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

Are IPL hair removal devices worth it? ›

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.

Do IPL devices permanently remove hair? ›

Neither treatment is permanent 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. The IPL treatment might save you some discomfort compared to laser, though.

What are the disadvantages of an IPL hair removal device? ›

Does IPL Hair Removal Hurt?
  • 1) It won't work on dark skin tones. ...
  • 2) IPL hair removal isn't permanent. ...
  • 3) IPL devices are expensive and require maintenance. ...
  • 4) You cannot opt for IPL in the summer.

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? ›

Traditional IPL/Laser machines are only able to use the melanin (the colour) in the hair to absorb the pulsed light, which in turn destroys the follicle. But this method is not suitable for any light hair colours white, grey and red hair as they are missing that melanin.

What is better IPL or laser hair removal? ›

Both IPL and lasers are effective in hair removal. IPL often requires more treatments and may not achieve the same final hair reduction as a laser can. Due to this, hair removal using a laser usually produces faster results. IPL is effective in not only hair removal, but also treating rosacea and facial flushing.

What happens if you use IPL too often? ›

IPL is most effective while your hair is in the growth phase –if you treat your skin multiple times a week, your hair can become dormant and IPL treatment won't work as well. Additionally, while IPL is a gentle treatment, too much of it can be a bad thing. If you use IPL too frequently, you can irritate your skin.

How long does IPL take to permanently remove hair? ›

After completing a session of 12 weeks, the hair growth will reduce completely, providing you with silky, smooth skin for a longer time. However, you may have to continue touch-ups as needed. It is most effective on darker coloured body hair, as the melanin absorbs the light.

What happens when you stop using IPL? ›

Short-term Effects After Ceasing IPL Treatments

Increased Hair Regrowth: An initial uptick in hair growth in the treated areas is normal. This occurs because IPL mainly affects hair in the active growth stage. Over time, untreated hairs in dormant phases will start to grow, appearing as an increase in hair regrowth.

What is the downside of IPL? ›

Although side effects of IPL are typically rare and minimal in severity, the most common adverse events include pain and erythema.

Where does hair go after an IPL? ›

After IPL hair removal

The hair will appear to grow (though very slowly) for 2 to 4 weeks and should then fall out; this is the treated hair being pushed out of the follicle, not new growth. Any hair that does not fall out was either too fine, too light, too deeply rooted or possibly wasn't treated.

Does at home IPL actually work? ›

No, they are ineffective when there is little contrast between the skin and the hair. That means that blonde/white/grey/ginger hair cannot be effectively treated. In addition, those with darker skin tone may not be suitable and there is an additional risk of burning, blistering and hyperpigmentation.

Does IPL stop facial hair growth? ›

Yes, you can, and it can provide a long-lasting solution. As an alternative to epilation, waxing or even shaving, IPL makes it possible to remove facial hair for longer.

Does IPL work if you don't shave? ›

If you forget to shave, the effectiveness of your treatment may diminish. The laser, instead of focusing on the follicles, might target surface hair. This can lead to heightened discomfort, potential stinging, and a risk of burns. Surface impurities like dirt and oil can also reduce efficacy.

Can IPL remove hormonal hair? ›

Skin Chemistry may recommend IPL/Laser treatments on particular areas of hair growth. However, we have found that IPL/Laser on hormonal areas such as chin, under chin, sides of face, neck and breasts can cause a rebound effect on hair growth. Initial treatments will reduce hair growth.

Is IPL better than shaving? ›

Smoother skin: Shaving can be quite traumatic for the skin and many people suffer from rashes or bumps. IPL means that the skin doesn't need to undergo such harsh treatment, which is beneficial for its condition and appearance.

Why is IPL better than shaving? ›

Long-lasting Results

Unlike temporary treatments such as shaving or waxing, IPL targets the hair follicles beneath the skin's surface, and when used properly, it can significantly reduce hair growth. You may even go two months without growing hair!

Is IPL hair removal better than waxing? ›

Claims suggest that regular waxing may make the hair appear lighter and finer. If this gradual lightening suits your longterm beauty regimen then waxing is a great option. But if you want a hair removal method that will completely remove hair at the follicle then, IPL may be better suited.

Does IPL work without shaving? ›

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.

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