Flashlamps/Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)

Basic facts

Some consumers have experienced permanent hair reduction, but there is limited data on how much hair reduction is typical, and how often hair reduction occurs.

This procedure is sold as a professional service or a less effective home use version.


Full spectrum (non-coherent) light and low-range infrared radiation are filtered to allow a specified range of wavelengths.

This filtered light is delivered from a handpiece into the skin, where it targets dark material such as the pigment in hair.

This is intended to cause thermal and/or mechanical damage to a hair follicle while sparing surrounding tissues.


Some consumers have experienced long-lasting hair removal or permanent hair reduction.

Considered safe if performed properly.

Useful for large areas such as backs or legs.

Regrowth can come back lighter in color or finer in texture.

Light-skinned consumers with dark hair have the best results.


Long-term data on safety and effectiveness have not been established.

Response rates have not been established.

Not as effective on unpigmented hairs and red or blonde hair.

Must be used very cautiously on darker skin tones or on consumers who tan themselves.

Improper treatment can cause burns, skin discoloration lasting several months, or patchy/grid-like regrowth.

Requires eye protection.

Can be expensive.

Some find treatment painful.

Regulation varies by state, so inadequate controls exist to ensure competent practitioners.

Some consumers do not respond to treatment.

Quack claims

“Painless” or “virtually painless”

While many clients tolerate flashlamp without requiring pain relief, it’s overpromise to state that treatment will be painless for all consumers.

“Permanent hair removal” or “100% permanent” or “permanent”

Some consumers experience permanent reduction of treated hair over the course of treatment, but published studies have observed that many consumers are not good candidates, and even ideal candidates with light skin and dark hair do not always respond to treatment.

“Guaranteed 0% regrowth”

There is no published clinical data to substantiate this sort of overpromise.

“Beyond laser”

This marketing term suggests that flashlamp is better than laser for consumers, but this is not always the case.

Next: > Background, history, and clinical data