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Can IPL really get rid of unwanted hair?
Skin Institute
March 30, 2017

Hair removal can be a time-consuming daily routine for a lot of people. While traditional approaches such as shaving, epilating, tweezing and waxing can be effective in removing hair, they’re only temporary and have drawbacks such as skin irritation, razor burn and ingrown hairs.

More permanent hair reduction treatments, like IPL, can help achieve reduced hair growth resulting in smooth skin for summer.  Winter is the best time to start your IPL hair reduction treatments, as it usually takes five to eight treatments to get the optimal result.

To explain about the IPL hair reduction treatment and its benefits we sat down with Suzy Aitken, our Queenstown Clinic Manager and Appearance Medicine nurse.

What is IPL?

IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light.  Pulses of non-invasive light safely penetrate the skin and are selectively absorbed by the pigment in the hair follicles. This heats the growing cells in the hair follicles, damaging them and preventing further growth without harming the skin.

What are the benefits of IPL over other hair reduction techniques?

  • Treatment is quick – a single area session can last anywhere between 15 – 60 minutes depending on the area and hair type. For example, an upper lip will take 15 minutes while legs take up to 60 minutes.
  • Eliminate and prevent ingrown hairs – IPL hair reduction treatments can help prevent ingrown hairs, as once the hair follicle is destroyed, there is no growing hair left to create the problem. It is also a great option for those who experience skin irritation from shaving or waxing.
  • Save time – although each occasion of shaving takes less time than an IPL treatment, once your course of treatment is complete, you will no longer need to shave regularly. Even over just one year – let alone the rest of your life – think of the time you could save.
  • No need to grow hair between treatments – unlike other hair removal methods like waxing, where you must let hair grow between treatments, you can still shave in-between your first few IPL treatments if you need. Once you’ve had two or three IPL treatments you’ll most likely notice less hair in the treatment area.
  • Hair-free, carefree holidays – no need to worry about the razor on holiday, you can relax and know you look good with no unwanted hair. Make sure you have your IPL hair reduction treatment well in advance of exposing your skin to the sun, as you could risk side effects exposing freshly treated skin to UV rays.
  • Improve your body image – if you have avoided wearing a bikini or even short sleeve shirts because you are worried about unsightly body hair, IPL can help by providing you with the confidence to show off your legs, arms, and the rest of your body.

What are the most common areas to treat?

The areas we most commonly treat are the face, underarms, bikini line and legs.  However, any areas of your body can be treated, if you are a candidate for IPL (see below).

How many sessions will I need?

Everybody has a different hair growth cycle. All hair growth has three phases – anagen (growing), catagen (transition), and telogen (resting). Hair follicles cycle through these three phases, taking anywhere from 4 – 12 weeks depending on the area of the body.

Hair can only be successfully treated in the growing or anagen phase, so multiple treatments are needed to catch hairs as they enter their growth phase.

We advise clients to plan on a year of treatments – likely five to eight sessions. After two to three treatments, clients normally notice a significant reduction in hair, as well as an overall slower hair growth pattern.

How long do I have to wait in between each IPL session?

Treatments are usually spaced four to six weeks apart.

How do I know if I am a candidate for IPL hair reduction?

IPL hair reduction results vary from person to person.  Clients with light coloured skin and dark thick hair are the best candidates. IPL hair reduction treatments aren’t effective on grey, blonde or white coloured hair.

If you’ve never had IPL or been to Skin Institute before, please book a 45-minute consultation  with one of our experienced Appearance Medicine nurses to discuss your concerns and desires.  You’ll receive expert recommendations, individualised for you and your needs, budget and lifestyle.

Are treatments painful?

Most people describe the treatment as a flick of a rubber band and you’ll feel a warm sensation for a short time after. Most clients tolerate it well. If sensitive, we recommend taking Paracetamol 30 minutes before treatment may help with any discomfort.

Are there different types of IPL equipment?  Are they all safe?

All IPL equipment is not the same. At Skin Institute, as a team of doctors and nurses we use medical-grade IPL machines. These are capable of stronger, more effective treatments and are serviced regularly. This is important as a faulty machine could potentially pose a risk to patients. It’s not only the equipment you should be discerning about; the practitioner treating you is just as important. Our doctor-led Appearance Medicine team are highly trained in caring for all aspects of their patients during hair removal.

Are there any possible side effects to be aware of?

For naturally darker skinned or tanned clients, there’s a risk, albeit very low, of blistering, a change in skin pigmentation and scarring.  Extremely rarely, a ‘paradoxical’ increase in hair growth is seen beside the treatment area, with darker skins receiving low strength treatments more at risk for this unusual effect. These side effects are rare but can happen. That’s why it’s important to be treated by an experienced practitioner with a medical-grade IPL machine. It’s also super important to avoid the sun throughout your IPL treatment course, to reduce the risk of unwanted effects. Generally, IPL hair reduction is very safe and effective.

If you think IPL hair reduction could be for you, book now to help you achieve beautifully smooth skin in time for summer.

IPL treatments are not offered at all Skin Institute clinics.  Visit skininstitute.co.nz/ipltreatment for more information.