A hairy issue
A hairy issue

Tracksuit season is the perfect opportunity to get familiar with IPL (intense pulsed light).

It's a convenient, non-invasive method for permanently reducing or removing unwanted facial or body hair, which leaves the skin smooth and silky.

A survey by the Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australasia (CPSA) shows 31.5 per cent of respondents are considering having light-based hair reduction treatments.

"Our doctors have seen a steady increase in the number of patients requesting permanent hair reduction, with the Brazilian still among the most popular treatments for female patients," Susan Austin from the CPSA says.

Unlike waxing or shaving, with IPL the hair follicle is permanently destroyed and any remaining hair is slow growing and finer.

"IPL uses light to deliver energy to melanin (the dark pigment in your hair and skin) and haemoglobin (red colour in your vessels) to treat dark hair, pigmentation and capillaries," says Jayson Oates of Academy Facial Plastics & Laser Specialist clinic in Subiaco.

"The light converts to heat, which destroys the targeted cells without damaging the surrounding skin."

In the same way as a black car will be hotter than a white car because it absorbs more wavelengths of light, certain target tissues will absorb certain wavelengths of light more effectively.

"IPL is also an effective treatment for ingrown hairs," says Anh Nyugen from Inspire Cosmetic Surgery clinics in Nedlands and Mt Lawley.

"Although it may be slightly more expensive in the short term, in the long run it will save you thousands of dollars over other hair removal options, like waxing and shaving."

Miskn Clinic's senior dermal therapist, Sarah Kontor, says most clients need between six and 10 IPL sessions for hair removal. But IPL is also very effective in treating sun damage, broken capillaries, pigmentation and uneven skin tone.

"IPL is ideal for people with freckled and sun-damaged skin, the treatment will rejuvenate the skin and lift any pigment," Ms Kontor explains. "Treatment for pigmentation and skin rejuvenation should normally only require approximately three to six sessions every four weeks."

Ms Kontor says because IPL reveals new layers of skin, it is essential that the area treated is protected with SPF before and after and IPL treatment.

"IPL is not without its discomfort during treatment, but if performed correctly by a trained dermal therapist and with a reputable machine, there are no painful lasting effects and the results are almost immediate after first treatment," she says.

So what can you expect from a treatment?

"In some clinics a cool gel will be applied and then the IPL handpiece will be placed on the skin," says Carolyn Choy from Ultimate Aesthetics.

"When the lamp is fired, there will be a bright light and a slight stinging sensation on the skin, which feels a little like the flick of a rubber band. This is normal but should not be overly painful - if it is tell your therapist as there may need to be a dose adjustment."

Post-treatment the skin can be warm and red, which may persist for a day or two. After about two weeks, you will notice hair simply dropping out. Exfoliation is encouraged to aid this process.

The ideal candidates who will see results more quickly are those with brown or black hair and pale skin. Effectiveness is limited if there is no pigment - for example light blonde, white or grey hair. Fairer skin and red hair will respond to a lesser degree and those with darker skin can be treated, but with a great deal of care.

"Some areas like the face can be treated every six weeks and other areas like legs are treated every 10-12 weeks to fit in with the hair growth cycle," Dr Oates says.

You can start the IPL treatment at any time, although the cooler months are ideal.

"It is recommended you don't tan 3-4 weeks before or after your treatment and stay out of the sun before and after treatments," Dr Nyugen says.

Despite the suggestion of "permanent" hair removal, the treatment may require some upkeep.

"We are aiming for approximately 80 per cent reduction of the hair in the area to be treated," Dr Oates says. "Unfortunately, there is no machine on the market that can produce 100 per cent removal."

The West Australian

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