More and more, men and women are choosing to permanently stop hair growth. For some, it is an esthetic decision, for others, particularly athletes, it is all about enhancing performance and increasing comfort.

The good news is that the technology for permanent hair reduction has gotten safer, more effective and a lot more comfortable in recent years. I had a client who had been undergoing hair reduction by a practitioner with older equipment and she couldn’t believe how comfortable my new equipment was in comparison to the other place.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About IPL Hair Reduction

1. What is IPL?
IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light. During the treatment a handpiece is placed on the skin that directs flashes of light to an area approximately 1.5 cm x 4 cm. The handpiece is moved centimeter by centimeter until each part of the treatment area has received a flash of light.

2. How does the flash of light affect hair growth?
The light is absorbed by the brown pigment in the hair follicle or root. Just like wearing a black t-shirt on a sunny day, the brown pigment heats up when it absorbs light and the degree of heating can be enough to kill the follicle and prevent future hair growth.

3. So, one treatment is all it takes?
No. Hair goes through a cycle of growth. In the early growth phase, the hair is attached to the follicle but as the hair matures, it separates from the follicle and gradually travels up through the skin until it eventually falls out. The pigmented hair has to be attached to the follicle, that is, in the early growth phase, to get the light absorption to the follicle.

It usually takes about eight treatments for a man to catch all of the hairs in the early growth phase and shut down the hair follicles.

4. How often can the treatments be done?
It depends on the rate of hair growth. On the face, where the hair grows quicker, it can usually be done every 4 weeks. On the body, the treatments are done every 6 – 8 weeks. Hair growth is slowest on men’s backs so the treatments are the full 8 weeks apart for that area.

5. Do the treatments work on everyone?
The treatments work best when the hair colour is darker because darker hair absorbs more light than fair hair. This treatment does not work on light blond or grey hair.
The ideal candidate has pale skin and dark hair because the high contrast between skin and hair allows a higher treatment energy. The treatment definitely should not be done on tanned skin because your tan is made of melanin pigment that will absorb the light, leading to a loss of the tan in your skin.

People with a naturally dark skintone, e.g. Mediterranean, African or Asian heritage, may be treated when they have no tan.

If there is any question about your skintone or the presence or absence of a tan, please request your practitioner do test spots 24 hours before your treatment. Test spots mean doing flashes of IPL at varying levels of energy on your skin to see whether you can tolerate an effective energy level. The handpiece is masked so that the light comes out as a circle, smaller than a dime, rather than the full rectangle, so that if the skin loses pigment with the treatment, it will be in a smaller area.

6. Is the treatment permanent?
Yes, the treatment is permanent unless you develop a medical condition that alters your hormonal balance and stimulates new hair growth.

7. OK, I’m interested. How do I prepare for a treatment?
Unlike waxing, you don’t have to grow out your hair before a treatment. In fact, we prefer the hair to be shaved off prior to the treatment so we’re not wasting the light energy on hairs outside of the skin. You cannot wax or pluck the hairs for 6 weeks prior to the treatment because you’ll separate the hair from the follicle.

8. When will I see results?
After each treatment, usually all of the hairs in the treatment area fall out about 2 – 2 ½ weeks later and the area stays hairless for about 2 weeks. Then the hair grows back but the amount of regrowth is reduced and the hairs are finer and silkier so you will see a decrease in the amount of hair after each treatment.

9. When should I start the treatments?
Keep in mind that the treatments should be done when you’re not tanned so it is best to start your IPLs in the winter. It will take a minimum of 48 weeks to do all 8 treatments, and longer if the treatments have to be suspended for periods of tanning.

10. Does it matter if I dye my hair?
No. Dye does not penetrate the skin to the level of the hair follicle so dyeing grey or blond hairs will not make them more susceptible to the treatment. By the same token, the treatment still works on dark hairs that have been bleached because the roots are still dark.