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Do IPL Devices Cause Cancer? (& Safe Use Tips)

By Laura
August 20, 2023
7 minutes
IPL Devices don't Cause Cancer

IPL hair removal is a useful method of getting long-lasting smooth skin. It provides you results for months to years by getting rid of your hair follicles. There are salon services available for IPL hair removal and at-home IPL devices are also in use nowadays.

The light from these devices falls on your hair, produces heat, and then destroys the hair follicles. If they are convenient and efficient then why are people hesitant about using them? It is because there is a myth going around that these devices can cause cancer. Is it true? We will discuss the truth behind this in this article and also some other side effects you can expect from IPL devices. 

Table of Contents:

Part 1: Do IPL Devices Cause Cancer?

Do IPL Devices Cause CancerThe IPL devices use polychromatic, non-coherent light rays to target your hair follicles. But this light does not cause any cancer. UV rays cause cancer then why not the light from IPL Devices? Although radiations are one of the main causes of widely spreading cancer but not every type of radiation can cause cancer. 

What does this mean? Let’s make it easier for you. The different rays in the electromagnetic spectrum have different wavelengths and those which fall below 300nm can cause cancer due to their high energy. This high energy has the potential to damage your DNA thus causing gene mutation and increased risk of premature aging and cancer.

Fortunately, IPL devices use impulse pulsating light radiations that fall in the range of wavelength 500nm-1200nm which makes it safe for you. Moreover, several studies have been conducted regarding this issue and no study has proved the association of IPL hair removal with cancer. 

Part 2: How Did the Myth of IPL Causing Cancer Started?

We are all familiar with the fact that the rays from the sun have the potency to damage your skin cells leading to skin cancer specifically basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. 

Moreover, those who were frequently exposed to X-rays had also cancerous cells in their bodies. This lead everyone to believe that exposure to any type of radiation can cause cancer. Since IPL devices also use light radiation to damage the hair follicles, people were convinced that they might also cause cancer in the body. But, these IPL devices are safe to use and only have some temporary side effects.

Part 3: What Are the Potential Side Effects of IPL Hair Removal?

Although IPL devices are reliable for hair removal, you can expect some side effects. These side effects are more common in those with sensitive skin or those who are careless with using the device. 

Redness

RednessWhen you move an IPL device over the treatment area, your skin comes in contact with the intense light and this light converts into heat energy on reaching your hair follicles.

Continuous exposure to heat in a single area can cause skin redness but it is temporary. In most cases, the redness lasts for some hours and subsides on its own. If it does not go away, you can apply ice on your skin but make sure the ice is covered in a cloth. 

Skin Burns

IPL hair removal can cause skin burns if you use the device on tattoos or tan skin. The light from IPL devices targets the color-inducing pigment present in your skin and hair. As the areas with dark skin have more melanin, more heat can gather up in that area leading to first-degree burns and in some cases second-degree burns. 

In addition to this, improper practice can also lead to skin burns. 

Blister and Scarring

Blisters and scarring after IPL hair removal is a rare happening but it does not completely have zero chance. Mild blisters and tender skin after IPL treatment are normal and subside within one day. But, if you see any severe blisters and scarring, it means your skin has a thermal injury and you need to get treated for it. 

These blisters can occur if you are using the high-intensity level on your sensitive areas, or using the device on a single area for more time than advised. 

Hyperpigmentation 

Side Effects of IPL DevicesIn most cases, IPL devices are not only used for hair removal but also for improving skin texture. It breaks the melanin in your skin and makes your skin look brighter and fresh. But, sometimes, due to heat produced by IPL devices, your body starts reacting against it.

This leads to an inflammatory reaction which results in hyperpigmentation. The post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation makes your skin look dark, or brownish. 

Part 4: Are There Any Long-Term Side Effects of IPL Devices? 

All the side effects of IPL we have discussed till now are mostly rare and temporary. Now the question arises, Are there any long-term side effects of IPL?

An IPL device itself does not cause any harm to your skin but if you are using it improperly then there can be some side effects that last longer. For example, the rays emitted by IPL devices can damage your eyes if you are not wearing goggles.

You will not feel anything for the first time but if you keep this up, it can cause photophobia, iris transillumination, and posterior synechiae, which can eventually interfere with your vision.

Part 5: Is IPL Hair Removal Painful?

Now that we have completely understood the safety and risks of IPL, there still remains confusion. Is it painful? Is the pain bearable? Let’s sort this out.

The light emitted from IPL hair removal devices is gentle enough that it does not cause any pain. The maximum you can feel is the sensation of a rubber band snapping against your skin. 

Some devices come with colling technology that will not let you feel even the minimum pain. So, IPL hair removal is minimally painful as long as you do not burn your skin while trying to remove your unwanted hair. 

Part 6: Tips to Use IPL Devices Safely

Till now, we have discussed that IPL devices do not cause any serious problems as long as you are using them correctly. But what exactly is the correct way? Let’s see. 

1. Shave Before Using IPL Device

Shave Before Using IPL DeviceWhile starting the journey of your IPL hair removal sessions, it is best to remove your hair but not from the roots. If you have long hair, the light from the IPL device will burn only those visible hair without reaching the hair follicles. 

Moreover, you need to cut hair just above the surface of the skin so that the remaining short hair can act as a target for light and help it reach the hair roots. The best way to cut your hair while keeping the roots intact is shaving. So, do not forget to shave before IPL hair removal. 

2. Wear Protective Goggles

Continuous exposure to the light from an IPL device can damage your eyes. So, to make sure you are completely safe, wear protective goggles. These safety goggles block harmful rays from entering your eyes. 

You can find these protective goggles in the box of some devices like Ulike Sapphire Air3 handset have these goggles included. While for most other brands, you need to buy them separately. 

3. Use Devices with Ice-cooling Technology

There are IPL devices with incorporated ice-colling systems that soothe your skin during the IPL treatment and prevent any pain. These ice-colling systems also keep the temperature in check thus saving you from skin burns.

Want to know a device that comes with efficient ice-cooling technology? It is the Ulike Sapphire Air3 handset which has a 4-fold ice-cooling system to keep the temperature as low as 50°F and protect you from unwanted burns, pain, and redness. 

4. Do A Patch Test

Do A Patch TestThe intensity level you need to use can vary from area to area. Sensitive areas like the underarms, upper lip, and bikini area can burn at higher intensity levels so you need to keep the intensity low for these areas. 

Therefore, before you start using the device, set your required mode and intensity and try using it on your arm or leg. If everything goes well, you can keep using the device with the same settings. 

6. Buy FDA-APPROVED Device

FDA approval adds to the reliability of any device or procedure, So, it is best if you buy an IPL device that is FDA-approved or dermatologist-recommended. The Ulike Sapphire Air3 handset is not only FDA-approved and dermatologists recommend but also certified by 30 other organizations for its safety and durability. 

7. Avoid Sun Exposure Before Treatment Session

Avoid Sun Exposure Before Treatment SessionExcessive exposure to sun rays triggers excess melanin production in your body which causes hyperpigmentation and skin tanning. IPL devices are not suitable for dark or tan skin so avoid exposing yourself to the sun if you plan to use any IPL device. 

Prefer not to go out but if you need to, wear sunscreen with SPF more than 50 to keep yourself protected. 

8. Make Sure You Are Not Contraindicated for Using IPL

IPl hair removal is contraindicated in pregnant women, those with sunburns, or who have any active infections. Moreover, it is best not to undergo IPL treatment in case of seizures, eczema, or other skin conditions. If you have a dark skin tone, then you also need to avoid IPL devices. 

Using IPL devices in these cases can only cause harm so before buying one, make sure you are not suffering from any of the above-mentioned conditions. 

Also Read: Contraindications of IPL Hair Removal, You Should Know 

9. Comply with IPL Hair Removal Aftercare

IPL hair removal can make your skin sensitive so do not go out in the sun at least for 24 hours of IPL treatment and do not apply any makeup products with harsh chemicals in them. They can cause allergic reactions and irritate your skin.

Then what to do? Apply a moisturizer immediately after IPL hair removal to retain your skin’s protective barrier. This keeps your skin safe and smooth. 

Also Read: Can I Use IPL Every Day at Home? (& Dos and Don’ts Included)

Conclusion 

The light in IPL devices has wavelengths above 500nm so they cannot be carcinogenic. But, they can cause redness, itching, burns, hyperpigmentation, and scarring in people with sensitive skin or those who use them in the wrong way. 

The right way to use these devices is to shave first, then do a patch test, and moisturize your skin after completing your session. But, before all that, make sure that you are not contraindicated to using an IPL device.

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