If you’re tired of daily shaving and hair removal methods that leave your skin feeling bumpy and rough, you might have considered trying IPL already. This at-home treatment is renowned for long-term, visible hair reduction – but what is IPL and how is it different from laser hair removal?
IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light. It works by concentrating a beam of light onto hair follicles, heating them up and stunting regrowth.
IPL isn’t to be confused with laser hair removal, though these two treatments both utilize light energy to achieve permanent hair reduction. The main differences of IPL vs laser hair removal are:
IPL is easy to do at home, whereas laser hair removal is best in the salon
IPL uses a diffused, broader beam of light that also flashes on the surrounding skin, whereas laser is most selective, targeting only the hair follicle. This means laser can be used on all tones of skin, whereas some IPL devices can usually only be used on fair to medium-brown tones.
IPL hair removal is usually cheaper and easy to do yourself
How does IPL work and what are the benefits?
IPL is a progressive treatment that offers full body hair removal - but you can use IPL to treat separate areas, such as your arms, legs, or bikini area, depending your individual needs. When using IPL, you’ll hold a flashgun device that delivers a spectrum of light to the skin. These rays of light target melanin, which helps it reach the hair root and disable key areas within the follicle.
Not quite convinced yet? See below for some of the main benefits of using IPL, compared to other hair removal methods:
You can undergo IPL hair removal in the comfort of your own home, applying these gentle flashes of light around your desired body areas after shaving.
IPL results in your hair becoming thinner and less noticeable, as it naturally sheds and regrows at a much slower pace.
With epilating or waxing, you’re advised not to shave for a few weeks before treatment, which can lead to stubbly body hair during that in-between period – not ideal if you want to hit the beach and try out that new swimsuit! You won’t have to worry about this with IPL, as you’re actually advised to shave before treatment. Shaving before your IPL hair removal treatment helps the light beam to focus in on the hair root.
When using IPL, you’ll need to shave less and less as your treatments go on. As the hair follicles will be empty, you’ll notice fewer ingrown hairs and less stubble ‘shadow’.
IPL treatment helps to smooth out the texture of your skin, whereas waxing or threading can cause inflammation
Not all IPL devices deliver the same results. You may have to undergo treatment for months with some IPLs, whereas the Braun Silk Expert Pro 5 takes just 4 weeks to achieve visible hair reduction, with smooth skin up to 6 months.
It’s been especially designed with a skin sensor to automatically detect the tone of your skin, so that it is always adapting the flash intensity, which is safer and removes hair more efficiently.
Does IPL hurt? Separating myth from reality
It’s a common assumption that IPL isn’t a pain-free method of hair removal, due to the fact it uses beams of light to heat up the hair follicle. The truth is that you’ll barely feel a thing when using Braun IPL devices, which benefit from a range of comfort modes, so you can safely and gently use it across your body. You might feel a light flick during flashes, but never anything close the pain you’d experience when waxing or threading.
Busting other myths about IPL hair removal
1) It won’t work on dark skin tones
When there is more melanin present in the skin, the IPL needs to adjust the intensity of light to avoid the beam from focusing on the skin, instead of the hair follicle. When IPL was new to the market, most devices were unsafe or ineffective for darker skin tones, as there wasn’t yet technology available that could adapt the IPL intensity to a person’s skin tone. Nowadays, there are IPL devices that can automatically adapt the light intensity to match your skin pigmentation, whether you have fair, olive, or dark skin – though it’s important to read the label carefully, to ensure you’re buying the best IPL for you.
2) IPL hair removal isn't permanent
While IPL doesn’t get rid of every follicle of hair on your body at the same time, it can progressively deliver permanent hair reduction. As hair grows in stages, not all follicles will be ‘full’ with hair when you undergo an IPL treatment. Since only hairs in their growing phase are susceptible to treatment with light, it is important to do multiple IPL treatments to achieve long-lasting, continuously smooth skin.
3) IPL devices are expensive and require maintenance
Using IPL at home means you can remove hair across multiple body areas and only spend on one treatment. While multiple trips to the salon can add up and become expensive, you can save money in the long run by using the Braun Silk-expert Pro. There’s no need to buy replacement lamps or lotions to use with the device – and best of all, its average lifespan is 15 years, which means you’ll be saving more and more as time passes.
4) You cannot IPL in summer
It’s perfectly safe to IPL during the summer months, though you should take extra care to wear sunscreen of at least 30 SPF to avoid burning. If your skin has become darker and tanned from the sun, your Silk-expert Pro IPL can detect this and adjust the light intensity accordingly.
Can IPL be safely used around sensitive areas?
It’s important to note that some areas of the body may be more sensitive than others and require a gentler form of hair removal: such as the bikini line. The Silk-expert Pro has been designed with a range of comfort modes, including an extra gentle setting especially designed for treating sensitive areas, which will help to reduce the chance of ingrown pubic hairs.
That being said, you should avoid using your IPL on extra-sensitive areas such as the genitals, nipples, or anus, as this could cause inflammation.
Using your IPL Safely: Before and After Treatment
Before your treatment
Avoid tanning booths, sunbeds, spray tans and tanning creams
Ensure there are no open wounds, broken skin, or enflamed areas on the skin you’re planning to treat
Avoid intense exfoliation treatments, such as microdermabrasion, as this increases the risk of inflammation and side effects after your IPL hair removal
Shave the area you’re planning to treat 12 to 24 hours beforehand
After your treatment
Don’t wear tight-fitting clothes after treatment, this can irritate your skin
Don’t use skin products that may irritate your skin, such as perfume, cleansers or exfoliators, for 24 – 48 hours after treatment.
Avoid hot showers, steam rooms and saunas
Wear sunscreen with a high SPF to keep the skin protected
How to Use IPL for the Best Results and Hassle-Free Hair Removal
1) Prepare for IPL
Carefully shave all hair in the area you wish to treat
Pat yourself dry
Plug in your Silk-expert IPL
Apply the IPL nozzle in full contact with the skin
For larger body areas, such as the legs, switch to Gliding mode, holding down the button and moving the IPL slowly along the skin.
For smaller areas, such as the armpits, switch to Stamp Mode, which will deliver a more precise treatment.
For sensitive areas, such as the bikini line, or if it’s your first time using an IPL, use the Gentle mode.
Wipe the nozzle clean after each use.
You can undergo another treatment in one week, for a period of up to 12 weeks. Then simply adjust to your needs, as hair visibly reduces.
Apply moisturiser at morning and night to keep the skin hydrated