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Hair Removal Treatments: The Difference Between Laser and IPL

The Difference Between Laser and IPL Hair Removal Treatments

The tendency to grow excess hair or hirsutism can be embarrassing for anyone, but perhaps more so for women, especially when it affects those more visible regions like the arms, legs, or face. Long before the development of the laser, hair removal or depilation was a common practice in many societies, and many different methods have been applied for this purpose. The women of ancient Egypt, for example, were somewhat obsessive about body hair and insisted on removing all of it, either by plucking with a primitive form of tweezers, abrading the skin with pumice, or anointing themselves with a sugar-based preparation, which, once set and subsequently removed, pulled the offending hairs with it.

Shaving is a more modern approach and today’s razor manufacturers cater to the needs of women with colourful lightweight versions of those designed for male use. However, while many women are happy to shave their legs, few are prepared to apply a razor to their upper lip. By contrast, laser hair removal is an aesthetic procedure that offers a solution for everyone.

The principle of this depilatory technology is simple and, although not permanent, it delivers results that last far longer than alternative procedures. A pulsed beam of coherent, monochromatic light is applied to the skin by means of a hand-held applicator. The beam penetrates the hair follicle, where the interaction with melanin results in heating which destroys it. The hairs in the targeted follicles will then fall out naturally over the course of the next few days.

Because the energy of laser light is high, these hair removal treatments are not suitable for everyone, and they tend to be reserved for use on subjects with darker skin tones. For others, there is an alternative technology known as IPL (Intense Pulsed Light). This type of treatment utilises the same basic principle but, rather than employing a coherent monochromatic energy source, the reaction with melanin is produced by the application of multiple beams of light of mixed wavelengths. IPL applicators, unlike their laser equivalents, do not target individual hair follicles, but are instead applied to larger areas of skin and are suitable for subjects of most skin tones.

The treatments are essentially painless, although some subjects report feeling a sensation rather like that of an elastic band snapped against the skin while, following treatment, a sensation similar to mild sunburn is quite normal. Both laser and IPL hair removal procedures are suitable for use on all areas of the body except those around the eyes, and several sessions may be required in order to ensure permanent reduction. DermaCare offers a free consultation to help decide if IPL is for you.

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