The difference between laser hair removal, at-home IPL and Electrolysis

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Pulse Light Clinic explain how hair removal methods differ and which one you should choose

- In terms of hair removal, how do laser treatments work and who are they best suited to? What is the standard cost (range dependent on area) of a full course?
Laser hair removal works by targeting laser light pulses to selectively destroy hair follicles by targeting the melanin (colour) in them. The pigment in the hair follicle absorbs the laser’s light pulse, which damages the follicle enough to significantly retard hair regrowth. The laser delivers an intense beam of light, which is absorbed by the hair follicle whilst the surrounding tissue remains unaffected.

Laser hair removal using the Gentle Max Pro by Syneron Candela is suitable for all skin types. The Alexandrite laser is suitable for fair skin types (1-3) and the ND:Yag laser is suitable for skin types (4-6). The best candidates are those with dark, coarse hair and those with hormonal hair may require more treatments.

Costs: £200-2000 for a course 8 treatments with a 6-8 week interval.

  • In terms of hair removal, how do IPL treatments work and who are they best suited to? What is the standard cost (range dependent on area) of a full course? Fundamentally, how is it different to laser?

IPL hair removal works pulses of light are applied on the treated area and are selectively absorbed by the hair follicles beneath the
skin surface. The absorbed light heats the hair follicles, which damages the re-growth potential of the follicle – all without damaging the surrounding tissue. If you were opting for IPL it would only be suitable for those with dark hair and fair skin, it isn’t suitable for anyone else which is why it is restrictive.

IPL hair removal is old technology that uses and a broad spectrum of light with multiple wavelengths in comparison to laser which uses single spectrum to heat up the hair follicle to destroy the root, most places do not use this anymore as it not as strong as laser technology therefore it is filtering out and not as many places have it anymore for hair removal purposes. We have never used the IPL device for laser hair removal but the IPL Lumenis M22 device we use is a great treatment for facial rejuvenation or Rosacea and if a client does have an area of hair on the face we will zap it for them during their facial treatment.

Costs: For facial rejuvenation it is £1000 for a course of 6 treatments. This laser treatment will be considerably less due to the older technology it uses for laser hair removal.

  • How do at-home IPL machines work? How do the results differ to in-clinic IPL treatments? How long to results last?

At-home IPL machines work by applying the administered gel to the area and then pulse the device over the area, many clients have reported this option is more painful because IPL engages all the skin and hair whereas laser focuses on the hair follicle itself. You will not see a reduction in hair after 1 treatment and would require multiple treatments bi-weekly to see a satisfying result, which many clients have reported time consuming. At-home IPL kits do not come with goggles which is an indicator as to how low the light technology is compared to in-clinic IPL and laser hair removal.

  • In terms of hair removal, how do electrolysis treatments work and who are they best suited to? What is the standard cost (range dependent on area) of a full course? Fundamentally, how is it different to the above two?

Electrolysis works by targeting an electric current to each individual hair using a metal probe which reaches down to the follicle and destroys the root. The metal probe is applied to every individual hair in the treatment area.

Electrolysis is best suited for those with sparse sporadic hairs on small areas, it is suitable for all hair colours even white, ginger and grey (which laser hair removal cannot target) however, we can only treat fairer skin types (1-3). The main areas we treat with Electrolysis are chin, nipple and abdomen, other areas can be discussed at your consultation.

Costs: £225 for 6 treatments (15 mins each) which are required at a 2 week interval.

  • What do you believe are the benefits and drawbacks of each? Is there one particular treatment you favour over the other/wouldn't recommend and, if so, why?

Laser Hair Removal
+ Safe and effective for all skin types. Better results in less time. - Not suitable for red, blonde, grey hairs. Quicker results than other hair removal methods.
+ Great for skin rejuvenation - More treatments, less effective hair reduction.
No integrated cooling system to help with discomfort. Not suitable for all skin types IPL (at-home)
+ Cheaper and from the comfort of your own home.
-Time consuming and more painful. Not suitable for all skin types.
+ Effective on all skin types and hair colours - even grey and blonde. Hair is removed instantly instead of waiting for it to shed.
-Large areas should be treated with laser hair removal first. Not suitable for bikini area or peach fuzz
If you have coarse and mass amounts of hair and you are looking for long term hair reduction on a large area I would definitely recommend laser hair removal over IPL, at-home devices or Electrolysis.

  • Are any of the treatments not suitable (or better suited) for certain areas of hair or skin types?

At Pulse Light Clinic we use Gentle Max Pro by Syneron Candela which allows us to target all skin types but does not currently allow us to target peach fuzz, grey, blonde or red hairs. Although older technology such as Electrolysis can help those with all hair colours on lighter skin types. Many at-home IPL devices do not work if you skin is dark or hair is light due to the lower intensity thank those used professionally. Finer hairs are generally harder to treat with any method, and Electrolysis would be best for this for small areas. For some women with finer hairs they may not suitable for treatment on the back, chest, abdomen, upper arm and areas on the face. We do not advice laser treatments on women who are pregnant or suffer some skin conditions (assessed at consultation).

  • Do any of the three treatments offer permanent hair removal/ can hair grow back? 

With Laser hair removal and Electrolysis you will only see up to 80% permanent hair reduction with Electrolysis it is a slow technique and hairs may reappear and require top up sessions after a few years. IPL and Soprano Ice laser is only permanent for one hair growth cycle similar to waxing and will require more than 8 sessions.

If you have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or any hormonal changes you should expect 20-30% hair growth to come back the following year. This hair would of been in the dormant growing phase therefore the hair follicle was not actually present at the time of the treatment for electrolysis or laser so we always expect 4 maintenance treatments the following year.

  • What is the aftercare advice for the treatments and how do they differ between them? Is there anything you particularly recommend?

Aftercare advice for all in-clinic laser treatments are the same.
No hot showers/baths, exercise for 48 hours post treatment.
The area cannot be treated if it has been exposed to sun within 4 weeks prior to treatment, factor 30/50 must be worn during treatment period to prevent UV exposure.
Only shave the areas prior to treatment where possible.
Use aloe vera gel for 48 hours post treatment.

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