Getting rid of unwanted, excessive hair growth is annoying, time-consuming and costly.
Tired of temporary solutions for hair removal? Here's a comprehensive look at long-term solutions for permanent hair removal.
What are the various types of permanent hair removal options?
The 2 main types of permanent hair removal treatments are:
- Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)
What's the difference between Lasers and Intense Pulsed Light?
To clear up some confusion that's common amongst my patients, Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatment does not use lasers, hence it's quite misleading to call it as such.
As with lasers, IPL is also considered a light-based hair removal treatment, but they are in fact non-laser high intensity light sources.
What is Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatment?
IPL has evolved significantly over the years, and has been used safely for the cosmetic treatment of unwanted hair and pigmentation.
IPL uses a high-output flashlamp – essentially a very bright flashbulb – to produce a broad wavelength output.
This non-coherent (multiple-wavelength) light is directed towards the end of the handpiece, which then releases energy pulses on the skin’s surface.
The light energy is absorbed by the melanin in brown or black hair, resulting in thermal injury (selective photothermolysis) to the follicles of actively growing hairs – or those in the anagen phase.
When hair is destroyed in this growth phase, the follicle itself is also destroyed, and is incapable of producing hair in the future.
However, there will be some hairs that are already in the later phases of their growth cycle. As such, the follicle may not be destroyed and will replace the destroyed strands some weeks later.
This is the reason why permanent hair removal treatments require several sessions in specific time intervals.
What affects the effectiveness of IPL hair removal?
Your hair colour and size are important factors in predicting the efficacy of hair removal through IPL.
Coarse and dark hair has a higher tendency to absorb more energy, and responds better than light and fine hair.
As a matter of fact, blonde and white hair does not respond to IPL. Alternative hair removal treatments that don't depend on hair pigment for treatment efficacy would be more adequate if you have blonde and/or white hair.
Why is IPL so cheap in Singapore?
There are several establishments in Singapore that offer IPL treatments at incredibly low prices. You might feel like you're getting quite a good deal, but the trade-off is that you may have to go for many more sessions in the long run.
It's also important to note that even though IPL is widely used, it doesn’t mean that it is the safest. There have been reported incidents where it resulted in burns and scarring.
To ensure patient safety, IPL has to be used with great care at low settings for darker skin types (Fitzpatrick II-VI), which is why its hair removal action may not be as strong as its laser counterpart.
What is laser hair removal?
At present, there are three primary laser permanent hair removal technologies available:
- Alexandrite Laser (755nm) – used to treat fair to mid-toned skin with medium to coarse dark hair.
- ND: YAG Laser (1064 nm) – used to treat darker skin types with coarse hair.
- Diode Laser (800-810 nm) – used to treat fair to mid-toned skin as well as dark fine hair.
Within these devices are brand names like Alma, Cynosure, Candela and Lumenis.
How does Laser hair removal work?
The use of lasers for permanent hair removal has indeed come a long way since the mid-1990s. Older generations of lasers were slow and painful, and they only worked on individuals who had very dark hair and very light skin. These devices are therefore often preceded by their reputation.
Thanks to innovation, we now have more sophisticated devices that can work on all skin colours and on any area of the body.
Medical grade lasers work by emitting a single wavelength of light which results in maximised laser penetration to the targeted area. The light emitted is absorbed by the pigment in the hair, concentrating on the hair shaft. This causes the hair to be eliminated without harming the skin or follicle.
As mentioned earlier, lasers need coloured pigments for effective delivery of action. The beam of light for hair removal is filtered into a specific wavelength for it to be absorbed by the coloured pigment contained within the hair.
In a way, the pigment serves as a target for the laser. Otherwise, the laser will just pass through the skin and will have no effect.
How does IPL differ from Laser hair removal in terms of effectiveness?
IPL treatments require >10 treatments and it renders less permanent results. This is because the machine lacks focus as to where the light energy is emitted. This lack of precision means that IPL has to be delivered in lower settings for safety.
Laser sessions usually require about 6-8 sessions with relatively more permanence in hair removal. Overall, fewer treatment sessions are required than for IPL.
Is IPL or Laser hair removal more painful?
There is mild discomfort for both treatments. However, both treatments tend to be well-tolerated by most patients.
Which treatment is safer?
Laser treatments use only one wavelength, as compared to multiple wavelengths for IPLs.
Laser treatments hence allow for more precise and safer energy delivery to the hair follicle instead of the surrounding skin.
What is the cost-effectiveness of IPL vs Laser hair removal?
IPL sessions can cost from $50 onwards, whereas Laser hair removal sessions tend to cost from $150 onwards.
However, lasers can deliver better results in fewer sessions at greater safety. This makes Laser hair removal more cost-efficient over the long-run.
Dr Justin Boey’s practice of aesthetic medicine centres around the busy modern individual. He is experienced in Facial Aesthetics (lasers and injections) and hair loss treatments. Learn more about him here.
- Husain, Z., & Alster, T. S. (2016). The role of lasers and intense pulsed light technology in dermatology. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology
- Gold, M. H., Biron, J. A., & Thompson, B. (2015). Clinical Evaluation of a Novel Intense Pulsed Light Source for Facial Skin Hair Removal for Home Use. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 8(7), 30-5.