Intense Pulsed Light Device

Hair Reduction, Skin Rejuvenation, Vascular Lesions

Intense pulsed light emits broad spectrum visible light. This light targets the chromophores melanin, haemoglobin and water in the skin.

The bright light destroys the hair by targeting the specific chromophore that is chosen for the treatment.

It is wrong to call an IPL device a laser, because they work totally differently.

The light source of an IPL device is a Xenon flash lamp that emits an extremely bright broad spectrum light beam.

A laser gets its energy from stimulated emission by an external energy source. This is actually where it gets its name.

As many as possible electrons as possible are pushed to higher levels. Photons drop to a lower energy level to create a beam of light.

Would you like to know exactly how a laser works and how the laser classification system works?

IPL device treatments

IPL or intense pulsed light is the hair removal method I have been using to do business with since the second half of 2004.

IPLs do not contain a cavity like a laser, but just a very bright xenon flash lamp.

Some lasers can contain a flash lamp to start the process inside the cavity.

Unlike lasers, IPLs have light filters to block out certain wavelengths during treatments.

Different filters will be used during skin treatments than during hair removal.

These devices have a range of wavelengths usually ranging from 500 to 1200 nanometers. This falls in the visible light portion of the entire spectrum of electromagnetic radiation.

This means the beam of light can be seen, but the eyes must be protected against it with special glasses.

How does the handpiece look?

The photo shows the handpiece of the IPL device that I use for skin rejuvenation and hair removal treatments.

The machine I use is manufactured by Elettronica Valseriana or EV Laser from Italy.

I must be honest and acknowledge that I have had more female than male clients. Interestingly enough, all the males, and most of the females, came for hair removal treatments.

And of those, roughly 90% wanted various degrees of pubic hair removal done.

Many females also requested facial rejuvenation, active acne treatment, removal of pigmentation marks and spider vein removal treatments.

A test patch with evaluation after 5 days must always be done for every new client.

LASER is the acronym for:
Amplification by the
Emission of

All laser systems emit stimuted and intensified energy to form a cold gentle beam of light.

Both IPL and lasers’ light passes through the skin and is absorbed by the desired target molecules or chromophores during selective photothermolysis.

What is selective photothermolysis?

Photo means light, and thermolysis means heat that destroys. Therefore Selective Photothermolysis means that heat will select what to destroy in the skin, without damaging surrounding structures.

The selected chromophores in the skin are melanin (hair follicles and pigmented skin), haemoglobin (capillaries) and water (skin rejuvenation).

Structures that must be eradicated are (hair follicles, capillaries, pigmented lesions, etc). For this to occur, the structures must be heated (50-100 degrees Celsius) to the point of destruction.

What is the role of heat in the treatment?

The photo shows the control panel of my intense pulsed light device at -4 degrees Celsius to ensure there will be no tissue damage.

The skin is cooled before and directly after firing a shot.

It is critical that the cosmetologist understands and controls the generation of heat.

The intense pulsed light beam transmits only radiant energy.

It is imperative that the skin be cooled continuously, because heat builds up inside the skin.

Heat is created when all the melanin in the skin competes to absorb the emitted light and then converts it to motion in the atoms and molecules.

It is also necessary to know how much heat is required to produce the desired temperature change, without damaging the surrounding skin tissue. For hair removal the temperature is above 70 degrees Celsius.

The emitted light and chromophores interact to determine a specific biological effect in the skin, without any collateral damage to the surrounding skin tissue.

Cool the skin to prevent damage

To the left is the intense pulsed light device I use to cool the skin to ensure that the skin never overheats with all the heat added to it by the light.

That is why it is so important that the IPL’s built-in parameters must be set according to the hair type and skin type of each client according to the Fitzpatrick skin classification scale.

If too high energy is administered, the skin will burn. That will show up as temporary blisters leading to hypopigmentation (lighter) or hyperpigmentation (darker).

Only hair in the growing anagen phase will be treated successfully.

Please follow the link above and get some information to understand why I make that statement.

Chromophores targeted for different treatments

  1. Melanin (brown line on image) – also called pigment, are found in the epidermis as well as the whole structure of the hair, but the concentration is highest at the base of the follicle near the dermal papilla that must be destroyed.
  2. Used for hair removal due to melanin absorption. Works best on dark hair and light skin. Roughly 8-12 treatments are needed for hair reduction, spaced 4-6 weeks apart, depending on the body part being treated.

    Twelve months without regrowth are viewed as permanent hair reduction.

  3. Haemoglobin and oxy-haemoglobin (HbO2 red line on image) – also called red blood cells, are present in all the blood vessels. Targeted for treating vascular lesions due to haemoglobin absorption. Also for spider veins, rosacea, red face. Treatments are 4 weeks apart, because the skin takes 3 weeks to totally rejuvenate itself.
  4. Water (H2O green line on image) – present in every cell of the body. Photo skin rejuvenation treatment, due to melanin, haemoglobin and water absorption. Works for sun damage, aged skin, under-eye circles, fine lines, irregular skin texture, pigmentation marks. Treatments are 4 weeks apart, because the skin takes 3 weeks to totally rejuvenate itself.

Characteristics of intense pulsed light

  1. Non-coherent intense pulsed light beam – wave patterns are unlocked in phase, meaning they cross over each other,

  2. Polychromatic colour – covers broad spectrum of visible light in the electromagnetic spectrum; ranging from 500nm to 1200nm in wavelengths

  3. Divergent intense-pulsed-light beam – high beam spread out over a distance like the light from a torch. That is why the IPL’s handpiece is pressed against the skin.

  4. Large spot size means a large area will be treated very fast with better penetration of follicles, meaning increasing efficacy.

  5. Super long pulse has the advantage of lower concentration of energy resulting in less pain, skin can release heat during each pulse, safe for skin types I-IV.

  6. Less risk of damaging epidermal tissue because cooling provides additional comfort and safety.

  7. Very good results on thick black/brown hair. Only short-term reduction on auburn/red/blonde hair. Totally ineffective on grey and white hair, because they have no melanin to absorb the intense-pulsed-light.

  8. Unwanted hair growth resulting from hormone problems requires medical intervention before treatment should commence.

History of flash lamps

Xenon flashlamps are a very commonly used source of light. It provides brilliant, full spectrum illumination when exposed to energy.

It can be designed to be extremely powerful.

It even has industrial applications like paint stripping. It is commonly used for flashes in the photographic equipment industry and for surgical lighting purposes.

It was originally developed as energy source for laser beams during the 1960s.

Soon it was being utilised therapeutically with direct application of its energy. In the 1960s xenon flashlamps and lasers were both tested for medical purposes.

During the latter half of the 1960s data were published on the treatment of eye and skin disorders. Attemps were made in the 1970s to use xenon light energy, delivered through fiberoptic filament, but they proved to not be permanent.

Though these devices are still in use, they should not be confused with devices that became available in the mid 1990s.

By the mid 1990s researchers were exploring the use of xenon flashlamps for the treatment of vascular lesions. During the first year the flashlamp was cleared by the FDA for use in treating vascular lesions.

One study noted hair loss as a side effect during the treatment of veins. Soon afterwards another study indicated the same promising hair removal results while treating leg veins.

That prompted one manufacturer to apply for, and receive, FDA clearance for hair removal in 1997. In 2000 the FDA began allowing certain brands to claim (permanent hair reduction in most skin types. Skin Type VI, according to the Fitzpatrick classification scale, was not included.

Are you interested in getting a full body Kahuna massage or hair removal treatment? Fill in the form on the Contact Me page for more info or to make an appointment.

What else can be treated with intense pulsed light?

Very good results are achieved with intense pulsed light (IPL devices) in the treatment of photo-aging of the skin, pigmentation from sun exposure (age spots), irregular skin texture, large pores and dark under-eye circles. It also helps to reduce fine lines around expecially the eyes and mouth.

What is photo skin rejuvenation?

It is a series of treatments with an intense pulsed light device with the intention to improve the appearance of sun damaged and aged skin. It is also to reduce redness and flushing of the skin, better known as “red face”. The result is a more youthful appearing skin for about 90% of the clients.

What are the causes of red faces?

The most common causes are the skin condition Rosacea (no known cure), sun exposure, alcohol, medications, stress, emotional causes, and normal aging of the skin. Repeated flushing or blushing is very common among very fair skinned northern Europeans with Fitzgerald skin type I.

What are the contra-indications of this procedure?

  • not for clients with connective tissue or auto immune disorder
  • not recommended during pregnancy
  • recently suntanned skin must not be treated, even if achieved by means of sunbed or selftan
  • patients currently on Accutane, or 6 months after discontinuing, must not be treated because the chance of scarring is greatly increased by this medication,
  • clients prone to fever blisters should take anti-herpes medication before starting the treatment
  • treatment is safe while using antibiotics, anti-anxiety, sulfa drugs, birth control pills and anti-hypertensive medications.

Are there any side effects?

Usually mild and of very short duration, lasting no more than 3 days at most. Mostly only a little redness and some mild swelling. Ice or cold packs helps to minimize erythema (swelling) and the stinging sensation.

Bruising is no cause for concern as it usually clears very quickly. Never break blisters, but allow to heal naturally and don’t pick scabs to decrease infection. Fortunately pigmentation changes are very rare and totally temporary.

Will IPL remove acne scars?

The shallow scars uually improve, but ice pick and deep scars will not show improvement. Microdermabrasion and/or chemical peels can be added to the intense pulsed light treatment schedule.

Advantages of intense pulsed light treatments

  1. Because of the big spot size of the intense pulsed light or IPL device, larger areas may be treated in a short time.
  2. Side effects like scarring and pigmentation changes are very rare.
  3. Pain and discomfort are minimized when proper skin cooling to below zero degrees Celsius is administered.
  4. Effective on almost all areas of the body. Not for unibrow and inside of ears or nose.
  5. Results are visible after a few sessions. Only shave for the duration of treatment.
  6. No downtime is needed after a treatment. You can quickly have it done during your lunch break.

Do you have any first hand experience of intense pulsed light treatments? Please share your unique story with us so I can publish it on this website. Remember to add a photo.

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What about some info about lasers?

  • I’m sure you enjoyed reading about intense pulsed light, but would now like to know more about laser treatments?
  • I’m willing to bet you are wondering how lasers and IPL compare with each other! Well come and find out.
  • Did you know that lasers are classified according to the damage it can do to the human eye?

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