What I have learned about IPL
I hadn't really heard of IPL hair removal. I had heard of laser hair removal. I would have been inclined to think of them as being the same thing - and to be fair, they are very similar. But if you are going embark on some sort of long-lasting hair removal treatment, it is vital that you understand exactly what your treatment entails.
The very first thing I was told is that it is important to realise that neither IPL nor laser hair removal are forms of permanent hair removal. I was told to think of them more as permanent hair reduction - neither treatment can stop the body from growing hair permanently. They can, though, permanently and often drastically reduce the hair on the treated area.
In basic terms, a broad-spectrum light is applied to the surface of the skin, which travels in to the shaft where the hair growth starts and destroys it. In practical terms, it hurts a bit. When I was having my treatment done it felt very much like a warm needle being prodded into the skin. There was also a distinct smell of burning hair as the hair was destroyed. It was slightly painful, but less so than waxing. The pain very short-lived and nothing too disturbing.
Before starting treatment there were a number of things that were brought to my attention. Firstly that I was lucky, as darker hair tends to have more positive results than lighter hair. Secondly, as there was a chance of the IPL affecting skin pigmentation, for the duration of my treatment I should avoid strong sunlight and wear at least a factor 30 SPF at all times. Thirdly, I would need to shave the area shortly before treatment and I certainly shouldn't pluck any hairs from the skin. The hair needs to be shaved, so that the light can easily penetrate the skin - if the hair is in the way then it will hinder its journey down to the hair follicle.
I was invited in for a skin test - the lady prepared the area by wiping some gel on to my skin, which resembled the same sort of gel applied for an ultra-sound scan at the hospital. I was given a pair of eye-protecting glasses to wear and then the small, hand-held machine was pressed on to my skin. I felt a short burst of heat, and that was it. So quick. I was told to check for any negative symptoms over the next couple of days but there was nothing - no redness, no itching, no pain. It didn't even look red.
My first proper appointment was a week later. The whole treatment was barely any slower than the skin test. I was in and out of the clinic within 10 minutes. I was very concerned about redness, as I was having the treatment on my face. But again, there was nothing. At the end of the session she told me to leave the area for a week and after that to gently exfoliate. Hair would reappear, but it was only the dead hair being pushed out.
As I was having treatment on my face, may appointments were once every four weeks. For other body areas they would be six weeks apart and I was booked in for a course of six treatments. The strength of the IPL was increased each time. I can honestly say that after 4 of my six treatments, the results so far are remarkable.
As for cost, I really did receive a bargain. In the first place I went for a consultation at a laser hair removal clinic, who quoted me £800 (about $1250) to have my chin and jaw line treated. That week I checked my email for Groupon deals - I could get the same area treated with IPL for £99 (about $150). I wondered why it was so much less expensive. Of course, with Groupon you get a deal - but even so, IPL is less expensive than laser hair removal. The technology is cheaper and quite often the treatment is done by beauticians in salons. Some websites spoke about the risks being higher as effectively anyone could use an IPL machine. Some people also said that it was likely to take more treatments for the same results. But the cost difference was so huge that I decided to go for IPL, but to make sure that I was happy with the qualifications of the person doing the treatment.
I'm obviously not an expert and I can't make any scientific claims. But what I can say is that I have been extremely impressed by the difference to my hair growth. After 4 treatments any regrowth is negligible and I have had no side-effects whatsoever. I'll keep you posted about my progress in the comments section! Any other experiences of IPL are very welcome!