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Pulsed Light Hair Removal: How Does It Work?

Hair removal is one of the most common methods for eliminating hair. There are numerous techniques to perform it, including pulsed light hair removal, which emerged a few decades ago. This method is a way to permanently get rid of hair. It can be performed on all areas, from legs to underarms, not to mention the face and bikini area. Let's delve into the principles of this practice.

Published August 7, 2023, updated on February 8, 2024, by Manon, Scientific Editor — 5 min read

Pulsed light hair removal, in brief.

Pulsed light hair removal is a technique that uses a device emitting light rays to eliminate hair. This method is based on the process of photothermolysis which aims to produce thermal damage in the targeted element, in this case the hair, while minimizing damage to the surrounding tissues.

For this, the laser hair removal device will emit light pulses that will be captured by melanin, a pigment present in hair and responsible for its color. This acts as a chromophore, that is, a chemical compound that absorbs light at a specific wavelength.

As soon as melanin absorbs light, it transfers this energy to the surrounding molecules, causing a temperature increase. This heat is then transmitted to the hair bulb, which can cause significant damage, particularly the apoptosis of the hair follicle.

Hairs grow independently and are not all at the same stage of the hair growth cycle. Therefore,multiple sessions of pulsed light hair removal are necessary to achieve lasting results. This methodallows to eliminate nearly 80% of hairs from the legs and underarms. Being minimally painful, it is also suitable for the sensitive bikini and facial areas.

It should be noted that hair removal using pulsed light has no effect on light or bleached hairs, as these have a low melanin content that does not allow them to be accurately targeted by pulsed light. It is primarily used on dark hairs, which are rich in melanin. Moreover, it is not recommended for tanned skin, due to the similar color of the skin and hair.

How often should you use pulsed light hair removal?

In addition to being performed in a salon, it is possible to carry out pulsed light hair removal at home by purchasing an IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) device. However, several spread-out sessions are necessary to achieve a lasting result. It is recommended to perform an average of 6 to 8 sessions, each spaced a month apart. Results are typically visible after the third session. Moreover, sun exposure is discouraged after each session, as the skin is sensitive and more susceptible to burns and sun damage. This is why pulsed light hair removal is commonly scheduled in the winter.

How does a session of pulsed light hair removal proceed?

Hair removal using pulsed light requires several steps.

  • An initial consultation whose objective is to determine the feasibility of the procedure, knowing that it presents some risks ;

  • Theestablishment of a quote that varies depending on the area to be treated and the number of sessions to be scheduled;

  • The physical preparation, by shaving the hair two days before the session, allows for action during the regrowth phase and better targeting of the roots;

  • Theapplication of a conductive gel that is applied to the area to be treated. It helps to cool the skin and promote the circulation of light to the hair follicles. This comes from the ability to minimize the reflection of pulsed light, allowing it to be better guided towards the hair follicles.

  • The actual session involves the mandatory use of protective glasses to shield you from light rays. Pulsed light is incompatible with moles and tattoos, so it's necessary to protect them. In a professional setting, the application of a numbing cream can help prevent any potential discomfort (tingling, warming of the area to be treated, etc.). To remove hair, simply glide the device over the skin, targeting all areas.


  • DIERICKX C. C. Hair removal by lasers and intense pulsed light sources. Dermatologic Clinics (2002).

  • HAEDERSDAL M. & al. Laser and intense pulsed light hair removal technologies: from professional to home use. British Journal of Dermatology (2011).


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