hair removal with intense pulsed light
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Hair removal with intense pulsed light

A new method of hair removal, known as Incoherent Intense Pulsed Light Treatment or IPL, is an extremely safe and effective means to achieve successful hair removal. It has brought great new rewards for people who are interested in the removal of unwanted hair.

In the past, lasers have often been used to remove unwanted hair. The many laser methods that were used, however, were not as safe as they are today. Scientists used ruby lasers, aluminum-garnet lasers and alexandrite lasers to try and successfully remove unwanted hair. None of these older methods were fully effective so scientists tried this newest method known as IPL.

To understand this new IPL method of hair removal better, it will be helpful to look at the experiments that scientists have done and then try to understand the conclusions that have been drawn.

The main experiment which was performed by scientists with IPL involved 210 patients - all of which had unwanted hair. The unwanted hair was dispersed on various parts of the patients’ bodies and so the patients agreed to use the IPL method as a way of removing the unwanted hair. Every six weeks, the patients were treated with the method known as IPL and, after a certain amount of time; it was found that there was a significant reduction of about 80% of the unwanted hair. This reduction happened over a period of roughly four to seven months. Most remarkably was the fact that the reduction occurred with no side effects and very few problems or complications for the patients. The science behind IPL is now very well understood and can be explained more easily.

IPL involves the absorption of energy into the hair follicle from a laser. The hair follicle takes the energy from the laser into its cells and is then reduced as a result of the lasers energy. The problem, however, is that the surrounding skin can also absorb this laser energy and there can be a burning of the skin around the hair follicle. In certain types of darker skin, the absorption of the laser’s energy is even greater and the patient is at a higher risk of experiencing burns. Because of this problem, scientists have discovered different ways to reduce the amount of energy absorbed by the skin. The energy can be more focused by making laser light pulsate and can therefore be limited to the hair follicle only.

There are more ways to reduce the risk of laser light treatment than just the focusing of the pulsation in the laser beam. Other factors such as the wavelength of the light beam can play a factor in safety for darker skinned people. Other factors can be used to determine what scientists call the proper "fluence" of the light beam. The fluence is what determines how strong the energy will be on the follicle. Lighter skinned people require a higher fluence than darker skinned people. In order to obtain effective treatment on the patients’ hair follicles, scientists are constantly adjusting the fluence to suit the individual patient.

In order to find ways to increase the safety and effectiveness of the IPL treatment, scientists applied several different procedures to their experiment and discovered various results. First, a transparent gel is always applied to the skin before the laser is used. If there is any sign of burning on the skin after the first treatment, the treatment can be postponed and the patient can be given a topical steroid cream and some ibuprofren to recover. Technicians can also use ice to cool the surrounding skin of the patient who may have experienced burning.

The long term effects of IPL treatment are very good according to the documented reports of patients. Five years after the initial treatment was given, 67 % of the patients reported being either "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the results that they had obtained.
Overall, laser hair removal is not considered to be a permanent solution to unwanted hair. It usually requires repeated visits every few years in order to maintain a high level of satisfaction. It is interesting to note, however, that 67% of the patients were still satisfied after five years time. The original experiment proved to be extremely successful.
IPL has truly become a beacon of light for many people who have unwanted hair. It is extremely safe and effective and is gaining popularity each year. Thanks to the wonders of science, IPL will likely be a great benefit for many years to come.

Hair removal with intense pulsed light references

  • Bedewi AF. Hair removal with intense pulsed light. Lasers Med Sci. 2004 Aug; 19(1):48-51. PMID: 15278721
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