IPL and Laser Hair Removal – FAQs

How does IPL work?

Check out our main IPL Hair removal page for a detailed overview of how it works or put your feet up and watch this short video from the Philips Lumea (see latest prices of the Lumea range and what we consider to be the UK’s other best home IPL hair removal systems here).

Does Laser Hair Removal Work?

This is a very common question and as you’ve probably already discovered, IPL and laser treatment (whether you are going down the salon route or buying something like the Tria 4x Laser Hair Removal device to use at home) is not the cheapest method of hair removal in the world. It’s therefore only natural that you’ll want to know if the claims of permanent hair removal are true before spending the money.  The answer is not that straightforward so check out our blog post that tries to answer the all-important question “Does laser hair removal work?

Is the IPL hair removal method safe for me to use?

This seems like a long answer to a simple question but we want to make sure you are completely reassured that IPL treatment has been officially proven to be perfectly safe if used responsibly.  However, it’s important to understand that it’s not right for everyone as IPL treatment is not effective for people with red, grey or light blonde hair and should not be used at all if you have black skin as it can actually cause skin damage.

Light-based hair removal technology has been systematically tested for safety and any side-effects for over 15 years and has passed with flying colours.

Assuming your skin and hair colour does not fall into the categories listed above then the IPL method should give you great results.  You will however need to adjust the light’s intensity dependent on your skin and hair colour.  In order to allow you to match as closely as possible to your personal requirements the IPL devices will come with different intensity settings (typically around 4 or 5).

A colour chart is provided so working out your specific setting is easy but many of the IPL devices on the market these days come with a built in skin sensor that automatically picks the right intensity for you.  You’ll be able to see the ones that have this capability on our page that compares the best IPL systems.

Does IPL Hair Removal Hurt?

It shouldn’t hurt or be uncomfortable if you use the skin / hair colour guide (or inbuilt automatic sensor) to select the suitable light intensity setting for you.  Some people describe the sensation of their IPL treatment (and Laser hair removal treatments) as like an elastic band being gently flicked against the skin and others as very faint pinpricks…which sounds a lot less painful than waxing to me.

However, everybody is different and will have varying levels of sensitivity (and if you search online you will quickly find comments from people saying it was painful for them).  We suggest if you are worried then on your first treatment try setting the device at a slightly lower intensity and gradually building up to the one recommended for you skin and hair tones. The IPL systems that auto-set the intensity can still be over-ridden and turned down if required.

You should not use an IPL if you are hot and sweaty or on areas covered in moisturising cream as this can make it less effective and possibly more uncomfortable.  Some people also described it being a bit sore putting deodorant on immediately after treating their armpits so that might be something to avoid too.  You might find this article from Women’s Health interesting which relates the experiences of 6 women who tried laser hair removal.

Who can use IPL – is it just for women?

No, it is suitable for anyone who has unwanted hair and many thousands of men have chosen IPL to remove their body hair too. It is also extremely popular for the transgender men market where permanent hair removal is obviously a key part of the transition process.
So, can I use IPL anywhere on my body?

IPL can be used to remove hair anywhere below your cheekbones as pointing the light around your eyes could potentially damage your vision (You can buy IPL safety glasses if you have concerns) but the rest of your body is pretty much fair game.  IPL users find it an effective way of removing hair on the face, arms and armpits, chest and abdomen, back, legs and the bikini area without any ill effects.  Many of the IPL devices on the market these days come with smaller treatment head attachments that can be clipped on for treating around your face, bikini line or other sensitive areas.

Can I stop shaving my unwanted hair if I’m using my IPL device?

No, you should shave before using an IPL for the first time and between all subsequent sessions.  This may seem strange as you want to kill the hair but shaving allows the light energy to effectively reach the skin and penetrate down to the hair bulb / root.  If that was not reason enough, the heat generated by the intense light can singe the hairs, (and we all know how bad singed hair smells), as well as damaging the product itself if not cleaned off.

How often should I use my IPL Hair Removal at home?

The instruction manuals for all devices will give clear instruction as to how long to leave between IPL hair removal treatments.  As a general rule, when starting off with IPL for the first time, take it slowly for 3 or 4 sessions by leaving a 2 week gap between each treatment on underarms and bikini areas and around 4 weeks on your legs (as these hairs have different growth cycles).  Don’t leave it longer than that between sessions as the hair will recover and start growing back in earnest.  However, after the 4th session you can get more aggressive and use the IPL product whenever you see any hair growing back through until it stops altogether.

What happens if you use IPL too often?

Don’t get too carried away as, unlike most things in life, more is not better here.  Exceeding the recommended treatment won’t speed up hair loss, in fact it will probably reduce your chances of seeing a successful outcome.  As mentioned in the question above, the aim is to time the period between your treatments with your hairs natural growth cycle – allowing you to destroy the hair follicles which then stops the hair growing back.

Excessive treatments probably won’t do you any harm apart from possibly leading to irritated skin.  Every IPL and laser hair removal system is slightly different and you should read their instructions which will typically give you all the advice you need.

I’m not very patient – how long will IPL take to work?

This depends on your skin and hair type, the parts of the body being treated, shaving and correctly using your IPL during sessions etc.  Typically you should expect to see significant results after a month or so / a couple of sessions.  This may seem a long time but remember, this is going to end years of shaving, waxing, plucking or covering up with clothes so think of it as an investment in time.  It’s also another great reason to buy an IPL to use in the comfort of your own home as sessions in a professional clinic can soon add up to many hundreds.

Don’t panic if hair seems to be growing up to two weeks after your last treatment as this is perfectly normal. At the two-week mark you will notice that the hairs are falling out. Tug gently on these hairs to help it fall out if you want to give it a helping hand (tug gently does not mean pull hard) or leave it and it should fall out naturally. If certain hairs do not seem to be dying off then they may be stubborn and need to be targeted with extra sessions.  Again results will also depend on which of the many IPL systems out there you decide to buy.

In terms of how long treatment sessions should take, once you have got the hang of it it should typically only take 1 minute to treat your face, less than 5 minutes for the bikini area and maybe 15 minutes for a whole leg.

Is Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) the same as Laser Treatment?

No, though the look of the devices and method of treatment look pretty much identical – the difference is in the actual way they work.  Whilst the laser method fires a single beam of light at a specific wavelength, the IPL method flashes light of a wider range of wavelengths that penetrate the skin at different depths.  The advantage of the IPL method is that as the heads on the IPL device are emitting light up to six times the size of the single laser light the treatments are typically much faster – though laser devices like the Tria X4 Hair Removal Laser are probably just as quick and in the long-term will tend to provide more permanent hair loss.

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