It’s been months since we pencilled a waxing appointment into our diaries and our bikini line and legs are the proof. Hair removal is, of course, a totally personal choice, and for those of us who prefer to go bare, now is the perfect time to consider investing in an at-home IPL hair removal device – especially as beauty salons are still to reopen. Cost-wise it makes sense too; we’d normally pay around £30 for a wax so in five appointments an at-home device is paid for. Plus the results last much longer.
To give you the lowdown on how IPL works, we’ve teamed up with Sensica , who have years of expertise in IPL hair removal devices as makers of Sensilight Pro , £249.97 and Sensilight Mini , £149, both available at Boots . Buckle in for your crash course on IPL hair removal at home.
What is IPL hair removal?
IPL (intense pulsed light) delivers flashes of light to the skin, which are absorbed by the dark pigment (melanin) in the hair shaft. The light travels down to the hair and causes the coagulation (hardening) of the bulb so that the hair cannot regrow.
Is IPL the same as laser hair removal?
No. There is no such thing as an at-home laser hair removal device, for very good safety reasons. Laser hair removal is a professional procedure not an at-home option, which uses a more powerful light source on a more targeted area to achieve permanent results. Lasers emit just one beam of light to pinpoint a very specific area, damaging the bulb of the hair to prevent future hair growth. An IPL device emits several light beams to cover a larger area and needs to be repeated once or twice a year, as the follicle is dormant as opposed to permanently removed. Laser hair removal must be done by a trained professional and is a more painful treatment
What type of skin can use an IPL hair removal device?
Many skin tones and hair colours can use an IPL device. IPL works best on people whose hair pigment contrasts with the shade of their skin. If you are very pale and very blonde or have very dark skin with dark hair IPL may not be for you. Those with light to medium skin and dark hair are most suited to IPL. Check the chart below.
The amount of light energy you need for the device to work depends on your skin tone. The Sensilight Pro has six different energy levels and an energy recommendation button that senses your skin tone and adapts the energy level to suit.
Does IPL hair removal work on red hair?
Red hair contains less pigment for the device to target so IPL is unfortunately not suitable for red-heads. Sensica’s guide above shows you which hair and skin combinations work.
What does it feel like? Does IPL hurt?
No it doesn’t hurt, it merely creates a warm sensation and a slight stinging sensation on the area you have treated as the flash happens and for a little while afterwards. Ninety-six per cent of people who tried the Sensica devices reported that it was pain-free.
How do you use an at-home IPL device?
Using the Sensilight Pro or Mini, place the treatment window on the relevant area, making sure it’s in full contact with your skin. If it’s not, the flashes of light won’t begin. This is a safety feature to ensure you don’t flash it in your eyes or on areas you’re not meaning to treat. For small areas such as armpits or upper lip, press the trigger button to ‘pulse’ a single flash, move on to the next area and repeat. For larger areas use the ‘glide’ option which delivers speedier continuous flashes.
How long does an IPL treatment take? How many sessions do you need?
It takes about 90 seconds to treat your underarms – the smaller Sensilight Mini is perfect for this – while the Sensilight Pro will polish off your lower legs 13 to 15 minutes and four to five minutes to treat both arms.
It’s recommended to do one session every two weeks for the first four sessions and then every four weeks on whichever area you are treating. You should start to see results after four sessions, says Sensica. You will see hair gradually beginning to fall out; how quickly differs from person to person depending on age, hair colour and stage your hair growth is at when you start the treatment.
Ninety-eight per cent of people who used Sensilight IPL devices said they saw hair reduction after eight treatments. After a full course of IPL (eight to 12 weeks for dark hair, longer for fair hair) you can expect to see the hair completely vanish.
Which area of the body can you use an IPL device on?
IPL can be performed all over the body, from the face, armpits, legs and arms, stomach and bikini line. Both the Sensilight Pro and the Sensilight Mini devices can be used from the cheekbones down, tackling moustaches, chin hairs, bikini line, legs, armpits and anywhere in between, save for the nipples.
Are there skin issues that can’t be treated with IPL?
If an area of skin is too dark due to pigmentation such as sunspots or moles it should not be treated by IPL as it could result in burning or blistering. Sensica uses a safe, patented technology known as RPL: Reactive Pulsed Light. At the start of the session and with every flash, sensors react to your skin tone and condition. If the sensors detect that the area of skin for any reason won’t take to the treatment (it’s too dark) no flash is emitted meaning there’s no chance of damage to your skin occurring.
Can you use an IPL device on tattooed or tanned skin?
You shouldn’t use an IPL device on skin that has tattoos; the pigment prevents the light beam from locating the hair follicle accurately, and as above, it could result in burning or blistering. If you wish to use it on areas partly covered by tattoo ink, cover the tattoo in white surgical tape, or white cloth to make sure it is not exposed to flashes from the device.
It is not recommended to use IPL on tanned skin or after sun exposure, again because it can damage darker areas of the skin in the same way, and also because skin will be more sensitive to heat. With the Sensilight tools, the RPL technology is there to detect if an area isn’t suitable. This feature will not let you treat areas where your skin is too dark or too tanned, even if your general skin type is lighter.
Can men use IPL?
IPL can be used by anyone, but male hair tends to be thicker, especially on the chest and face so men might need to perform more sessions.
How do you prep your skin for IPL?
You don't need to do anything fancy - just remember to start your treatment on clean, shaven skin. Unlike waxing, you don't need to wait for regrowth to start treatment With Sensilight you don’t need to wait for a specific amount of hair growth. As long as you haven’t waxed, plucked or epilated, (which remove the hair from the root) you’re good to go.
Is IPL permanent or do you need to repeat the treatment?
While IPL will reduce the rate at which hair grows back, you won’t be hair-free forever. It’s recommended that after the full protocol (the total time is different for everyone, but expect a few weeks) you need to repeat the treatment course every six to 12 months, or just treat the new hair that has appeared
Do you need aftercare for at-home IPL?
Avoid anything that can trigger sensitivity on the skin such as perfume, deodorant and hot showers for the first 24 hours. Other than that, you’re good to go.
Which IPL device should I buy?
The Sensilight Pro , £249.97, is cordless and has two interchangeable heads; one for larger areas such as legs and back and a smaller one designed for the armpits upper lip, chin, and jawline. Each charge delivers 600 flashes. How does this translate to treatment? For one arm you need about 40 flashes twice. One lower leg needs between 60 and 100 twice. For the face, it depends on how many areas you're treating, but normally ten. For the bikini line you need about five flashes for each side and the same goes for armpits.
Six hundred flashes are enough for a full-body treatment and more. With six energy settings, it has an unlimited lifespan of flashes.
Sensilight Mini , £149, is easily transportable and lightweight, although not cordless. the Mini has 200,000 flashes in its lifespan and has three energy levels to choose from and one large treatment window for all areas that will enable faster treatment. It’s smaller size makes it best suited or the face and armpits, as well as for travel.