Laser and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) systems use powerful light sources to offer a long-term solution to unwanted body hair. There are a wide variety of different laser/IPL machines which all work in different ways to achieve laser hair removal, however the principle is the same: delivering a strong burst of light into the hair follicle to damage it and prevent future hair growth. Lasers and IPL can be used to treat unwanted hair on most areas of the face and body in men and women. Some skin types (such as very dark or tanned skin), and certain hair types (including red and grey hair), may not be suitable for this treatment.
Certain factors can influence whether or not you are good candidate for laser/IPL hair removal, including your skin and hair colour. The type of machine that your clinic of choice uses is also a factor, as some IPL machines are not equipped to treat all skin and hair colours. You may be unsuitable for treatment if any of the following applies to you:
Those with ginger, blonde or white hairs, which may respond poorly or not at all to treatment
Dark skin types such as Asian and Afro Caribbean skin. These skin types may not be suitable for the stronger lasers because the skin pigment absorbs too much energy which causes skin damage
- Patients with a recent sun tan
- Patients with a history of sensitivity to light based treatments
- People with an active infection in the area to be treated
- Patients who have used the drug isotretinoin in the last year.
- Pregnant women However remember that different laser/IPL systems can treat a variety of different skin and hair types so if you are unsure check with the clinic/salon to see if they can treat you or not.
Before you decide to have laser/IPL hair removal you will need to have a consultation with a qualified practitioner to discuss your concerns and decide on the right course of treatment for you. They should take a medical history and ask you to fill out a consent form. Make sure you read this and the associated material carefully. You can usually have your treatment done on the same day but in some cases you may want to go away and think about it and book a separate appointment to come back for treatment. This will depend on your individual circumstances.
Before your laser/IPL hair removal treatment begins you will be asked to put on safety goggles to protect your eyes. In some cases, a gel will then be applied to your skin to cool it during treatment. Other laser/IPL systems have built in cooling and some do not require cooling. If a sensitive area is to be treated, a topical anaesthetic cream may be applied to make the Laser/IPL procedure more comfortable. A hand piece will then be pressed against your skin multiple times to target the hair follicles.
The procedure works by emitting high-energy pulses of light directed at the hair follicles (roots) from which the hair grows. The light is absorbed by the pigment within the hair shaft. The sensation of this can be likened to being flicked with an elastic band. Pain levels vary from person to person and differ between laser/IPL systems. Some are virtually painless whereas others can sting quite a bit. The treatment is tolerable however and is generally very quick, as little as 10 minutes, depending on the size of the area being treated. In some cases, an anaesthetic cream can be used, particularly for hair removal in sensitive areas. For large areas such as legs and backs a scanner is sometimes used to apply multiple shots of light at once and speed up treatment times. The procedure will typically destroy between 60-90% of actively growing hairs at each treatment. IPL uses a broad spectrum of light, which means that it is appropriate for treating a wide range of hair colours and skin types. Only hairs that are in their growing phase are susceptible to the treatment, therefore a series of multiple treatments is usually required to effect long-lasting hair growth reduction.
Typically, six to eight laser/IPL treatments are needed, with intervals between treatments of four to eight weeks, depending on which area of the body or face is being treated. The number of IPL treatments depends on factors including the patient’s skin type, hair colour, and density and location of hair. The laser/IPL procedure takes anywhere between 10 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the area to be treated. No anaesthetic is required, and you can normally return to your normal daily activities immediately afterwards. You will need to have a course of treatment to get results (between three and eight) as hair grows in different cycles. These are usually about four weeks apart. Top up treatments can be done if necessary after this for any stray hairs that come through.
It is very important that you follow the advice of your practitioner carefully following light treatment for hair removal to reduce the risk of complications. After laser/IPL hair removal treatment, you may experience:
- Red, pink, and sore skin
- A feeling like mild sunburn
You may be advised to apply an anaesthetic cream to the area, avoid exposing yourself to the sun, and to wear a total sun block whenever you do. However, most people should be able to return to work and their normal activities immediately following the laser/IPL hair removal procedure. If you have any unwanted side effects such as blistering, pain, changes in skin pigment or infection, contact your treating clinic/salon immediately.
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