Electrolysis vs. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Hair Removal

Electrolysis is the only FDA-approved method of permanent hair removal, but in your search for a way to remove unwanted hair you’re likely to come across popular hair reduction methods like intense pulsed light (IPL). In this post we’ll delve deeper into IPL to learn more about how it works and how it compares to electrolysis for hair removal.

How does IPL work?

IPL works by using light to target and destroy unwanted hair (along with other skin conditions we won’t focus on here). IPL utilizes a wide spectrum of light emitted in intense pulses, which covers surface area more quickly than electrolysis but penetrates the skin less deeply. The light emitted by IPL machines targets and gets absorbed by melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin and hair its color. Different people have different amounts of melanin, which is why IPL hair removal results vary from person to person.

What’s the difference between electrolysis and IPL for hair removal?

Instead of using light, electrolysis works by using a thin filament (or “probe”) to conduct heat into each individual follicle, thereby damaging the follicle until it can no longer produce hair. Hair follicles come in various sizes, so probes do too. Electrologists choose the probe that is the best size for each follicle, so, as with IPL, follicles can be treated regardless of size. Unlike IPL, the success of electrolysis is unrelated to hair (or skin) color, so it can also treat blonde, white, red, and grey hair.

What are the benefits to choosing electrolysis over IPL?

Electrolysis is the only form of permanent hair removal approved by the FDA with guaranteed results on all hair and skin types, whereas the efficacy of IPL technology correlates to the amount of melanin present in a client’s hair and skin. People with light skin and dark hair, for example, are more ideal candidates for IPL than people with light hair, or people with dark hair plus dark skin (because dark skin absorbs some of the light emitted, thereby weakening the amount that reaches the hair follicles).
Studies have also shown IPL to be less effective due to the wide spectrum of light used across the treatment area. The various wavelengths will not allow for all hair in one area to be removed. This results in the need for continued treatments over an indefinite period of time, which can become both costly and time consuming. Electrolysis also requires multiple treatments, but once the process is complete, hair follicles are unable to produce hair again; in other words, the hair is permanently removed.

Another advantage to electrolysis is that it’s considerably more precise than IPL, since electrologists methodically destroy each individual hair follicle one by one. This precision means that electrolysis can be used to delicately shape areas like eyebrows and beards according to a client’s exact specifications.

There are many variables to consider when deciding which hair removal method is best for you. Whether you can’t wait to start electrolysis or aren’t sure which route to take, begin your hair removal journey by scheduling a free consultation at our NYC office!