10 Facts You Should Know Before Having Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Treatments
People often shop around when comparing IPL treatments and think they’re all the same. Unfortunately this couldn’t be further from the truth. I will explain some really important factors you wont normally be told, but definitely should consider before having IPL treatments.
- Industry Regulations
- What is IPL?
- How does IPL work?
- Why is there a massive price difference between providers?
- How many treatments do you really need?
- How far apart should your IPL treatments be and why does this matter?
- What should happen after the treatment?
- See what can go horribly wrong?
- What to look for when choosing an IPL provider
- How are we different & why should you choose us?
Unlike LASER’s, which are regulated in several states in Australia (including WA) unfortunately IPL is NOT, and anyone without knowledge of the skin, basic light physics or skin interaction is able to provide these treatments. In the wrong hands it can cause burns, permanent scarring and long term complications (as pictured below) or result in money wasted on ineffective treatments.
Currently zero qualifications or experience are required to provide an IPL treatment and anyone can buy cheap, ineffective machines. Unfortunately this had led to a vast number of IPL providers in Perth having no qualifications and using substandard equipment. As a result, many people are having large numbers of treatments with no results and now believe IPL doesn’t work (this couldn’t be further from the truth!) or have suffered severe and often permanent complications.
I would always suggest choosing a therapist with formal qualifications such as the Advanced Diploma of Cosmetic Dermal Science or IPL & Laser Safety Officer or equivalent. Experience counts too, and is not to be underestimated, as different therapists using the same equipment can end in very different results.
Make sure you feel comfortable and confident with your therapist.
What is IPL?
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments in the right hands, with the right equipment are effective, non-invasive procedures used to permanently reduce unwanted hair, and improve many skin conditions, while stimulating the production of collagen. It uses specific wavelengths of light, which are absorbed into melanin (the dark pigment in your hair and skin) and haemoglobin (the red colour in your blood vessels). This light converts to heat, which selectively damages the target cells leaving the surrounding skin unaffected.
IPL effectively treats:
- Flat, benign pigmented lesions (freckles, sunspots and general pigmentation)
- Facial vascular lesions (spider veins, red spots and broken capillaries)
- Diffuse redness, rosacea and red scarring
- Poikiloderma (redness, pigmentation and a spotty look to the neck and/or décolletage)
- Unwanted facial and body hair (Doesn’t work for grey, white, very light blonde and some red hair)
- Uneven skin colouring
- Sun damage
IPL treatments can provide results as effective, if not better than LASER if the following factors are applied simultaneously. These are essential to achieve optimal results, safely and effectively within a reasonable number of treatments.
- Medical grade equipment registered with the TGA that will produce enough power to achieve permanent results, and incorporates advanced technology to provide safer, more comfortable treatments.
- Optimal treatment settings should be determined with test spots and the settings used will produce enough heat to destroy the stem cells that form the hair, but wont damage the surrounding skin.
- Treatments must be performed at the correct interval times
- Your provider should be experienced and hold formal qualifications as a Dermal Therapist and an IPL LASER Safety Officer so you can be confident they understand this process thoroughly, and can perform treatments safely and effectively.
How does IPL work?
IPL Hair Removal works on the ‘Extended Theory of Selective Photothermolysis’. This occurs when the melanin (dark pigments) in your hair absorb the light and convert to heat, which radiates to the surrounding cells that form the hair. If enough heat/energy is produced it will destroy these cells, thus preventing further hair growth, causing permanent hair removal/reduction.
- IPL only affects the hair that is actively growing.
At any given time, there is only a certain percentage of hair in this stage, called ‘Anagen’ and is why treatments must be performed over a number of sessions, with specific time spans between treatments.
- If ineffective equipment, low energies or incorrect intervals are used, the hair growth will only be temporarily retarded, with no permanent or long-term results.
Unfortunately if you’re having a series of treatments at short intervals, it will appear you are getting great results, as the hair doesn’t seem to grow. It’s not until you complete your series of treatments, that months later the hair starts growing back, and you realise you’ve wasted your hard earned cash. What seemed to be cheap in the beginning, has turned out to be very expensive!
- We regularly see people who have had in excess of 14 IPL hair removal treatments at 4-6 weekly intervals with no results, and were told just to purchase another series when they mentioned their concern to the place of treatment.
IPL Photo-Rejuvenation works on the ‘Theory of Selective Photothermolysis’. This occurs when light is absorbed into excess melanin and haemoglobin damaging the target cells. The Epidermal cells that contain the pigment will naturally move toward the surface of the skin and slough off, leaving a much lighter pigmented lesion or one that is no longer visible.
As vascular conditions usually exist deeper in the skin they will gradually fade within a few weeks, which is also the case where dermal pigment is involved.
IPL Photo-Rejuvenation or ‘Photofacials’ are an effective way to improve blotchy and uneven discolouration whilst producing firmer, smoother and clearer looking skin so you feel more confident without makeup or concealers.
Why is there a massive price difference between providers?
Industry prices for IPL treatments are generally reflective of the quality and effectiveness of the technology, as well as the qualifications, knowledge and experience of the provider and reputation of the business.
Most companies will add up all the costs involved in their treatments in order to calculate its expenses and profit margins. IPL machines vary immensely in cost from approximately $2000 to $200,000 in addition to ongoing servicing, maintenance, consumables, insurance and much much more.
Qualified and experienced therapists that understand all that is necessary to achieve your desired results safely and effectively, require and deserve higher remuneration.
To sum it up, there are many ways a provider can cut costs to provide cheaper treatments for you, in order to get your business. Unfortunately though, this will always affect the results of your treatment, and though it may seem like a good deal to start with, it will always cost you more in the long run.
Never make your decision based on price as you always get what you pay for!
How many treatments do you really need?
The number of sessions required for permanent hair removal depends on your skin and hair colour and how your body responds to the treatments. Ideal candidates will have a light skin with dark hair though your hair should always be darker than the surrounding skin. The following is used as a guide, however, in normal circumstances, when performed correctly, you should never require more than 10 sessions.
|Hair Colour||Skin Colour||Estimated number of sessions|
|Dark||Light-Medium||3 – 6 sessions|
|Medium||Light-Medium||4 – 7 sessions|
|Light||Light-Medium||6 – 10 sessions|
|Medium||Tanned/Darker||8 – 10 sessions|
|Light/Grey/Red||Any||IPL is not effective|
IPL Photo rejuvenation differs according to the target being treated and the area of the body. Pigmented lesions generally require 1-3 sessions with improvements seen with every treatment.
Vascular lesions, rosacea and diffuse redness generally require 3-4 treatments to achieve the best results. This is so we can progressively destroy the vessel without damaging the surrounding skin and prevents the vessels from repairing themselves between treatments. Best results are generally seen approximately 3-4 weeks after the last treatment.
General skin rejuvenation generally requires 2-6 treatments for best results. Improvements can be seen in skin colour, tone, texture, pore size and firmness. Some improvements can continue to be noted up to 3 months after the last treatment.
How far apart should your IPL treatments be and why does this matter?
The length of time between IPL permanent hair removal treatments differs according to the area of the body being treated, and the length of time the hair is in Anagen stage. Interval times are based on the time it takes for the complete cycle to occur.
After your treatment it should take approximately 2-4 weeks for the existing hair in the follicle to fall out, you should then experience a hair free period of 2-4 weeks after which, new hair will start to grow through which may then be treated.
- This entire process usually takes 4-6 weeks for facial hair and 10-12 weeks for body hair.
As most providers treat body hair at 4-6 weekly intervals, which is when you should be experiencing a hair free period, what are they treating if there is nothing in the follicle? Obviously they are just retarding the growth and not providing permanent results.
IPL Photo rejuvenation differs according to the target being treated and the area of the body. Pigmented lesions are performed approximately every 7-28 days or once all the darkened cells have sloughed off.
|Face||7 – 14 days|
|Neck or Décolletage||2 – 3 weeks|
|Rest of the Body||3 – 4 weeks|
Vascular lesions, rosacea and diffuse redness should be treated at 7-10 day intervals to achieve the best results. This is so we can progressively destroy the vessels and prevents them from repairing themselves between treatments. Best results are generally seen approximately 3-4 weeks after the last treatment.
Skin rejuvenation generally requires 2-6 treatments performed at weekly or fortnightly intervals to achieve the best results. Improvements can be seen in skin colour, tone, texture, pore size and firmness. Some improvements can continue to be noted up to 3 months after the last treatment.
What should happen after the treatment?
- The hair will appear to grow very slowly for approximately 2 to 4 weeks (this is the treated hair being pushed out of the follicle, not new growth)
- The hair should then fall out and you should enjoy a hair free period for approximately 2 to 4 weeks (Any hair that doesn’t, may have been missed, not received enough energy, was too light, red, grey, too fine, or too deep)
- After this, new growth will begin to appear and is treated at the next session (After each treatment a certain percentage of hair will not grow back)
- This cycle takes approximately 10-12 weeks for body hair, but is much shorter for facial hair
- Pigmented lesions may initially look raised and/or darker with a reddened perimeter.
- They will gradually turn darker, sometimes almost black, over the next 24-48 hours. It will then progress to a scab/crust appearance and will start flaking off within 7 to 28 days (depending on the area of the body) or they will just gradually fade
- Vascular lesions such as broken blood vessels, cherry angiomas or Campbell de Morgan spots, will either disappear immediately, appear purplish in colour or varying shades of grey to black with a reddened perimeter. They will then gradually fade or disappear
- Diffuse redness will usually appear immediately more red, then gradually fades within 2-3 weeks
What can go wrong?
Unfortunately, in the wrong hands there can be some serious complications associated with IPL treatments as you can see by the images below, in addition not achieving any results. In most cases this is due to test spots not being performed, inaccurate client evaluation, bad choice of treatment settings and individual considerations not taken into account.
Don’t let this happen to you!
These images of IPL burns and scarring are just some you can find with a quick google search
What should you look for when choosing an IPL provider?
- Industry prices for IPL treatments are generally reflective of the quality and effectiveness of the technology, as well as the qualifications, knowledge and experience of the provider.
- The person treating you should have formal qualifications displayed with a reputable training organisation in IPL & Laser safety and procedures. Not just the machine distributors training.
- Experience counts! Completely different results can occur with the same machine performed by different operators. A knowledgeable and experienced therapist will know why, when and what to change the treatment settings to, for optimal results and safety. Ensure your therapist has extensive experience treating various skin types, conditions, hair colour and thickness.
- Not all IPL machines are the same. IPL machines can vary in price from $2,000 to $200,000. They differ in power, spot size, wavelength, speed, comfort and safety features, pulse width and numerous other factors affecting the outcome.
- IPL equipment must be ‘listed’ on the Australian register of Therapeutic Goods. If it is not listed on this register it is illegal and will not be covered by insurance.
You should have a comprehensive consultation with your treatment provider where you can discuss, ask questions, and be provided with written information including:
- How IPL works
- Are you a suitable candidate?
- Possible complications
- Realistic treatment outcomes
- Skin preparation
- Post treatment changes
- Approximate number of treatments and interval times
- See before and after photographs of their actual clients
- Confidently answer any other questions you may have
- Test spots should be performed on the treatment area within the 3 days prior to your treatment. This will give a basic idea on how the skin will react at the settings used, and helps to reduce the risk of complications and optimise treatment outcomes.
- IPL can cause eye injury. Ensure approved IPL eye safety glasses, goggles or shields are worn by you and the operator during treatments.
- IPL when effective is NOT painless!
- Most of all, you should feel comfortable and confident with the person performing your treatments, and be fully informed before you go ahead.
How are we different & why should you choose us?
- Our Medical grade IPL treatments will provide permanent results and not just retard the growth
- You don’t need 10-14 treatments every 3-6 weeks!!!
- We recommend 3-6 treatments spaced at the correct interval times, which can be up to 3 months apart!
- We are fully qualified and highly experienced Dermal Therapists and IPL & LASER Safety Officers
- Our StarLux 500 IPL & LASER platform by Palomar Medical Technologies incorporates the most advanced technologies proven to achieve better results than most gold standard LASERS and provide safer, more comfortable treatments.
- We have more than 15 years experience, and have successfully performed over 20,000 permanent hair removal procedures.
- We provide a comprehensive consultation and perform test spots to optimise results and reduce the risk of possible complications.
- We are results driven! Just see our testimonials.
Ensure you do your research before choosing your provider and remember there’s a reason why many places are so cheap. Don’t spend hundreds and often thousands of dollars on ineffective treatments or risk permanent scarring!
Call us on (08) 9300 3663, or book your initial consultation online now.
Information written and compiled by: Elisha Rounsevell
Adv Dip Cosmetic Dermal Science,
Managing Director, CosMedical Skin Solutions.
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