What is IPL?
Permanently reducing the amount of hair by burning the hair and follicle using an extremely bright light pulse.
It's also known as Intense Pulsed Light.
What does IPL do?
How long does IPL last?
The effects of IPL hair removal are permanent and cannot be reversed. IPL reduces the amount of hair significantly, but does not guarantee all hairs will be permanently removed, so later ‘top-up’ sessions may be needed.
How do I stay safe?
Remember to check the official inspection reports for your IPL clinic before you attend to check that their staff are properly trained and work safely:
- in Wales, you can read the reports on the Healthcare in Wales website
- in Northern Ireland, you can read the reports on the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority website
- in England, unfortunately reports are not available for all clinics, but some can be found by typing in the search box on the Care Quality Commission website
- in Scotland, unfortunately reports are not available for all clinics, but some can be found by typing in the search box on the Healthcare Improvement Scotland website
You may also may want to ask a local group for people changing things related to gender to find out if people have had any problems with the clinic.
What should I be aware of?
IPL is less suitable than laser hair reduction for people with darker skin 1.
How does it work?
Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy is an alternative to laser hair reduction that uses a bright flash of light from a xenon flashbulb that produces many different wavelengths - rather than the single wavelength used by a laser.
Are there other options?
A similar technique is laser hair reduction. Medical studies have yet to come to a clear conclusion about whether IPL is more or less effective than laser hair reduction. Some studies have suggested that treatment with IPL is less effective 2;3, while others have found no difference 1;4. NHS Scotland have produced guidance suggesting that IPL therapy may work less effectively on thicker hairs with deeper roots 5, p.7.
Where can I learn more?
You can read more about facial hair removal methods in this booklet produced by the NHS GDNRSS.
What else might I want?
IPL hair reduction may be painful or uncomfortable. You can reduce the discomfort by asking your GP to prescribe you lidocaine and prilocaine cream, also known as EMLA cream. This is a local anaesthetic, applied directly onto the skin, which numbs the skin so you feel less pain from the treatment. You will normally need to apply the cream around an hour before your treatment.
- 1.Gan, Stephanie D and Graber, Emmy M (2013) “Laser hair removal: a review.” Dermatologic Surgery, 39(6), pp. 823–838. Link
- 2.Klein, A, Steinert, S, Baeumler, W, Landthaler, M and Babilas, P (2013) “Photoepilation with a diode laser vs. intense pulsed light: a randomized, intrapatient left-to-right trial.” British Journal of Dermatology, 168(6), pp. 1287–1293. Link
- 3.Ormiga, Patricia, Ishida, Cleide Eiko, Boechat, Alvaro and Ramos-e-Silva, Marcia (2014) “Comparison of the effect of diode laser versus intense pulsed light in axillary hair removal.” Dermatologic Surgery, 40(10), pp. 1061–1069. Link
- 4.Szima, Georgina Zita, Janka, Eszter Anna, Kovács, Anikó, Bortély, Blanka, et al. (2017) “Comparison of hair removal efficacy and side effect of neodymium: Yttrium-aluminum-garnet laser and intense pulsed light systems (18-month follow-up).” Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Link
- 5.National Gender Identity Clinical Network Scotland (2020) “Facial Hair Removal for Transgender Patients.” Link
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