Will IPL and laser hair removal work for me?

Written by Angela, 2nd August 2021

IPL and laser are really effective treatments for the long term removal or reduction of unwanted hair. In order for you to get the best result from the treatment it is important to understand the factors that affect the efficacy of the treatment.

Too many times we hear that friends and family have undergone expensive IPL or laser hair removal treatments, only to find that the results were not worth the investment. This is such a pity because when used correctly IPL and laser are life-changing treatments for many people. Freeing yourself from unwanted hair, and the laborious routine of daily shaving, is a real game-changer for many.

To understand why IPL and laser hair removal works well for some people, and less well for others you need to know how it works.

How IPL or laser works

IPL and laser are ‘light-based’ treatments; the light targets chromophores, heats them up to a high enough temperature to destroy them.

Without going deeply into chemistry, chromophores are coloured compounds and in the case of hairs the chromophores are melanin. Melanin is the coloured substance which gives hair its colour.

The light energy generated by the IPL or laser equipment is administered to the skin by a hand piece to apply the light where it is needed. There are many IPL and laser units on the market, some are much better than others. At Sensoria we are lucky enough to have a Lynton machine, which is the only IPL machine in the NHS supply chain, chosen for its safety and effectiveness.

The type of machine used will have a large impact on how well IPL or laser will work for you.

A thorough IPL or laser consultation is needed

Before any IPL or laser treatment you should complete a thorough consultation to find out if the treatment will be safe and effective for you. Everyone is different and the consultation will establish if the treatment is right for you.

The IPL or laser consultation will include questions about how your skin reacts in light, if you have any health issues or are on any medication; all of which may affect treatment results.

The consultation is also an opportunity to manage exceptions about the results, how long the treatments will take and the cost.

At the end of the consultation a photograph of the area to be treated will be taken so that we can assess how well the treatment plan is progressing.

Does my skin colour affect the effectiveness of IPL or laser?

It certainly does. Generally, the paler your skin is, the more effective the treatment will be. As we discussed earlier, these light-based treatments target chromophores which are coloured compounds. The light is not intelligent and will target any chromophore, whether it is colour in your hair or colour in your skin.

If you have Fitzpatrick skin type four and above there is the risk of hypopigmentation (or colour loss) which is not a desirable side effect.

Look at the colour on the palm of your hand. The closer your skin colour in the area to be treated matches the colour of the skin on the palm of your hand, usually the better the result is likely to be.

Does my hair colour affect the effectiveness of IPL or laser?

Hair colour will also greatly determine how effective IPL or laser is going to be. Usually, the darker your hair the more effective it will be because the light has more chromophores to heat up and destroy the hair.

Black or dark brown hair will always be easier to remove with IPL or laser than lighter brown hair. Blonde, grey or red haired individuals usually have a much poorer hair removal outcome with IPL or laser.

My hair is dark but my skin burns easily in sunlight, so am I ok to have IPL or laser?

Strangely enough, this is the perfect combination for an effective IPL or laser treatment. This is because skin that burns easily in sunlight doesn’t have enough melanin and so will not ‘distract’ the light-based treatment. The light will be focused on the melanin in the dark hair and give the best treatment outcome.

Top tips for getting the best out of your IPL or laser hair removal treatment.

Here are our top tips before your treatment to help you get the best from your IPL or laser hair removal investment:

  1. Keep your skin protected from the sun
  2. Stop using any self-tan products
  3. Shave the hair close to the skins surface
  4. Ensure you are suitable for treatment

Keep your skin protected from the sun

For at least four weeks prior to your patch test and treatment, keep your skin protected from the sun.

In most cases this is fairly easy to do, even during the summer months. Apply a high factor sunscreen liberally and frequently and use clothing such as t-shirts, hats and sunglasses to keep the skin from tanning where you will be having the treatment.

As we mentioned above, the paler your skin is and the closer it resembles the colour of the skin on the palm of your hand, the better the treatment outcome will be.

If you have built up a tan then in most cases treatment will not be able to take place until the skin colour has returned to normal.

Answer the consultation questions about skin colour and sun exposure truthfully to avoid unnecessary burns or ineffective treatment.

Treatment will not be able to take place if you attend your appointment with a tan.

Stop using any self-tan products

For at least two weeks before treatment stop using any fake tan or self tan products. This gives adequate time for your skin to return to its normal colour ready for treatment. Your skin needs to be as pale as possible for the same reasons as for a natural tan.

Shave your hair close to the skins surface.

On the day of your treatment shave your hair so that the hairs are flush to the skins surface.

There are two reasons for this. The first is, the further the light energy has to travel down the length of the hair the weaker it becomes and the less effective the treatment will be.

Secondly, and most importantly, the hair is heated to a high temperature by the light energy and hair heated to this temperature above the skins surface can cause surface burning of the skin.

IPL or laser skin burns are not pleasant and in some cases can leave permanent scarring.

Ensure you are suitable for treatment

Answer all questions at your consultation truthfully. Disclose information about your health, any medication or supplements you are taking. Share with your practitioner when your last sun exposure took place and be realistic about your skin and hair colour. This is not only for an effective, but also for a safe treatment.

A suggested IPL or laser treatment plan

Before any treatment can take place a patch test needs to be carried out.

Unlike most patch tests, which are usually carried out to see if you may be allergic or sensitive to a product, the IPL or laser patch test is used for completely different reasons.

A patch test is needed to set the correct parameters on the IPL or laser equipment to ensure the the treatments will be both safe and effective.

It is also used to see how your skin will react to the light energy.

A small patch of hair, about the size of the tip of your finger, will be shaved and the light-based treatment applied. The machine settings will be gradually adjusted until an ‘end point’ of a hair burn smell is achieved.

A record will be made of the settings so that following treatments are carried out safely and effectively.

One week after the patch test your first treatment can take place. Thereafter, treatments can take place every four to six weeks depending on the area of your body that you are having the hair removed from.

The number of treatments required will vary from person to person. A general rule of thumb is that thick, darker hair on pale skin will require less sessions than paler, finer hair on darker skin.

At Sensoria, our best successes have been on dark underarm and bikini line hair removal with complete removal in sometimes as little as three sessions. Leg, arm, chest and back hair is also usually very successfully treated as is thick, dark facial hair. Hairs on fingers, hands, feet and toes can also be very successfully treated at Sensoria with the Lynton unit.

How much does IPL or laser cost in the UK

This very much depends on where you go, which equipment is used and how skilled the practitioners are.

Purchasing, running and maintaining quality IPL or laser equipment is not cheap. Add onto this good, and ongoing, practitioner training as well as proper insurance and the running costs start to mount up. This will be reflected in the price of the treatments.

When pricing up IPL or laser treatments ensure that you are comparing ‘like with like’ in terms of equipment, practitioners and treatment pattern.

You may need double the quantity of cheap treatments that take 20 minutes if there is not enough time to treat the skin and hair fully, than more costly 40 minute treatments where every centimetre of the skin and hair is covered. Because of this, sometimes more expensive treatments can be cheaper in the long run as you will need less of them.

Most clinics offer a discount on block bookings of IPL or laser hair removal. We offer a discount of 10% on a course of 6 IPL/laser hair removal treatments.

Do your homework to find the best IPL or laser treatments in Cheshire

Here are our top tips on how to find the safest and most effective IPL or laser treatments.

  1. Check which type of equipment they use and find out what the reviews are like for those machines. The strength and effectiveness of different machines vary a lot. Lynton are renowned for both their safety and effectiveness and we wouldn’t use anything else.
  2. Check how long the clinic have been carrying out hair removal treatments. It takes skill and experience to administer hair removal treatments effectively. At Sensoria we have been carrying out safe and effective hair removal for many years.
  3. See how effective the patch test is at removing hair. You should see some reduction or removal in growth even in the small patch test.
  4. How long do the treatments take. If the treatments are fast they may not be covering the area to be treated fully. At Sensoria we treat every section thoroughly and methodically to make sure every centimetre is covered fully.
  5. Question the practitioner about preparation and aftercare. Your practitioner should be knowledgeable and confident with their answers. All our practitioners at Sensoria are fully trained by Lynton.
  6. Find out if the clinic offers other hair removal treatments. This is important as waxing, threading or electrolysis may be more suitable for you than IPL or laser. If a clinic only offers IPL or laser you may be recommended this when another type of hair removal may be more suited to you and your needs.

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Originally published August 2, 2021 11:14am, updated January 15, 2024

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