IPL laser hair removal explained

Laser hair removal is the most effective method to reduce unwanted hair. On average a woman will shave 12 times a month which equates to 7,718 times in a lifetime, which is why so many women are turning to laser for their hair removal.


In the UK most women prefer to remove the hair from the underarm area, legs (lower and or upper) and bikini area to varying degrees. Some have treatments on their face and some their arms. The thickness and therefore the visibility of the hair is often due to ethnicity, but can be due to some medical conditions such as Polycystic ovary syndrome.

We asked Dr Ros for a medical opinion on a few common questions surrounding laser hair removal.

Options for hair removal…

Shaving at home is a quick fix with drawbacks. The hair is cut leaving a blunt end so regrowth looks thicker as it no longer has a natural point. The area is often left with a dark shadow and after a day or two there will already be regrowth visible.

One of the most common in-salon hair removal treatments is waxing. This pulls the hair out at the root using melted wax. It is a better short term solution than shaving because when the hairs do start to come through a few weeks later, they come through with a pointed tip, hence are less apparent. Also, over time, the number of hairs tends to reduce.

Electrolysis is a common choice for anyone with little to no colour in the hair which therefore cannot be treated with laser or IPL. A probe is inserted into the hair follicle and this is used to cause damage and prevent the hair from growing. The course of treatment can take years to complete and is an ongoing process.

Laser or IPL hair removal is becoming more and more popular for body and facial hair. It works by the light from the IPL or laser being absorbed by the colour in the hair. This heats and damages the cells so that the hair can no longer grow in the follicle.

When does laser hair removal work?

For maximum effect the hair needs to be shaved or trimmed and the hair must be in the Anagen phase of the life cycle when the hair is actively growing. Not all hairs are in this stage at any one time so a course of 6 treatments is usually needed, with 4-8 weeks in between, depending on the machine being used and the area treated.

Can laser or IPL hair removal treat all hair types?

Unfortunately hair that has little or no pigment, such as blonde or white, will not be affected by the treatment. Most skin types can be treated with the more advanced machines but a treatment cannot be done when the skin is tanned, even when using fake tan. October and November iare therefore the months when most people start their course of treatments.

Does laser  or IPL hair removal hurt?

The sensation varies depending on what type of machine is used but it generally feels like a flick of an elastic band on the skin.

Does laser or IPL hair removal require downtime?

There is no down time in skilled hands and the hairs can be shaved or cut as much as you like in between treatments…. So you don’t have to go hairy!

What are the regulations around laser or IPL hair removal?

Not all lasers and IPL machines are the same and worryingly there is no control on who can buy and use them. Choosing a medical clinic will ensure your safety and results. In unskilled hands using cheap import lasers there is the risk of burns. A patch test is always required to check the the skin’s reaction and tolerance to the laser.

Your choice for treatment to deal with excess hair is therefore based on hair colour, time, budget and available machines in your area. Treatments must be carried out by trained practitioners.