What’s Up With IPL Hair Removal Devices? (2024)

If you’ve scrolled through BeautyTok recently, there’s a strong possibility you’ve come across anenthusiastic review of an at-home IPL hair removal device. The main claims: These handheld gadgets can zap away unwanted hair and it won’t grow back right away—or maybe ever. We haven’t vetted every single one of those videos, but research suggests these TikTokers might be onto something.

IPL, or intense pulsed light, is a broad wavelength of light. That means an IPL device releases multiple types of light—red, yellow, green, and infrared—that together can target different elements of the skin, including melanin (the pigment that gives skin and hair a particular color) and hemoglobin (a protein in blood cells that can contribute to skin redness—or lack thereof). 1 Because of that, IPL can have an effect on blood vessels, dark spots, and hair follicles.2 “IPL hair removal works by targeting the pigment in the hair follicle, heating it, and ultimately destroying the follicle,”Aanand Geria,MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Verona, New Jersey, tells SELF. 3

You can get IPL hair removal as an in-office treatment, during which a dermatologist, nurse, or certified laser technician moves a large handheld device along the skin. You can also do it yourself in the comfort of your own bathroom using those smaller devices that may have popped up on your social media pages.

You’re free to do whatever you please with your own body hair, of course, but if you’re looking for smooth skin from a hair-removal method that’s longer-lasting than others you might’ve tried (likewaxing orshaving), IPL hair removal could be for you. Keep scrolling to learn more about the potential benefits and risks of IPL hair removal (it's not for everyone!), how it compares to laser hair removal, and how to prep your skin for IPL treatment.

IPL vs. laser hair removal|IPL hair removal results|IPL hair removal side effects|IPL treatment prep|The bottom line

What’s the difference between IPL and laser hair removal?

Both IPL andlaser hair removal rely on light to damage hair follicles, as SELF previously reported. Professional-grade laser and IPL devices also typically have built-in cooling systems to decrease the risk of burning and relieve pain. The main difference is that laser treatment uses a specific wavelength of light meant to solely target melanin, whereas IPL is a broadband of light with multiple wavelengths and endpoint targets (again, that light reaches both melanin and hemoglobin, which is why IPL can also treat some forms of hyperpigmentation likemelasma and birthmarks, as well as spider veins).2 Laser hair removal also tends to be slightly more expensive: about $300 to $400 per in-office session, according to theAmerican Society of Plastic Surgeons. IPL hair removal may cost between $150 (for afacial hair removal session) and $300 (for body hair removal), but the price depends on the size of the treatment area.

IPL may require more sessions, however—expect to book four to six 20-minute appointments every three to six weeks to complete the IPL treatment cycle. To compare, laser hair removal might only involve two to six sessions every four to six weeks to see results, per theAmerican Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Neither treatment ispermanent permanent, but the results for both IPL and laser hair removal can last for months, and both devices are FDA-approved for reducing the amount of hair regrowth over time.4

The IPL treatment might save you some discomfort compared to laser, though.5 With IPL, your practitioner will typically apply a cold gel to the area before the treatment to offset the heat radiating from the IPL device. With laser hair removal, people who have sensitive skin and are only targeting smaller areas (like the underarms) might receive a numbing gel beforehand, but pain-wise, that might not offset the intensity of the laser.(On that note, for the safest laser treatment, you should always visit a board-certified dermatologist who is experienced in working with these devices, as recommended by theAAD.)

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What are the potential benefits of IPL hair removal?

Research suggests that in-office IPL treatments can reduce hair growth by up to 77% in just one month.6Professional IPL devices are more powerful than their at-home counterparts because they emit more light energy, Dr. Geria says. However, IPL hair removal devices designed for home use can also deliver promising results: One 2019 study found that users had an 80% reduction in hair growth (specifically on the legs, armpits, andbikini area) more than a year after they stopped using an at-home device.7And another small study published in theJournal of the American Academy of Dermatologyshowed that participants experienced a 78% reduction in hair growth in just four weeks of using a home device.8

What’s Up With IPL Hair Removal Devices? (2024)

FAQs

What’s Up With IPL Hair Removal Devices? ›

Research suggests that in-office IPL treatments can reduce hair growth by up to 77% in just one month. Professional IPL devices are more powerful than their at-home counterparts because they emit more light energy, Dr.

Do IPL devices actually work? ›

IPL treatments, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Aesthetic Dermatology, show that people get 83.3% less hair growth after one month and 78.1% less after three months. Results can last for years or even permanently. This makes IPL an excellent choice for those who want to enjoy long-lasting smoothness.

What are the downsides of IPL? ›

Additionally, IPL therapy may not be as effective against deep wrinkles or severe sun damage, necessitating multiple treatments for optimal results. Some patients have also reported temporary redness, itching, and swelling post-treatment, although these side effects typically subside within a few days.

Does IPL really remove hair permanently? ›

IPL manufacturers are not allowed by law to claim that hair removal is permanent. Studies have shown that areas of the skin targeted by the IPL procedure experience temporary removal of hair but not total or permanent elimination. IPL only acts on active hair while it is in the Anagen phase of growth.

What is the science behind IPL hair removal? ›

What's the science behind IPL hair removal systems? “The light is absorbed by the dark pigment present in the hair, melanin, and as a result the follicle heats up to about 60 degrees Celsius. At that temperature the protein in the follicles stops growing hair.

Does IPL work on GREY hair? ›

Unfortunately the answer is no when it comes to grey/white hair and laser hair removal.

Can you use IPL on pubic hair? ›

IPL hair removal 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 pubic area, depending on your individual needs. When using IPL, you'll hold a flashgun device that delivers a spectrum of light to the skin.

Who should avoid IPL? ›

Pregnant women and people who are on blood thinners, for example, should avoid IPL. Other factors that make people unsuitable for IPL treatment include: currently or recently taking the acne drug Accutane. having active acne.

Are there dangers to IPL? ›

Blistering and scarring are rare but potential side effects of IPL treatments, particularly in individuals with sensitive skin.

What happens if you use IPL too often? ›

You can overuse at-home IPL. If you use your device too often, you won't speed up your hair removal treatments and could set yourself up for side effects. Like nearly everything in life, IPL works best when following the recommended treatment plans. That's typically twice a week over 8 weeks, for starters.

Does hair grow back thinner after IPL? ›

If you're relatively healthy, your hair may regrow faster than someone who may not be as healthy. However, regardless of your skin and hair type, every subsequent treatment will lead to reduced and thinned hair until hair removal is almost permanent.

Which is better IPL or laser hair removal? ›

IPL works best for light to medium skin types with dark hair, as well as targeting light brown hair. Neither method is suitable for blonde, grey, red or white hair. Although laser devices and IPL technology both use light energy, laser hair removal machines are proven to be more powerful.

Does IPL get rid of stubble? ›

During an IPL/SHR treatment, the light energy heats the hair follicle, damaging it and inhibiting further hair growth. It is a safe and effective way to remove unwanted hair from various body parts, including the face, arms, legs, and even pubic hair.

Does IPL work if you don't shave? ›

You need a small amount of hair visible at the surface of the skin for the IPL light to effectively destroy the follicle. Shaving the area being treated will help the laser focus beneath the skin and improve the results. If there's a lot of hair on the surface, a lot less light energy makes it deep into the follicle.

Does IPL remove peach fuzz? ›

IPL needs the contrast of dark hairs on lighter skin, so is good for leg stubble, armpits, bikini and any other places such as the dark chin hairs, but not peach fuzz.

Why is IPL not working on my facial hair? ›

You Have a Hormonal Imbalance Affecting IPL Treatment

This may be the case if IPL's not working on facial hair. A hormonal imbalance (especially involving a higher level of testosterone, which encourages hair growth) can result in coarser, faster-growing hair that is more difficult to remove.

Are home IPL machines as good as salon? ›

Home IPL Devices

These tools often have easy controls and safety buttons that let you remove unwanted hair. However, burning is still possible, especially for people with darker skin tones. Additionally, this equipment releases energy at a rate of roughly 7 J/cm2, which is far less than its professional counterparts.

Is IPL worth the money? ›

Some scientific studies have shown that IPL can effectively reduce redness associated with rosacea. Other studies have confirmed that IPL can significantly improve facial skin with fine wrinkles, uneven texture, and dark spots.

Do IPL devices work on peach fuzz? ›

IPL Peach Fuzz Removers

It offers salon-like results in 3 to 4 weeks. You can use it 3 times a week to get visible results in 3 weeks. You need to apply a cooling agent on the skin and keep the IPL device touching the skin during use.

How long do IPL devices take to work? ›

In general, patients can expect to see some improvement in their skin after the first session of IPL treatment. However, the full results may take several weeks or even months to become visible.

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