How to Know If IPL Laser Hair Removal Is Safe For You
Skin Tone: The ideal candidate for IPL is someone with lighter skin and darker hair, because laser light, no matter at what intensity or wavelength, only targets dark pigments. If you have a very deep skin tone or very light hair, none of these lasers, whether they're in office or at home, are going to work.
Skin Type: The other issue here is the actual skin type of the individual. We want to target the pigment inside the hair shaft rather than the pigment on the skin. The pigment in the skin serves as an umbrella or shade over the hair shaft that you're trying to treat. You'll want to be extra careful if you have very dark skin, lighter skin with a tan, or skin with tattoos, birth marks, or hyperpigmentation before you attempt IPL.
If you do have pigment in your overlying skin, the laser or light energy will be absorbed inside that pigment and may cause unwanted blistering or scabbing, which can lead to scarring or discolouration of the skin. It's a delicate balance between trying to target pigment that is deep in the skin versus the pigment that's in the melanocytes that gives you your colour on the skin surface.
How to Safely and Effectively Perform IPL Hair Removal
1. Avoid the Sun: The main thing is, regardless of somebody's skin type, that they haven't had any recent sun exposure, we note that 'sun exposure' can be as little as dining al fresco at lunchtime.
2. Shave the Hair, Don't Wax: The laser can't see what's not there, right? So you have to have the hair inside the hair shaft. Shave It. The hair has got to be in the skin for the laser or the light to see it and be effective.
3. Patch Test Your Skin Sensitivity: Test the IPL device in an area that you don't want to actually treat, and make sure that the chosen test area is not already irritated. Avoid sensitive skin areas with eczema, acne, or that otherwise have an infection, like a cold sore or impetigo. Anything that is red or otherwise not in good shape or an open area, you do not want to use the device on top of that. If you're treating on an area that has a tattoo, or a brown spot, you can potentially change the tattoo or pigmentation of the skin because some of that wavelength will be absorbed within the pigment of the tattoo or the birthmark.
It's also key to note that lasers and light, just like with the sun, has the tendency to induce cold sores, whether it's around the mouth or anywhere else. If you're treating around the mouth, you've got to be sensitive about that. Also, if you have a lot of dental work and you're treating on the upper lip, you might want to place your tongue over your teeth, while you're treating there.
4. Stick to Once-Monthly Treatments: We typically do repeated treatments in the office once a month. With these home devices, we tell people to use them similarly, but many times people will use them more often because they think more is better. That's the reason why these devices are lower energy and have a bunch of safety factors in there, so they won't discharge if there's too much pigment in the overlying skin.
5. Be Diligent About Aftercare: After treatment, you will end up being a little bit pink or red, so you want to cool down the area with ice, or cool water contact, and apply some post treatment cream. As for the actual device, make sure you clean the head after each use with alcohol swabs.
How to Avoid and Care For IPL Burns
IPL might be easy but it is not foolproof, especially for darker skin tones. As I learned the hard way, you're going to want to be very careful not to treat one area more than twice in a row, and ensure that you use a very low setting even if you don't have sensitive skin.
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