Is an IPL Handset Safe for Hair Removal?
What is IPL Hair Removal Technology?
Over the past decade, the demand and development of lasers and lights for cosmetic or therapeutic skin procedures have grown exponentially.2 The Intense pulsed light (IPL) technology has evolved rapidly over the period of past few years and has promised superior and enhanced yet safe therapeutic outcomes.
IPL technology utilizes a high-intensity light source, emitting a polychromatic light. Unlike the usual laser systems, the IPL technology constitutes a non-coherent light in a broad wavelength spectrum of range 550-1,200 nm.1
IPL technology is commonly used by medical and cosmetic professionals to carry out different types of skin treatments for therapeutic and mostly aesthetic purposes. These range of treatments offered through IPL include hair removal, photorejuvenation (in the cases of sun damage, skin pigmentation, and thread veins), as well as to alleviate dermatologic diseases such as acne and spots and wrinkles in the skin3,11. The majority of present day hair removal at-home devices, do not use laser techniques, and instead use Intense Pulse Light (IPL). The IPL technology in hair removal devices targets melanin present in the hair and destroy the hair follicle permanently after repeated treatment cycles.9
How does a typical IPL Hair removal device work?
A typical hair removal device utilizing IPL technology emits gentle light pulses with a broad wavelength between the 550nm-1200nm ranges. These pulses are applied over the targeted skin area, and are absorbed by the root of the hair. Darker hair tones are known to better absorb the IPL light pulses. The pulses of light stimulate the hair follicle to go into a resting phase. The high-intensity light pulses work on the targeted part of the skin and stimulate the elastic and collagen fiber regeneration process. The photothermal effect enhances the function of blood vessels, resulting in skin rejuvenation and wrinkle reduction.5 The natural body processes, then clear the lesion debris, giving the skin a more youthful and even appearance6
Is IPL safe?
Home-use hair removal devices are increasingly gaining popularity and numerous IPL devices are now globally available for consumers. IPL devices are considered the best at-home hair removal machines and are extremely safe to use, provided the device is manufactured by a trusted and reliable brand. In addition, while utilizing the device, the users must follow the instructions diligently, as advised.7
In 1995, the first IPL device to obtain United States FDA clearance was for the treatment of telangiectasias (lower extremity). However, due to enhanced applicability and favorable cost, in contrast to various other single-spectrum lasers, IPL devices gained increased proliferation and usage in multiple skin related applications. Regardless of some early claims of having numerous side effects and very less efficacy, innovations in the field of IPL technology have resulted in the development of more reliable, predictable, and powerful devices increasing their usefulness and effectiveness in the process of skin rejuvenation.4
A recent 2010 clinical study, comparing the safety profiles of multiple available IPL devices, highlighted the importance of adherence to IEC TR 60825-9 standards, in the absence of any recognized and widely accepted standard for IPL devices. The study further highlighted that though the users might be skeptical about being prone to skin injury and eye damage because of home usage IPL devices, the available IPL devices are usually not complex and conform to the highest safety standards. The study further cautions the users to diligently follow the guidelines of usage and select a trusted hair removal device, which is in line with laid standards.10
The effectiveness of IPL hair removal devices was well established by a 2009 study, which evaluated the hair removal rate after a second-generation IPL technology. Results stated that patients observed 75% hair reduction after 4 months, and up to 80% after 8 months (75% reduction indicates that a re-growth of 25% occurred after the treatment).3
Precautions for usage of IPL devices:
Though the IPL devices for hair removal are mostly safe, there are some precautions, which the users must keep in mind, while utilizing these devices5:
- Users should diligently assess their skin tones and should not use the IPL based hair removal devices on some specific skin tones, as highlighted by the user manual
- The usage of IPL devices should be avoided in case the user has implants in the body or has undergone any skin procedure in the recent past
- The usage of IPL devices might be restricted with some ongoing medications. Hence, the users should refer to the reading instructions carefully, before using the device.
- The usage of the device might be strictly restricted with some terminal or chronic illnesses such as cardiac disorders, diabetes, collagen disorders, dermatological disorders, or any other bleeding disorders
- The usage of the device might be restricted on certain body parts, hence the manual needs to be read properly before usage.
Intense pulsed technology (IPL) is a highly versatile, safe, and effective modality for usage in numerous cosmetic and therapeutic procedures. Significant clinical evidence has been published to confirm the technical safety and clinical efficacy of many home-use IPL devices for the hair removal. With the increased focus on safety by IPL device manufacturers and adherence to the global safety standards, the users can be assured of using these devices at home, provided they read the user manual and follow the instructions diligently.