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Permanent hair removal: how to choose between laser and IPL

Permanent hair removal: how to choose between laser and IPL
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Maybe you are sick and tired of going to the beautician’s every month, year after year, and you’ve finally decided to go for a permanent hair removal solution! Sure, it is going to cost you a few hundred pounds, but it is a long term investment. So how do you choose between intense pulsed light (IPL) and laser therapy? Which is the most effective method?

This technique is most effective on pale skin with dark hair.

Intense pulsed light hair removal requires temperatures of up to 70°C, which are absorbed by the hairs and which destroys the hairs at the root. The flash converts into heat when it comes into contact with the skin.

This intense light has a wider spectrum than laser, which covers from 700 to 1200 nanometers, and it is less well able to isolate and target various coloured hairs.

What rules to you need to follow with IPL?

  • No fake tan or recent sun exposure
  • Shave before your appointment (do not wax)
  • For a few months, go for a session every month or two, depending on the time it takes for your hair to grow back.

Is it painful?

The first two or three sessions may be painful, because the temperature of the machine is gradually increased in order to remove stubborn hairs. After the third session, you should only experience light tingling.

What are the results like?

Results vary depending on the person and depending on the machine that is used.

If the client has pale skin and dark hairs, the number of sessions should be the same as for laser therapy. Allow for around seven to ten sessions to remove all the hairs from an area. Certain women with darker skin or fairer hairs may need over ten sessions, and may not necessarily succeed in getting rid of all the hairs.

The prices of IPL vary depending on the salon and the areas you choose to treat, varying between about £250 for the armpits and around £1,000 for the lower legs.

Laser hair removal: a precise medical technique

Dermatologists have been using laser hair removal techniques for the past twenty years or so. It is more effective than IPL for removing brown hair on pale or darker skin. 

The laser works on 3 wave lengths: 750 nanometers, 810 nanometers or 1 064 nanometers, in order to target black or darker skin.

These wavelengths target the skin’s particular pigment. This contrasts with IPL, in which the laser has only one wavelength and targets only one colour.

You need to follow the same rules as for IPL when you go for a session (see above).

Is it painful?

This depends on the areas you are having treated. The armpits are less sensitive than the bikini line or the legs, in which we feel more pain.

What are the results like?

You will need around ten sessions to remove 80% of the hairs over the course of 2 years. But in the majority of cases, 6 or 7 sessions is enough.

The price per session varies between therapists: between £50 and £150 per session for the armpits, and up to £200 a session for lower legs. You can also get package deals.

Contra-indications and unwanted side effects

What are the contra-indications?

There are certain contra-indications for IPL and laser hair removal:

  • taking light sensitive medications
  • going on sunbeds
  • tanning
  • tattoos on the treatment area

What are the side effects?

Because of its wider spectrum, the risk of burns is higher with IPL, but on the other hand, laser is more abrasive than IPL. This is why laser is generally carried out by dermatologists rather than beauticians.

Sometimes, people can experience pigment changes (changes in the colour of their skin). In general, the side effects are frequent enough that certain European countries have denounced the lack of regulation in terms of laser treatments for aesthetic purposes, as they are not always subjected to the same rigorous requirements as medical apparatuses.