What is IPL Laser Hair Removal 

By  Geoff Magee

What is IPL Laser Hair removal

The quick answer to the question "What is IPL Laser Hair Removal " is that it is stands for Intense Pulsed Light. It is a genuine alternative to Laser hair removal, Epilating, Waxing or just plain shaving and as its now available and affordable to do at home we would like to answer all the questions that you might have.

Its alleged to be pain free, permanent and quick to do, so if these things are all true then this could be the future of hair removal, especially for women. Imagine not having to shave under your arms every day or two for a start or being able to permanently remove that facial hair that always seems to keep coming back.

You can read on if you have plenty of time and want more information or click on the links to see our actual product reviews of the  Braun Silk-expert IPL or Philips Lumea IPL   which will give you an idea of whats available.

Philips Lumea BRI956 00 Prestige IPL

How Does IPL Work

​IPL works by delivering an intense pulse of visible light, generally in the range of 400 to 1200 nm directly on to the skin. This range excludes any dangerous ranges such as Ultra violet and it targets melanin in the hair. The melanin is most concentrated at the bulb or root of the hair and this specific light range heats it up and destroys it, thus killing the hair.

This is slightly different to laser hair removal which uses a single range or colour that only targets one specific condition whereas the IPL uses several different filters which enable it to treat many different conditions, so its more widely used generally in the medical profession . This process will kill the hair eventually with repeated treatments and you should expect it to take anywhere between 4 and 10 sessions to do this.

This process works best on darker hair and I guess that's great as hair that's fine and light coloured isn't as big an issue or annoyance as darker hair, especially on the face. Its worth noting that you will never be able to remove ALL hair permanently and you will need to repeat the treatment periodically to keep up that smooth finish.

It is also worth noting that ​the treated area may become a bit red or raised after treatment. Its not in anyway severe but we recommend that you do the treatments in the evening as the skin will usually be back to normal by the morning time. We wouldn't, for instance, recommend you to do your facial hair in the morning before you go to work!

IPL laser hair removal at home

​There are now many products available to enable you to do your own IPL treatments in the comfort of your own home. Most of the major manufacturers have started to produce these home use products including Philips, Remington, Braun and Gillette to name a few and though its early days the Philips and Braun units seem to be leading the way.

These units are not cheap as they cost anywhere between £300 and £500 so you need to weigh up if you think this is good value. If you calculate what you would spend over a period of time with salon or home treatments ​you will get to the conclusion that it might be a bit cheaper. A typical IPL device will do around 14,000 flashes which is expected to last 10 years so you are coming to a figure of £50 per year which seems reasonable.

We have found though that price is not really the driving factor with this type of treatment. People are more interested in how much time it saves them and how easy ​and convenient this method is. There are no combs, length adjustments or fiddly parts to these machines, they are literally plug and go.

We have reviewed some of these home use models and they are getting over 90% in the ratings so they come highly recommended by actual users​. You can read actual product reviews of the  Braun Silk-expert IPL or Philips Lumea IPL   , just click on the product name and it will take you straight to the review on Amazon.

IPL for different skin types​

table of skin types

There are varying opinions on how well IPL works for different types of hair and skin types. I can tell you for definite that it works on ALL hair and skin types, it just works better on some types than others. For instance, darker hair is much more easily removed with this type of treatment than blonde hair. It is also more likely for lighter skin to have a stronger reaction to the treatment than dark skin.

If you have extremely light hair and skin I would always advise users to get a salon treatment of this procedure to make sure it isn't too much for your skin before you go ahead and spend several hundred pounds on a home model​

IPL laser removal how many sessions​

​You will hear many claims on how many sessions it takes for IPL to work but really it is an ongoing process. A single treatment can be long or short depending on the size of the area but basically a small area is pretty quick to treat. You could, for instance, run over your bikini line or do under your arms in a session of a few minutes

Bikini line picture

These sessions need to be repeated around 6 or 8 times to kill the hair and this can vary a bit depending on hair types​ but generally it wont take any more than 8 treatments to remove any area of hair. You will then have to repeat the treatments periodically as hair will eventually come back. Most people see results after a few uses and be very pleased with what they see.

Different Hair Types

You will see it said that IPL works for all hair types and that is in essence true​. The real difference in how well it works is governed by the amount of Melanin that each hair colour contains. Dark hair has a very high concentration of Melanin so the treatment works really well. Fair hair has much less so less heat is produced and more sessions will be required. White hair contains none so IPL is totally ineffective in this case.

​Its really important that you know what type of hair you have as this can make your life a lot easier. There are 4 real characteristics of hair and once you identify what type you have you will be able to choose the correct products and the best way to style your hair

​1. Diameter. A reasonable guide to the width of hair is to pull a single strand of hair and lay it on a piece of plain paper. If the hair is hard to see or feel between your fingertips, then you have fine hair. If the hair looks thick and appears to be textured, then the hair is coarse. If your hair is somewhere in-between, then you have medium width.

​2. Density. Everybody has different levels of hair density. This is calculated by taking a one inch area on your head and counting the number of hairs. A phototrichogram is a close up photo of individual hair strands and this can be used too. Its important to know how dense your hair is for many reasons such as choice of style, choice of products and choice of hair dryer.

3. Porosity. Porosity is divided into low, medium and high categories and is obviously how porous each hair is. This affects how well your hair holds water and then how easy it is to dry. There is not much you can do about this but there are various products such as alkaline ones for low porosity and oil based products for high.

​4. Hair shape. Everybody has a different shape that their hair naturally grows in. Again there is not much you can do about this apart from getting a pair. It is good to watch how a professional hair dresser dries your hair and see if you can pick up any tips as this is the best way to learn

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  1. Hi Geoff,

    Thanks for sharing your post! Really informative. I particularly like your rational regarding pricing – it can seem an expensive outlay but when compared to the extensive razor blades or creams over the years it is defiantly worth it.

    Many people expect to see immediate results but 6 – 8 weeks is realistic for most treatment areas.

    Also, I like your section about the different types of hair (not just the colour of the hair).

    Keep posting 🙂


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