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What is IPL hair removal? Differences to laser and how they both work

Posted on the 06th of February 2022.

These are your at-home hair removal questions answered, from the tools to use, how often to use them, and aftercare.

Summer is fast approaching, and you may well be making sunbathing plans, even if it's only in your back garden.

If you prefer to be hair-free on your legs, underarms and bikini line, while having an appointment for professional hair removal is off the cards for now, whether that’s waxing or laser, a long-term solution to unwanted hair is using an at-home device.

There are two types of machines available for home use, laser removal and IPL, or intense pulsed light.

Shaving can be a laborious task. While simple enough in the shower, hair regrowth is immediate and the feeling of silky smooth skin doesn’t last long.

If done correctly, a laser or IPL device will ensure much longer-lasting results.

Now is the best time to start, as to begin the process you need to be tan-free, whether natural or fake.

Make sure you have a razor in your house as you’ll need to prep your skin before and in between IPL sessions before you get zapping. The area you’re targeting must be silky smooth beforehand for best results.

If you’ve even been daunted by laser or IPL, or are just intrigued but haven’t quite tried it yet, here’s our go-to guide to how it works, the results they deliver and how long it lasts.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

What is IPL?

It stands for intense pulsed light. It’s a type of light therapy used to treat unwanted hair. It works by targeting a certain colour in your skin, and the higher the contrast between your skin and hair colour, the better, which is why it is often said to be most effective on those with light skin and dark hair.

When the skin is heated, it destroys the hair follicle to prevent the hair from growing again, without burning the skin.

What is laser removal?

This targets the hair’s pigment (melanin) in your follicles; the laser beam converts to heat as it passes through the skin, which is then absorbed by the melanin present in the hair follicle.

The heat damages the follicle at its root, which prevents regrowth over time.

What’s the difference between IPL hair removal and laser removal?

IPL is similar to a laser treatment. However, a laser focuses just one wavelength of light at your skin, whereas IPL releases light of many different wavelengths.

Plus, the light from IPL is more scattered and less focused than a laser. They both however penetrate down to the second layer of your skin (dermis) without harming the top layer (epidermis).

IPL is less painful than other methods, such as epilation. Like laser, it destroys the root of the hair over time, meaning you’ll need less treatment as time passes. However, it’s far less effective than laser as the energy it produces is emitted via a variety of light waves, making it more diffused and less powerful – but this generally makes it cheaper than laser treatments. Due to the way IPL hits the skin, the intensity and speed of results will vary between individuals.

Which at-home laser and IPL devices are the best?

In our IndyBest review of hair removal tools, the SmoothSkin bare+ ultrafast IPL hair removal device (Current Body, £199) was the best tool.

We found that it turned out impressive results, and it can do up to 100 flashes per minute. It's compact and doesn't take up much space in your bathroom, and the colourway is a nice change from the usual white machines.

Unlike other IPL machines that can often be time-consuming, this device has a glide mode that is fuss-free and allows you to simply move it up and down quickly over your skin, which we found to be particularly ideal for your arms and legs.

There’s also a stamp mode, where the light is directly placed on the skin, so you know each flash will be accurate and only work on that area. We used this to work on smaller areas such as our underarms and bikini line and saw no re-growth for four weeks after the third application.

We were also impressed with the Philips lumea BRI/923 (Phillips, £350) which has two treatment modes: “slide and flash” and "step and flash". The first is ideal for fast treatment of larger areas such as legs. All you need to do is glide the device over the skin you want to treat, smoothly and quickly.

For smaller areas that might be harder to specifically target, such as your bikini line, this is where “step and flash" comes in. Plus, this comes with an on-the-go trimmer, a discrete beauty tool that makes it quick and easy to remove even the finest facial hairs.

The only complaint our tester had was that it’s not cordless, so it can be a little fiddly to manoeuvre over hard-to-reach areas, but even so, she didn’t feel the slightest pinch and hair was noticeably thinner.

If you want to opt for a laser device, try the Tria hair removal laser 4X (Tria Beauty, £349). It uses the same technology found in clinics, albeit at a weaker intensity.

While it does require concentration and precision, when it's used correctly, it permanently removes the hair. It has a lock feature that only unlocks if the hair follicle in the area that you're using it on is dark enough to treat. To unlock it, you need to lay the bottom of the laser on the top of the skin.

Rub the cooling gel (which isn't included with the device but is recommended to use with it) onto the skin then place the small laser head on the area and it will beep once, but only lift off the skin after you hear the second beep.

There are five intensity settings, the highest of which does feel like an intense rubber band flick, so just choose the setting you can bear. As the laser head is small you have to place it across the skin in overlapping circles. We recommend fully charging before use too. It is time-consuming, but the end result is worth it as we found we got little to no regrowth.

The only negatives are that the cooling gel only lasts about four uses, and we found it had to be recharged every 30 minutes or so. But after using it every other week, our hair was significantly reduced in five sessions. Note, patience is a must.

What hair and skin type do the at-home machines work best on?

Before opting for this type of hair removal, check the brand’s skin and hair charts. Many devices do not work if your skin is dark or hair is light (blonde, grey, white or red).

Due to the way IPL hits the skin, the intensity and speed of results will vary between individuals.

And don’t be tempted to skip reading the handbook, as they detail all instructions, including where you can and can’t use the machines.

Laser works best on those with dark hair and fair skin (the greater the contrast between the two, the better), so it’s unsuitable for those with pale hair as there's less melanin, as well as those with darker complexions, as there's no contrast between the hair and the skin.

When there is little difference between the two, your skin will absorb the light energy which converts to heat and can cause pain, blisters and burns.

How often can you use a home laser or IPL machine?

It actually depends on the body part that you’re concentrating on.

Most instruction manuals would recommend using the home IPL or laser device once every four weeks in order to catch the new hair that is starting to return in its growth cycle.

For legs, it is once every eight-12 weeks as the hair growth rate on this body part is much slower. It’s worth noting if you’re anxious to exceed these time frames, it won't speed up hair loss, in fact, it will probably do the opposite and may also lead to irritated skin.

How do they compare to salon treatments?

Home IPL or laser devices operate at a lower intensity than those used professionally, therefore, their ability to disable the hair follicle sufficiently is less than a salon treatment.

However, it goes without saying that the convenience of being able to carry out the treatments at home, in your own time, is a game-changer to long-time hair removal.

Plus, there is a substantial cost difference between home hair removal, as professional in-salon treatments tend to be very costly.

Why do I need to wear SPF after?

Aftercare is just as important as pre-care: lather yourself in sunscreen after your treatment (even in the depths of winter) and avoid anything that can trigger sensitivity on your skin, such as perfumes, deodorants and hot showers for the first 24 hours after you’ve zapped.

Keeping on top of hair growth at home

As we've not been able to keep up with our usual beauty appointments, from our eyebrows to the hair on our heads, many people have been cutting their own hair at home and learning how to wax themselves.

Before you do try a DIY trim, make sure you follow the advice of hairdresser and founder of Buller & Rice, Anita Rice, who explains her step-by-step guide on how to cut your hair at home here.

Aside from the hair on your head, if you're loathed to turn to a razor when you've been waxing for years, this is everything you need to know about waxing at home, whether that's your top lip of bikini line, and the best products to use.

If you're missing your brow appointments though, here’s how to keep your eyebrows in check during lockdown.

Vanita Parti, founder of Blink Brow Bar, gave us some top tips which include; don’t be too heavy-handed with tweezers, gently stretch the skin, grabbing your brow hair by the root and plucking in the direction of hair growth with your tweezers and trim longer brow hairs with nail scissors.

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Here's Why You Should Consider Adding CBD to Your Next Massage Appointment

Posted on the 6th of February 2022.

Cannabis: the plant that keeps on giving. Its uses are incredible and can be traced back thousands of years. There are various species of cannabis, and cannabidiol (CBD), is one that has been gaining a ton of popularity.

People are still often cautious of using CBD oils as they sometimes confuse CBD with THC, but there are actually stark differences between the two. While THC is known to get people high or alter their state of mind, CBD does neither. It is not psychoactive and also has more medical use than THC.

"CBD stands out because it is both nonintoxicating and displays a broad range of medicinal applications, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-anxiety, and analgesic (pain relief) properties," Dr. Blake Pearson, founder of Greenly Medical Consulting and practicing medical doctor in Ontario, Canada, specializing in cannabinoid medicine, told POPSUGAR. However, certain levels of THC (don't worry — they're not strong enough to show up in a drug test since they're used topically) can be present when using CBD products as it can make the beneficial properties of it even more potent.

Benefits of CBD Oils in Spas

People with arthritis, broken bones, sports injuries, overworked muscles from working out, neurological disorders, and those who want to relax or relieve anxiety can benefit from CBD oil treatments. According to Dr. Pearson, there's also a growing body of evidence supporting claims that CBD has been shown to improve symptoms related to "inflammation, including inflammatory bowel disease (for example Crohn's and colitis), rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and sports and occupational injuries causing chronic pain, like tendinitis," mood disorders, and more. He's seen patients in his clinic find great improvements in their pain after starting cannabinoid therapy.

Because of its many benefits, CBD has been taking the healthcare and beauty industries by storm in recent years. In fact, CBD is being used in special treatments at several spas across the country — and for good reason. The incorporation of CBD into spa treatments has been shown to reduce inflammation, relieve and ease pain, and destress, according to Anna Pamula, owner of Renu Day Spa, who was the first to introduce CBD treatments in Illinois over four years ago. Her salon in Illinois offers an ever-changing menu based on careful research of cannabis-infused massage therapy and other treatments with cannabis oils and products. She is very careful about sourcing the best, organic products without chemicals for her clients as they are the most beneficial.

The use of CBD oils in spas can be "great for musculoskeletal and joint pain relief," Dr. Mark Rosenbloom, MD, MBA, told POPSUGAR, "because it would really get into the tissues." He usually recommends CBD for localised pain and has seen very positive results from it. Dr. Rosenbloom has also seen a decrease in nausea, inflammation, and oxidative stress in patients when using CBD.

How CBDs Are Used

"What we are doing when using CBD is using the body's own system and just augmenting it a bit," Dr. Rosenbloom said. Our bodies naturally produce endogenous cannabinoids, which are the same structure of plant cannabinoids. We have two receptors for cannabinoids, but CBD doesn't act on them directly. Rather, it seems to encourage the body to use more of its own cannabinoids.

The plant cannabinoids last longer in the body because our bodies aren't used to breaking them down. "Over 1,000 genes in our body are affected by CBD. They are essential to human life. The body would not function well without endogenous cannabinoids," Dr. Rosenbloom added.

In spas, CBD is used as tinctures, massage oils, and is infused in lotions and creams. The products will not get you high but are applied to the skin during a massage to reduce pain, inflammation, and much more.

Side Effects and Dangers of CBDs in Spas

A study conducted by the World Health organisation stated that there is no evidence correlating any public-health-related problems with the use of pure CBD. Dr. Pearson added that CBD "is generally well-tolerated and has a good safety profile," and the study stated that "CBD does not induce physical dependence and is not associated with potential abuse." However, because it is an entirely benign substance and there could be a chance of developing contact dermatitis or an allergic reaction since it's applied topically, Dr. Pearson recommends consulting with your physician first.

It's also very important to do your research before pursuing any treatments involving CBD at spas. Try to find spas that obtain their CBD from organic sources with minimal ingredients. The products the spas use are of utmost importance, so you want to make sure you're going to a place that really cares about the ingredients it's putting in and on your body because "what can harm you is if the CBDs are mixed with oils that aren't good quality or have a lot of chemicals," Pamula stated.

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