Hair Removal laser

Here we answer a few of your burning hair removal questions, and with the help of the experts, hope to smooth out the tangled IPL vs. laser question.

 What is IPL?
IPL stands for intense pulsed light, and it is a form of light therapy, used for various dermatological procedures including hair removal.

So what’s the difference between IPL and laser hair removal technology?
Unlike laser treatments, which have just one specific wavelength emitted from the diode depending on what you’re targeting, IPL has multiple wavelengths (all between 500 and 1,200 nanometres) that scatter within the skin.

As with all light based treatments, IPL works by emitting a wavelength into the skin, which in the case of hair removal targets pigment. “It works in the same way black clothing absorbs heat on a hot day, versus white clothing which reflects it.,

Hair has to be living for it to work however, “in that, we mean it has to be attached to the bulb of growing cells – when you pull out a hair and it has that little jelly bulb around it, it’s one of the 20 to 40 per cent of living hair on you body. If you pull it out and it doesn’t, it’s a dead hair which can stay on your skin for up to three weeks. That’s why you need to have up to 12 treatments of hair removal laser to catch all hairs in their living cycle.”

How do IPL and laser hair removal work?
Unlike laser treatments, which emit a specific wavelength, IPL works like a flash-lamp, sending out scattered wavelengths of light, making IPL very targeted. That also means it affects the pigment in your skin too, so IPL only really works for those with fair skin and dark hair.

“It’s now generally accepted that IPL is a good workhorse for treating blood vessels, but not a very good one for hair removal. The truth is, it’s limited and quite uncomfortable,” says Dr Patrick Bowler, laser expert, and director of Courthouse Clinics. “The great thing about laser is that you can specifically set them up, adapting the nanometre of the wavelengths to target an exact pigment. For example we know that brown hair is zapped at 800 nanometres.”

So if laser is more effective, is it more painful?
Not at all. “Laser feels like being flicked with a hot elastic band, but it does vary from laser to laser. Most experts also agree that laser is considerably less painful than IPL “which uses hundreds of wavelengths in each pulse, which only serve to heat up the skin without having any effect on reducing the growth of the hair,” explain the experts at SK:N.

Most modern laser machines also come with a cooling fan to take the edge of the pain, while some lasers are virtually pain-free. You might get temporary redness and scaling however, but it will fade.

How do I prep for hair removal treatment?
You should always be offered a patch test by your clinic before any treatment. “And in each area you’re having treatment, as the skin and hair behaves differently in different areas,

Shaving, bleaching, trimming hair pre and in-between treatments is totally fine, “waxing and plucking however are not,” explains Thomas.

How many laser treatments will I need?
The going rate for laser is six to 12 treatments, but it varies hugely, “depending on the body area you’re treating, hormonal growth, lifestyle and medication can effect how many bookings you’ll need,” advises The Consultant. Keep bookings regular though as you will get better results.

“In general, treatments take between 15 to 90 minutes depending on the size of the area,” says Dr Ng.

Laser is used to reduce hair from any parts of the body. This treatments requires several sessions as only hair bearing hair roots will be attacked by the lasers. At any time, there will be hair roots that are sleeping and these roots will not be attacked by the laser. However after several sessions, the results will be permanent. Meaning to say that the reduction of the hair is a permanent effect, this is unlike IPL hair removal where in most cases the IPL energy is unable to kill the hair roots. IPL energy is less focused compared to laser energy and it can stun the hair root and retard the hair growth.

The process is tedious and each session may take 20-60 mins depending on the size of the area treated. Its slight painful and we generally use -30 degree cold air for anaethesia. But its generally a safe procedure.