I’m sure that you can agree with me when I say that there are a lot of questions surrounding salon-quality laser hair removal and IPL at-home hair removal. Do they work? Are they worth the money? Isn’t it all a huge scam?
Well, I have been wondering these things for quite some time too. After trying laser hair removal in a salon for about six months, I started thinking if there really was a difference between the at-home IPL machines and the laser machines that they use in the salons – after all, it was really expensive to have your areas treated in a salon, and at home IPL machines only cost a few hundred dollars for their lifetime.
So, I set out to answer some of my own questions and some of the questions that you will probably have too. After reading these answers, you should be able to make a conclusive decision about if IPL/ laser hair removal is something that you should spend your money on, as I have.
What Is IPL At Home Hair Removal?
IPL or Intense Pulsed Light refers to a technology that uses a high-powered flashgun to deliver an intense, visible, broad-spectrum ray of light that is meant for various cosmetic purposes, such as hair removal.
IPL is absorbed by a variety of structures and colored compounds (like melanin in hair) and heats them to destruction.
IPL at-home hair removal: everything that you need to know
What Is The Difference Between IPL And Laser?
Laser and IPL at home hair removal work essentially in the exact same way – they both get rid of hair follicles by heating them up until they get destroyed.
The difference between the two is that IPL has a broad spectrum of wavelengths and thus scatters around the skin and is absorbed by all pigmented areas, while laser only targets a specific wavelength (meaning, a molecule that has only one specific color).
This is why IPL is great for not just getting rid of hair, but also for banishing pigmentation marks, freckles, or even broken capillaries. Laser is more targeted and also more effective, as the light is much stronger.
This is why it’s generally recommended that people with darker skin tones opt for laser hair removal instead of using an IPL machine – the wavelength of a laser machine can be adjusted to discriminate against dark skin and dark hair, for example, whereas IPL would just be absorbed by both.
Are IPL and Laser Equally Painful?
Yes, both IPL at home hair removal and laser feel the same on skin, however, they aren’t very painful. Granted, I’m someone with quite a high pain tolerance and the treatments might be worse for people who are sensitive to pain.
However, the treatment shouldn’t feel worse than a slight nip.
Will IPL Work For Me?
Fitzpatrick skin tone scale for evaluating the effectiveness of IPL at home hair removal
- Type I: Light, pale white skin which always burns in the sun and never tans
- Type II: White, fair skin which usually burns in the sun and tans with difficulty
- Type III: Medium white to olive skin which sometimes burns mildly in the sun and gradually tans
- Type IV: Olive, mid-brown skin which rarely burns in the sun and tans with ease to a moderate brown
- Type V: Brown, dark brown skin which very rarely burns in the sun and tans very easily. Just a few devices are suitable.
- Type VI: Very dark brown to black skin which never burns in the sun and tans very easily. Just one device is suitable.
Most user manuals reference the Fitzpatrick skin tone scale when advising whether or not you would be a suitable candidate for IPL at-home hair removal. If you have light skin (tones I to IV) and dark hair, you’re the ideal candidate for IPL!
Although some newer designs of IPL machines cater to those with darker not many of them are suitable for dark skin. IPL works best if there is a lot of contrast between the hair and skin, thus dark hair and very light skin is the best combination.
There are a few machines that have been designed to work on darker skin, however, it’s generally not recommended as dark skin tends to get burned more easily from the laser (due to the amount of melanin present in the skin).
Moreover, IPL generally does not work on red, grey, or blonde hair – electrolysis works better for those hairs. (Electrolysis is a separate treatment procedure done both in salons and at home).
IPL At Home VS Salon (Laser) – Which Is More Effective?
There are benefits to both at-home IPL systems as well as having the same hair removal treatment professionally done.
A laser hair removal session in a salon can cost anywhere from $200 per session to $550, and that’s just for one session – normally you would need at least 10 sessions to fully remove hair from an area.
Of course, having laser hair removal in a salon can be very expensive, but it’s also less time-consuming and less hassle – you generally need around 10 sessions to fully treat an area, and you only need to visit the salon every 6-8 weeks.
On the other hand, home devices use simplified technology with less power than professional laser machines, making it harder for us to damage our skin and cause irritation and pain. Skin tone sensors as well as skin contact systems are used to protect your skin and eyes.
While that all sounds well, this also means that you will need to use your at-home device more often than you would need to go to the salon. The advised time is every 2 weeks, until after about 3 months when your hair generally starts growing a little slower, and you can space out your sessions more if you wanted to.
When Can I Expect Results?
Treatment times vary and are very individual. The stereotypical answer that manufacturers give is that it takes 3 months for the IPL at-home hair removal treatment to start working.
However, that is simply not the case for most people. Usually, you will start seeing some permanent results after 3 months, but that only means that some of your hairs are permanently gone, not all.
The longer you stick with IPL, the less you will need to shave and trim your hair in between sessions. You will notice that you’ll gradually be able to go longer and longer without shaving, and after about a year, you should be able to go without shaving for a month and not see any re-growth.
Does IPL Hair Removal Work?
Josie from Fashion Mumblr has stated that she has been using the Philips Lumea for years and she can go without a month of shaving her legs. However, the hair isn’t all gone even after a year.
Of course, as you use the IPL machine consistently over long periods of time, you will need to do less and less after a certain point.
And if you stick with it, the majority of your hair will be banished for good in a little over a year, just like with salon-grade laser hair removal. Consistency is what matters when you choose this treatment, and you need to stick with it.
It’s also worth mentioning that it’s advised that after you’ve achieved results that you’re happy with, you usually need to have top-up treatments every 4-8 weeks, or as you see fit.
What Are The Best Machines For IPL At Home?
Philips Lumea is the gold standard when it comes to at-home hair removal – this has had by far the highest success rate among any of the IPL machines that are meant for home use.
The Philips Lumea comes with four different heads to treat all areas of the body in an optimal way. There is a nozzle for the face, underarms, bikini and legs – everything that you could possibly need.
Philips has recently also released a Lumea app that helps you track your progress, create a personalized treatment plan for you and provide reminders on your treatment days. Not exactly a necessity to have, but the app is a pretty cool extra feature.
If the Lumea is a little out of your price range, I would say consider buying it second hand before opting for other devices, as it’s just that good.
However, if there’s somehow absolutely no way that you can buy the Philips Lume, opt for the Braun Gilette Venus Silk Expert instead.
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