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How does permanent hair removal with IPL laser work?

Permanently smooth skin without constant shaving or epilation? The IPL method promises just that. Tikbow spoke with a dermatologist about the benefits and risks of permanent hair removal.

How does hair removal with IPL work?

IPL stands for intense pulsed light. This means that the hair is exposed to a broad spectrum of beams of different wavelengths. This is also the difference to hair removal with a classic laser, which uses fixed wavelengths. The light pulses are absorbed by the brown pigment of the hair, melanin, and converted into heat. The targeted development of heat leads to the targeted inactivation of individual hair roots and ensures that no more hairs grow in the desired areas.

How many sessions are necessary?

"The hair does not all disappear completely immediately, the permanent hair removal is a process", explains the Münchner dermatologist Dr. Sabine Zenker. The reason: A treatment of the hair is only possible if the hair root is just in the growth phase.  Depending on the body area, this is the case with about 20-30% of the hair, which is why several sessions are necessary. For an optimal result, the expert recommends about ten treatments at intervals of four to six weeks.

What are the advantages of IPL hair removal?

Anyone who relies on a razor for depilation knows the problem – shortly after shaving, the treated area feels rough and stubbly again, almost every day you have to reach for the blade. And also waxing – i.e. hair removal with warm wax or sugar paste, in which the hair is plucked out of the skin along with the root – has its drawbacks. It is painful and for a permanently smooth result, the procedure must be repeated at intervals of three to four weeks at the most. But not only the long-lasting result speaks for the IPL hair removal.

Dr. Zenker emphasizes the hygiene factor in particular: “With conventional depilation methods, skin irritation is virtually pre-programmed. In the worst case, inflammation, especially in the genital area, and abscesses in the depilation area can occur, i.e. purulent inflammation of the skin. These are usually caused by ingrown hairs or by working with blunt, unclean razor blades. IPL treatment does not involve these risks.

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What are the risks of IPL?

If the treatment is not carried out professionally, burns are possible, explains Dr. Zenker. These can remain visible for a long time as light-colored scars on the skin, sometimes never disappearing. This makes it all the more urgent to seek trained care, such as that of a dermatologist. The problem: "The commercial use of IPL devices is not regulated. They are not sold only to "physicians or specialists."

Basically, the final result of an IPL treatment cannot always be predicted with certainty, according to the expert. As a rule, however, the procedure is very effective and basically painless. If the treatment does not take hold after the first sessions, patients should not be afraid to point this out to their attending physician or the specialist staff in the practice. According to the dermatologist, an adjustment of the treatment parameters is usually enough to help.

Who should be advised against IPL hair removal?

For redheads and blondes, i.e. people with very light hair and correspondingly little melanin, permanent hair removal methods may not work optimally. Because: the greater the color contrast, the better the result, as a rule, according to the expert.

Dr. Zenker discusses patients under the age of 18 or those who contact her in detail with their legal guardians. In her opinion, it is not always possible to assess at a young age whether one might want to have more hair in a few years. Because exactly for it would be too late after the permanent hair removal!

How long does the result last?

Because: the result is permanent – actually. However, this does not mean that the treated areas must remain completely hair-free forever. It is perfectly normal for new hairs to grow back over time as new hair follicles form, according to Dr. Zenker. However, these can be removed with an annual touch-up treatment, for example. Pathological hair growth can be triggered by hormonal disorders or medication and, according to the physician, should be additionally treated by a doctor.

How much does an IPL treatment cost?

Prices vary depending on the size of the area to be treated. For an exact calculation of the costs, it is therefore advisable to discuss everything with the treating physician beforehand. In addition to the size of the area, the degree of hairiness is also decisive. Accordingly, several sessions may be necessary. Treatments in the intimate zone are around 100 euros per session, the upper and lower legs are 160 euros each and the armpits are around 70 euros. The health insurance company covers such costs only in case of medical indication.

IPL devices for home use

In addition to treatment by a dermatologist or a cosmetic studio, there is now also the possibility to buy IPL devices for home use. These devices are not as strong in their intensity and are therefore suitable for personal use. The disadvantage: Due to the lower intensity, it takes longer to see results. However, if you have patience, you can also achieve good results with an IPL device for home use. The devices range in price from 90 to 350 euros.