All about Intense Pulse Light (IPL) Hair Removal Machines – Find & Learn facts, advantage, disadvantages, what skin tones & hair colors are best used with this device
What Is An IPL Device ?
Intense Pulse Light (IPL) is a treatment where a broad spectrum of light is applied to the skin (similar to laser energy) often used for the cosmetic treatment of many vascular lesions, unwanted hair, and pigmented lesions.
Intense pulsed light (IPL) devices are non-laser high intensity light sources which use a high-output flash lamp to produce a broad wavelength output of non-coherent light, usually in the 500 to 1200nm wavelength range.
The light pulses generated by most modern IPL devices are produced by bursts of electrical current passing through a xenon gas-filled chamber. The lamp output is then directed toward the distal end of the hand piece, which in turn, releases the energy pulse onto the surface of the skin via a sapphire or quartz block.
Individual professional IPL hair removal systems use different cooling systems, such as a cryogen spray, contact cooling, or forced refrigerated air, to protect the the skin surface in contact with the conduction crystal of the hand piece.
Some of the more widespread professional IPL machines are EpiLight, Quantum, PhotoDerm, Vasculight and Aculight.
Until only a few years ago, you could only get laser hair removal done if you went to an approved clinic and if the laser treatment was carried out by a trained personnel
Since 2006, the FDA (the organisation responsible for public safety) has approved a small number of home laser / IPL kits so that they can be sold directly to the consumer as permanent hair reduction tools. These devices contain certain safety features that prevent the user from doing unsafe things that may cause physical harm.
Home Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) hair removal devices are becoming more and more popular among customers due to cost savings (as compared with professional laser hair removal or electrolysis) and convenience factors.
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How Do IPL Devices Work?
IPL machines are powered using a xenon flash lamp. Xenon, which produces a wide spectrum of light energy when excited with electricity.
Repeated bursts of a broad wavelength of non coherent high intensive light energy are fired into the skin from the high output energy lamp on the IPL device.
Different filters can be used to filter out lower wavelengths depending on the treatment performed.
For hair removal IPL devices, The filters on the IPL device are used to ensure that the burst of high intensive light energy pulses generated can be precisely targeted to reach the intended melanin deposits in the roots of the hair shafts under the skin as accurately as lasers while leaving the epidermal melanin aggregates untouched.
A Xenon flash lamp produces a wavelength from 400nm to 1200nm. For hair removal treatments the light is filtered generally at the lower end. A 530nm filter would reduce the wavelength from 400-1200nm to 530-1200nm. Lower wavelengths penetrate lower and higher wavelengths penetrate more deeply into the skin.
It is the wavelength the machine outputs that determines which type of skin and hair type and color the machine is best suited to. IPL’s being multiple wavelength devices can treat the widest range of skin and hair types.
The output wavelength of each IPL device is measured in nanometers (nm). The nanometers dictate the energy penetration characteristics of the IPL device and therefore it’s overall effectiveness for different skin and hair profiles: being the colour of the skin and hair and the thickness of the hair.
The melanin pigment deposits inside the hair shafts absorbs the light energy, transforming it into thermal energy which heats up the hair follicles of any growing hair, destroying the cells which cause hair growth in selected areas of the body. The damage to the hair follicles eventually leads to a reduction in hair growth over time.
All home IPL devices, work on the same principle as that of commercial IPL hair removal machines that you find in professional hair removal clinics. The only difference is that the home user IPL machines uses a safer dosage of intense pulse of energy (approved specifically for home use).
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Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Vs Laser
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) machines are commonly mistaken as a form of laser hair removal system. While not an actual laser, it does function in a similar way to lasers by creating a burst of light which damages hair follicles in much the same way.
That being said, IPL machines are unique and quite different from laser machines, because IPL devices deliver a wide spectrum of wavelengths than those of laser machines which are confined to a narrow spectrum of light.
Some of the characteristics of Intense Pulsed Light as are follows:
- Polychromatic: is a combination of many different wavelength (colours) and only a small percentage of wavelengths are effective in the treatment of hair reduction.
- Non-coherent: Wavelengths are not organised and travel in different directions.
- Non-collimated: is not parallel or focused. The further you go away from the skin the less energy.
This ability to produce a wide spectrum of wavelengths makes IPL hair removal machines suitable for all skin types and hair colors and for treatment of a range of skin issues.
IPL uses filters so there is minimal damage to the skin while the optimum wavelengths for the patient are being delivered.
IPL hair removal machines are also more widely available than laser hair removal machines, and tends to be the more popular treatment. It does, however, require a greater understanding and level of expertise when administering the treatment to suitably adjust it to the patient’s needs.
Who Can Use IPL Hair Removal Devices?
IPL devices are usually gender neutral, so it does not really matter whether you are male or female… you can still use the device whether you are male or female, to permanently get rid of hair anywhere on your body.
What is important is your hair color and the tone of your skin.
Do however note that in some instance the hair on men might be more resilient (like chest hair) so more sessions are likely to be required.
IPL hair removal device tend to work best if you have dark hair and light to medium skin tones. This is due to the high contrast required between the melanin pigment in the hair color and the pigment in the skin tone.
The higher the contrast, the less likely it is for the light energy targeted at the hair shaft to damage the surrounding skin tissue
Most IPL hair removal devices are only approved to work on skin types that fit between Type 1 – Type IV on the scale.
Home IPL hair removal are not suitable for skin types V or VI on the Fitzpatrick scale. Professional IPL hair removal is the only option for people with these skin types
You can use the chart below to determine your Fitzpatrick number:-
IPL devices (whether done professionally or at home) only works on hairs that contain melanin. White, blonde and grey hairs don’t contain enough melanin for the laser to target and therefore the treatment is ineffective.
If you have light hair with low melanin levels, then home IPL hair removal devices as a whole will not work for you and you may want to consider electrolysis as an alternative.
If you have had recent exposure to sunlight and are tanned as a result then it’s highly recommended that you don’t use a home IPL hair removal device. This is because the home IPL hair removal devices are built to work safely with light skin tones (fitzpatrick scale I-IV types)
It is also worth noting that you should try to avoid too much giving the treatment area direct exposure to sunlight in the 24-48 hours following a treatment?
Benefits Of Using IPL Hair Removal Devices?
One attractive feature of IPL devices is the fact that IPL devices can be used to treat various skin problems with the same device by applying different filters.
IPL devices are very versatile as the devices emit a wide spectrum of light energy which are customized by using filters to target or filter out specific wavelengths of light energy.
Apart from the wavelength, a wide range of other treatment parameters including pulse duration, pulse sequences, and pulse delay time may be customized on most IPL devices, affording users greater versatility and precision.
Another well-recognized advantage of IPL devices is the relatively large footprint of the treatment window of the device and their resulting treatment speed, allowing one to limit the total number of pulses per treatment to a minimum and affording a swift treatment of large anatomical areas.back to menu ↑
Advantages of IPL Devices:
- IPL is cheaper than other forms of laser hair removal.
- IPL is effective on all skin types and hair colors (with the exception of hair with no pigment).
- IPL is safe and poses less risk of damage to the surrounding skin tissue than laser
- IPL efficiently covers larger areas of skin
- IPL is more flexible than laser as there is no set wavelength. It can therefore be adapted to the client’s needs.
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Disadvantages of IPL Devices:
- Some people experience mild pain and discomfort in response to IPL treatment
- Results may be less effective on individuals with white, blonde or red hair
- Skin discoloration can occur, resulting in patches of dark or light colored skin
- The system cannot be used on skin that has recently been exposed to the sun
- At present, there are no long-term studies documenting the effectiveness or safety of IPL.