What is Intense Pulsed Light?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2019
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Intense pulsed light, or IPL, is a procedure that is often used in the process of hair removal. This method offers an alternative to the more costly use of laser hair removal, and is considered by some to also be a quicker and healthier option. Generally, intense pulsed light is a viable option for the temporary removal of unwanted hair, but does not offer the permanent removal that is often found with laser epilation techniques.

The use of intense pulsed light is considered a practice associated with dermatology, although the process is considered safe enough for various types of medical practitioners and even beauticians to administer the treatment. Basic to the administration is a specially constructed xenon flash lamp and focusing optic equipment. For actual contact with the skin, the equipment may be equipped with a hand held wand or a mechanical arm that can be swiveled into position.


Many patients find the process of administering intense pulsed light to be without pain and easy to endure. Essentially, the process involves positioning the wand or arm on the surface of the skin. A lamp is used to create a spectrum of pulsed light that travels into the skin tissue until the pulses of light come in contact with the root of the hair follicle. At this point, the light is converted into enough heat energy to destroy the root and a portion of the hair follicle. The residue is above the skin level and can easily be brushed aside. This process of using high intensity pulsed light is repeated until the section of skin is devoid of unwanted hair.

In addition to hair removal, intense pulsed light can also be used to treat several other skin conditions. Pigmentation issues that are created by overexposure to sunlight can be treated using this technique. Birthmarks may be lightened in hue or reduced in size using IPL. Intense pulsed light can also help reduce the redness associated with rosacea. Unlike hair removal, only a qualified dermatologist should administer intense pulsed light treatments for these types of medical conditions.


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