Based upon extensive research, I actually purchased the IPL600, and I’ll report on my progress using quantitative results (the best I can on a controlled section of hair). I do not work for the company, supplier, distributor, third party or represent it’s interests in any way.
I actually know a fair bit amount about optics, lasers, light (day job) and want to dispel some half-truths in this thread.
Before dismissing IPL therapy, read the following study:
It details hair removal efficacy at 24 months after the last treatment, with an observed efficacy of around 90% in most subjects.
The goal of any hair removal process is to create enough heat in the hair structure to damage the hair follicle. This results in shedding of the hair and after enough treatments, the follicle is sufficiently damaged that it will not produce hair root and shaft. This can be done with any number of methods that cause enough localized heat in the area, without damaging other areas of skin.
The comments about laser as more effective (and the reasons stated) are inaccurate. A near-IR diode laser outputs at 808 nm, Nd:YAG outputs at 1060 nm, and alexandrite around high 700 nm (appears as a dark red). A dark hair follicle will absorb equally well any of these wavelengths; the shorter the wavelength absorbed at closest to 100%, the more energy being absorbed. Light colored hair, regardless of output wavelength, will be poor at absorbing light, due to lack of pigment. The same goes for the outer most layer of the skin – there’s not much pigment in most people == less light absorbed that gets converted into heat, eventually causing damage. That’s the entire premise behind how all of this works.
Now that that’s out of the way…
Lasers are far more expensive than other light sources because they are difficult to manufacture, keep cool (due to tiny internal waveguides that produce the lasing action) and inefficient at converting energy into light, compared to other methods. That’s why commercial laser systems are so expensive and large – they require lots of cooling, optics, and active elements to generate enough energy to be useful in generating the heat needed to remove hair. The tradeoff is you can get a highly collimated beam of light in a pure (monochromatic) wavelength, which is desirable for certain applications (usually precision, directionality chief among them). If you just want to heat something up, (in most cases) a laser is a very inefficient way to do so.
IPL devices, producing a broad spectrum of light, in contrast are much less expensive and can produce a much higher power level than your typical laser (in the 100’s of watts, compared to most lasers in the 10s of watts). Most light in the visible spectrum gets absorbed by dark hair (that’s why the hair looks dark – black color is the result of most all visible light absorption). As long as the output is filtered to non-UV (which can damage cells DNA) and far IR (which does not get absorbed and penetrates too deeply), the visible wavelengths get absorbed by the hair, generating heat. Because the broadband nature of the light (many wavelengths) and overall higher power, it makes for far more effective heating.
An even better way to cause follicle damage is to use carbon dye on the area of hair removal, after the hair is either shaved or waxed. Carbon is very efficient at absorbing nearly all visible wavelength light, and by entering the follicle greatly increases the amount of heat generated in the area in response to that light. That’s why many laser hair removal experts now suggest this technique in lieu of higher power (both laser and IPL). It’s simply more efficient, directing energy where it’s needed.
So what have we learned? Yes, IPL is light and will get absorbed the same as laser light in dark hair. Yes, it works. Yes, it’s medically proven way of permanent hair reduction, with similar or greater efficacy as laser based methods. If someone has had poor success with IPL in the past, it likely boils down to technique or inadequate preparation, similar to what one could say with laser-based removal.
The only thing I’m concerned with this unit is that it’s specifications have been over-exaggerated, or the flash bulb or driver is of low quality. I’ll be testing it myself, prior to treatment, to see if that’s the case. But as long as it produces even half the power of its maximum, the concept has been proven to work and the theory is 100% scientifically sound.