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)


Are IPL hair removal devices worth it? ›

Overall, if you are looking for a long-lasting and effective hair removal solution, an IPL device can be a great choice. However, it is important to consider the pros and cons before making a decision. Be sure to consult your doctor or dermatologist with any questions or concerns.

Does IPL really remove hair? ›

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 are the downsides of IPL? ›

Additionally, IPL therapy may not be as effective against deep wrinkles or severe sun damage, necessitating multiple treatments for optimal results. Some patients have also reported temporary redness, itching, and swelling post-treatment, although these side effects typically subside within a few days.

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? ›

Unfortunately the answer is no when it comes to grey/white hair and laser hair removal.

Does IPL remove peach fuzz? ›

Both IPL and laser hair removal offer various benefits for women, helping to control peach fuzz, maintain smooth skin and hormonal hair growth. For men, these technologies offer solutions to reducing ingrown hairs from shaving.

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.

Is IPL better than shaving? ›

When using IPL, you'll need to shave less and less as your treatments go on. As the hair follicles will be empty, you'll notice fewer ingrown hairs and less stubble 'shadow'. IPL treatment helps to smooth out the texture of your skin, whereas waxing or threading can cause inflammation.

What happens if you use IPL too often? ›

You can overuse at-home IPL. If you use your device too often, you won't speed up your hair removal treatments and could set yourself up for side effects. Like nearly everything in life, IPL works best when following the recommended treatment plans. That's typically twice a week over 8 weeks, for starters.

Who should avoid IPL? ›

Safety of IPL Treatment

This treatment does not involve a light spectrum that causes or increases skin cancer. However, IPL treatment is not safe for pregnant women and those on blood thinners.

Can IPL laser go wrong? ›

A full-thickness or third degree burn would be the most severe adverse event that could occur to the skin through misuse, error or malfunction of an IPL or laser.

What happens if you don't shave for IPL? ›

If you don't shave before your laser hair removal session, the light energy may not penetrate the hair follicle, resulting in an ineffective treatment. In addition, if the hair is too long there is a risk of uneven coverage which can cause patchy results. Yes, you can shave up to an hour before your IPL treatment.

Do home IPL hair removers work? ›

These studies proved that an IPL is a legitimate and useful light source for effective hair removal. Clinical results of the IPL for hair removal on darker skin types were also published, showing that with appropriate cut-off filters, the IPL can be used successfully in all skin types.

What is the pros and cons of IPL hair removal? ›

IPL (Intense Pulsed Light)
More AffordableRisk of hair growing back is pretty high
Available for home treatmentA lot of treatments needed to achieve the same result as Laser
Is not suitable for dark skin types and light hair colour
Oct 24, 2021

Why is IPL not working on my facial hair? ›

You Have a Hormonal Imbalance Affecting IPL Treatment

This may be the case if IPL's not working on facial hair. A hormonal imbalance (especially involving a higher level of testosterone, which encourages hair growth) can result in coarser, faster-growing hair that is more difficult to remove.

Are home IPL machines as good as salon? ›

Professional IPL Salons

For the best results, they can be customized to meet your requirements and particular hair colour. Moreover, with an energy output of 40 J/cm2, these machines are more potent than those used at home. They are also safe to use on any desired body part.

Who should not use IPL hair removal? ›

So, IPL may not be for you if: You are sensitive to light. You have tanned your skin recently through sunlight, tanning beds, or tanning creams. You use a retinoid cream.

Are cheap IPL worth it? ›

The cheapest models on the market may only last you a few years before requiring replacing, but a good IPL device will deliver decades of regular use. 2) The power. Many IPL devices come with varying levels of intensity, meaning you can treat hair on various parts of your body effectively.

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