The two most common light hair removal treatments are Intense Pulse Light (IPL) and Laser Hair Removal. They both stop the hair from growing by using heat energy to burn and severely damage the hair follicle at the root. The odor of burning hair often accompanies the treatment, and the skin can feel and look like it has mild sunburn after treatment. Since these treatments focus on the melanin in the hair follicle, they do not work well on white or very light colored hair. IPL can also be used to remove spider veins and tattoos and improve skin tone. |
A laser beam is intensely concentrated light that is tightly focused without diffusion. The light is laser-generated coherent, monochromatic light. This pin-point focus gives excellent results when aimed at a hair follicle. The laser can be fine-tuned to the patient’s individual hair and skin type for best results. The wavelength of light and pulse duration is adjusted to get the best results without damaging the surrounding area. Previously, a skin doctor would recommend laser hair removal for people with light skin and dark hair to get the best results, but today, new lasers can target dark hair on patients with dark skin.
IPL is broad-spectrum light that uses intense pulses of non-coherent light from a range of wavelengths that is applied to the hair follicle. It uses specific wavelengths to focus on various chromophores in the skin. The growth cycle of the hair is important for IPL hair removal because it affects and destroys only active follicles. Not all follicles are active at the same time. As inactive follicles become active, they can be removed. It may take eight to 10 treatments to remove most of the visible hair.
Skin specialist advice clearly states that some people should not use light treatments to remove hair. These may include:
• People who are sunburned • People who have moles or skin cancer • People who may get a seizure from flashing light • Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers because of the increased hormone levels • People using photo-sensitizing topical creams or medication
Advertisements may claim that these light hair removal treatments result in permanent hair removal. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the U.S, as well as regulating bodies in other countries, neither method may claim permanent hair removal. The hair may be gone for several weeks, months or years, but at some point the follicle may recover and weaker hair will begin to grow back in some areas. It is recommended to have regular removal treatments twice a year. In the long run, this will actually be less expensive than weekly shaving, plucking and waxing.
The Laser Advantages
Several of the advantages of laser hair removal over IPL hair removal are:
• Lasers use the exact wavelength in each pulse that is required to remove the hair while IPL uses hundreds of wavelengths in each pulse, which can heat the skin and not remove the hair • Laser pulses are short and use cooling techniques • Laser treatments are suitable for large areas • Laser treatments are customized for the patient’s hair and skin color, but IPL may burn darker skin tones.
Laser hair removal treatments may be the best choice for some people, but IPL was originally developed to treat other skin imperfections such as broken capillaries and age spots. Hair removal was a noted side effect. With this in mind, it may be better to use IPL for some conditions and laser for hair removal. In any case, the patient should consult a local dermatologist or clinic and possibly get a test patch before selecting the best method.
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