Intense pulsed light

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Intense pulsed light, commonly abbreviated as IPL, is a technology used by beauty studios and medical practitioners to perform various skin treatments including hair removal and photorejuvenation. The technology utilises specific wavelengths of light to target various chromophores in the skin.



Intense pulsed light, describes the use of intense pulses of non-coherent light distributed over a range of wavelengths from 500 nm to 1200 nm, for removal of hair and other purposes.[1] A related but distinct technique is laser hair removal; the primary difference is that laser treatment uses laser-generated coherent and monochromatic light.

Regulations governing IPL and laser hair removal vary by jurisdiction.[2]

The two techniques are often confused. One cause of confusion is the range of names used for intense pulsed light treatments, as intense pulsed light is a registered trademark, which was strongly policed during the early days of the technology, hence the introduction of new names and trademarks for similar or identical treatments.[3][unreliable source?]. IPL and equivalent treatments are referred to as I2PL,UPL,VPL, SPL, SPFT, SPTF, SIPL, PTF, CPL, AFT, E-Light, ELOS, M-Light, and other names.

A distinction is sometimes made between beauty-grade and medical-grade machines. This distinction is mainly to get around regulations. Under the CE system no such distinction exists, it is all seen as medical devices.

Hair removal

Permanence and efficiency

The hair growth cycle

The focused, broad-spectrum light is applied to the surface of the skin by way of either a hand-held wand or an articulated arm. This light travels through the skin until it strikes the hair shafts or the bulb (root) of the hair. The bulb is usually where the highest concentration of melanin is located, as opposed to the rest of the hair shaft. As the light is converted to heat energy, the bulb and most of the hair shaft are instantly vaporized.[citation needed]

The intense heat radiated by the hair also destroys the hair-producing papilla. It is also claimed that direct light-heat conversion occurs directly in the darker colored capillaries that bring nourishing blood vessels to the follicle. Contrary to what is often claimed, photoepilation is not a permanent hair removal method but a permanent hair reduction method. This means that although IPL treatments with these devices will permanently reduce the total number of body hairs, they will not result in a permanent removal of all hair.[4] . The argument of permanent hair removal against permanent hair reductions is only of relevance in the USA because of the wording on the FDA certificate.

At any one time, not all hair follicles are ‘active’, and only active hair follicles can be affected and destroyed by the treatment. ‘Inactive’ hair follicles can be treated as they become ‘active’ over time. For IPL treatments an average of 8-10 treatments are required to remove most visible hair.


Certain skin conditions, health irregularities, and medications can impact whether it is safe for a person to receive a light based hair removal treatment. This list applies to both IPL and conventional laser treatments.[5][unreliable source?]

Treatment protocol

No common treatment protocol exist and it depends on the equipment used and skin type of the patient/client. Commonly the treatment area needs to be clean, shaved and free of sunburn. Treatment sessions are usually 4 to 6 weeks apart.

Other uses

IPL technology is employed in the treatment of medical disorders of the skin including:

See also


External links