’ll need to get the best results.
At-home devices are available at a cost of around 2,500 SAR, but they won’t be as effective as in-clinic options.
And while IPL does mean a bit of up-front investment, it’s worth remembering you'll be saving money long-term on hair removal products – and saving precious time too.
IPL vs laser hair removal – what’s the difference, and does it matter?
You’ll often find IPL and laser hair removal lumped together. So why are they similar and what sets them apart?
IPL and laser hair removal are both similar in terms of the objective: using light to target the melanin in the hair follicles and heat it out of contention, so hair doesn’t grow back.
IPL hair removal is not technically a laser treatment.
IPL uses a far broader light spectrum than a laser – so the way they work is quite different. Laser is concentrated and targeted, while IPL is broad and scattered.
When it comes to pros and cons, there are a few things to bear in mind:
- IPL hair removal is not as effective as laser treatment for targeting specific follicles – and you may need a few more appointments, at least at first.
- Remember those rubber band-style flicks we mentioned earlier? You’re likely to feel fewer twinges with a laser, thanks to their more advanced cooling systems.
- Lasers are also increasingly capable of treating a wider range of skin types than IPL. On the other hand, IPL is better suited to other treatments for skin conditions like rosacea and flushing.
- As a like for like comparison, IPL is generally cheaper. You might expect to pay around 400 SAR for a lower leg laser treatment. For IPL, it can be half the price.
Is IPL hair removal worth it?
The results can take a while to kick in – so you’ll have to be patient for a few months.
Once you’ve had your first treatment, you might start spotting the odd hair falling out within just a few days. More stubborn and established hairs might stick around in the follicles for up to two weeks.
Leading dermatologists generally recommend at least four to six sessions, with each one spaced four to six weeks apart.
As your hair generally grows in three distinct overlapping phases – anagen, catagen and telogen – and IPL is most effective during the anagen phase, where growth is at its most active, repeat sessions are typically necessary.
The good news is, once you’ve had the recommended sessions your unwanted hairs should largely be a thing of the past – studies suggest it can reduce growth in treated areas by up to 90 per cent.
IPL sessions, even if they’re less efficient than using a laser, are as effective. The treatment can help you break that tedious cycle of shaving, waxing and other hair removal methods, freeing up your time and taking some of the stress out of your day-to-day. For many, that alone is worth it – even before we consider the potentially profound effect on self-confidence.
Did you know…?
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