Laser Hair Removal or IPL – What is the Difference and Which is Best For You

Laser and IPL have been used to remove unwanted hair for many years with a high degree of success, however, to actuate we must call it "Permanent Hair Reduction." According to FDA rules manufacturers may not claim that laser (or IPL) hair removal is permanent without the FDA determinations that there is sufficient data to demonstrate such results. Several manufacturers have received FDA permission to claim, "permanent reduction," but NOT "permanent removal."

What this means in practice is that although most hair will be removed over a course of treatment, some hair will remain and some may re-grow, usually much lighter and finer, therefore, occasional top-up treatments may be needed.

Laser and IPL use energy in the form of light to destroy the hair follicle. The energy directed from the handpiece is absorbed by the melanin in the hair follicle, momentarily heating it to around 70 degrees centigrade killing the follicle and thus preventing further hair growth. However to complicate matters most people also have melanin in their skin that also absorbs light energy creating heat in the skin. If this heat is excessive it will cause blisters or burns. For this reason the ideal candidates for these treatments are those who are dark haired and fair skinned like the typical Irish complexion, whereas suntanned Danes with very fair hair are poor candidates.

We always insure that clients stay out of the sun for a few weeks prior to treatment so that the level of melanin in the skin is as low as possible and therefore wintertime in the UK is the ideal time for treatments.

With care most people can be treated but some may require many more treatments and any white, gray and even some red hairs will respond poorly (or not at all) to light based hair removal treatments. These will require many more treatments at a much lower power level and the operator will have to be extremely careful to ensure that the machine is correctly set to avoid skin damage.

Thankfully, most modern laser and IPL devices make this process much easier but it is still necessary to have a highly skilled operator and, here in the UK, all establishments must be registered with the Health Care Commission before they perform any laser or IPL treatments.

Hair grows in cycles and many factors influence it's growth including age, ethnicity, weight, hormones, diet, medication and metabolism along with your hair's location, thickness and resilience. Only hair that is in it's growing cycle will be destroyed at each treatment session. The number of hairs growing at any one time and the length of time between treatments varies, but generally we allow 4 to 8 weeks.

There is sometimes mild pain associated with laser treatments. This discomfort ranges in intensity and has been described from as mild as the snap of a rubber band, to the sensation of a hot pinprick. When treating sensitive areas, (upper lip and bikini areas) some practitioners often elect to use a topical anaesthetic cream, which helps to reduce any discomfort.

There are two big differences between Laser and Intense Pulsed Light systems. One is in the area that can be treated in one go and the treatment speed. Generally IPL treatment heads are up to 8 times larger than the small spot produced by lasers and therefore treatments are much quicker.

The other difference is the wavelength of light produced. Lasers produce light with one specific wavelength while IPL uses an entire waveband. Different wavelengths penetrate the skin to different depths so using IPL is like using a group of lasers in a single treatment.

In our clinic we use an Ellipse Flex that with I²PL technology employing dual-mode filtering which removes water absorbing wavelengths from the output spectrum of the system. With the older intense pulsed light technology, water absorbing wavelengths are absorbed in the skin creating a non-specific thermal injury, which can lead to an increased risk of side-effects particularly burns.

To remove the infrared light, the Ellipse I²PL (TM) system has a unique extra filter consistant of circulation water. This means that the light components that normally would "heat" the water in the skin now "heat" the water in the system instead. By eliminating these wavelengths, the Ellipse I²PL is able to more specifically generate heat in the hair follicles rather than the skin. The unique Ellipse I²PL (TM) Technology eliminates the unwanted wavelengths, and standardizes the light use, meaning less energy is required to achieve a clinical effect. As a result, pain is reduced, while minimizing side-effects. With this new technology there is no need for thick, messy gels and contact cooling which makes the patient's experience more pleasant.

Two classes of IPL systems are available; those that HAVE been tested for safety and performance by accredited, independent testing facilities, such as the European Union Medical Devices Directive (EU), as well as the FDA (Food and Drug Administration – US Government), and those that HAVE NOT been subject to such third-party testing.

Such untested systems are labeled with the standard CE mark but without an EU number. A system with a CE or FDA certification provides certainty that the system has undergone and passed stringent safety tests, that the manufacturer has documented that the system can perform the prescribed clinical treatments efficiently, and that possible an acceptable risk level and side effects are an acceptable level for the results obtained.

The ELLIPSE IPL systems, have obtained accreditation and approval from both the EU as well as the FDA.

For your own safety when deciding on your treatment Ensure that you choose a clinic that is registered with the Healthcare Commission, if not they will probably be un-insured, that uses a well known, tested and proven device. You must have a comprehensive consultation and patch test several days before you undergo any treatment and make sure you are not seduced by outlandish claims or discounts.

Source by Andrew Philpot

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