IPL (hair removal) is a non-invasive medical technology that utilises light at specific wavelengths to treat a number of common problems. An intense pulse of light is released from a handpiece into the skin targeting unwanted or excess hair, pigmented lesions, vascular lesions, acne or wrinkles (photo-rejuvenation). As the photons from the light hit the chromophores in the skin the light turns to heat, destroying the unwanted hair or lesions, all while leaving the healthy skin unscathed.
The marketing hype will tell you that with a few sessions of IPL hair removal – and some slight discomfort, you can be hair free forever. To anyone who has battled with unwanted facial or body hair this sounds like the perfect solution.
However, with the exceptions of Queensland, Tasmania and WA the laser industry is unregulated, and powerful medical lasers and IPLs are accessible to untrained and inexperienced personnel. Even in the states with some legislative controls, clinical application training isn’t covered.
How it works
Lasers and IPL (intense pulsed light) devices, (which are not technically lasers but work on a similar principal), can be used for hair reduction and skin treatments such as removing spider veins, improving skin tone and to remove tattoos.
Permanent hair reduction involves the use of either a single wavelength of light (laser) or a flash of light containing hundreds of wavelengths (IPL or broadband light BBL).
Melanin within the hair follicles is targeted, heating and damaging the follicles in an active growth cycle.
Only hairs that have colour can be treated, so white and grey hairs won’t respond.
Success of the treatment depends on your colouring, with laser generally working best on fair skin and dark hair.
Fairer skin and red hair will respond to a lesser degree and those with darker skin can be treated, but only with a great deal of care.
Light at different wavelengths penetrates the skin to different depths. If the area to be treated is deep or shallow you must use a different wavelength of light so that you can penetrate the skin to the correct depth. The broadband light spectrum graph illustrates this beautifully. It shows there are different wavelengths of light that have the best absorption for different conditions.