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IPL & Laser Treatments > How Long Does Laser Hair Removal Last? (Honestly)

There is a lot of conflicting information on how long laser hair removal lasts. (Yes, I'm aware of the semantics with regard to "permanent" being defined by the FDA as "long-term, stable reduction . . . over time greater than the duration of the complete growth cycle of hair follicles.")

Most studies have a six month follow up, and a few have gone to 24 months. (Yes, I'm aware that hair counts are usually stable between 6-24 months.)

This leaves us with our personal clinical findings. I'd like to hear from anyone who's been performing laser hair removal for more than two years and has had patient follow ups for at least that long. (i.e., seen the same patients at least two years later to assess clearance.)

12.16 | Unregistered CommenterJames

James: I have probably had at least ten treatments myself on my back with a 755 nm Alexandrite laser (known as one of the best modalities for Fitz II and III with dark brown hair--which is me). I would estimate that my remaining hair is approx. 80% reduced from the point at which treatments started. In addition, most of the remaining hairs are much thinner, finer and lighter than when I began the treatments. It has been almost two years since my last treatment so I think we can conclude that this is a "permanent" result. This result pretty much reflects the published literature on the subject. Where many of us got into problems with our med spas is that we "overpromised" results. At my med spa some of our consultants would say ANYTHING to get the sale. Who wouldn't-- when their compensation is based on closing sales (and not on the aftermath). Many people were promised they would be virtually "hair free" after only five treatments. Needless to say I experienced the wrath of many, many unhappy patients!! It is not a good way to build good word of mouth advertising!!

With individuals who had light brown, dark blond, and reddish tone hair, the results are typically not even as good as mine. Ditto for patients who would not follow our "rules" about keeping the treatment area as pale as possible throughout the duration. No doubt about it-- laser hair removal can be a slippery slope!! There is a lot of debate and discussion going of right now regarding the use of 1064 nm (long pulsed) lasers and certain IPL systems -- sometimes in conjunction with other wavelengths-- in an effort to treat different targets (large,med and small) with different wavelengths, pulse durations, spot sizes and depths of light penetration. There are some very experienced, brilliant clinicians contributng to this blog so read the postings cover to cover. Lots of free information. Be careful because there are lots of sales reps piping in also. Maybe one of these days we will get this figured out! In the meantime, be sure to UNDERpromise (and try to overdeliver).

We have been doing it for about 4 years now with some good long term results. I have not done any studies or hair counts. I believe that we see some permanent destruction of follicles but others will be stunted. Some studies have shown what appears to be a stunting of some follicles for up to 2 years.

It is also very difficult for some areas of the body such as the upper lip and chin of women, they can have hormonal changes that convert fine villous hair into coarse darker hair over time. So essentially they have new hair. This makes it difficult to keep track of.

12.16 | Unregistered CommenterLH

James:
I am glad someone has brought this out in the open!! :-) I agreed with what Medspaguy said. In general the gold standards for LHR is:
Fitz I-III: 755nm: better "bulb, root" elimination thus more permanent effects
Fitz III-VI: 1064nm less effect on "bulbs", less effect on fine hair but less side effects on darker skin. Thus less permanent effect but much safer on darker skin. However, in skilled hands with the right machine specifications and tools, one can get as good permanent results as in 755nm but with more initial treatments and touch-ups

12.16 | Unregistered Commenterpmdoc

I believe you must use an Alexandrite or a Diode. Never fall for an IPL. Wont work

beware of alc,

We are getting great results and have for the past 2 years with Palomar starlux for hair removal. It's IPL and it works. Don't post your opinion and state it as if it factual, your wrong.

The medspa I work for now uses the Palomar IPL with very good results. just a reminder: ALC deliberatley lowers the settings for their Syneron IPL lasers to avoid liability. Don't base all IPL results on their lasers or settings

I have used several lasers,(Cynosure,Aura, Comet, Palomar, Aesthera)over the past five years. I agree with "beware of alc" guy. IPL's do not work well for hair removal! The best results I have seen is from a yag1064 or Alexandrite 755 on most skin types. NorCal RN

Former ALC guys: while I thought the ALC-stuff wouldn't impact me, the local ALC in my area has gone Out of Business and wants to pay us to finish their HR packages that were sold. Anybody out there have experience w/ this??

I am not former alc but make them give you all names packages etc and then make them pay you very well. What they are asking is that their problem becomes your proble. I would be very careful you could get burned very easily.

01.6 | Unregistered CommenterLH

DermaRogue: I agree with LH on this one. Be careful- because ALC had a number of problematic "guarantee" programs over the years and their clients were routinely overpromised on the results side.

On the other hand, it may be a great opportunity for you when you take into account the cost of acquiring patients. When I crunched my numbers I was astonished to see how much it cost me to acquire my customers. In addition, you will be able to get a great deal more value out of the patients since ALC had such a limited service offering and was not really a "medical" spa.

I agree with all of the above- but certainly be careful of the 2 year guarantee.
Find out as many details as possible about the clients and the center. In the 3+ years I was there, ALC closed only 2-3 clinics out of 200 for not producing. It's highly unusual- unless maybe it was a licensed or franchised location.
Be super cautious or you could inherit their big fat mess. On the other hand the patients may be so grateful not to be dealing with the evil empire you have a shot at upsales.

I have seen several people have results at ALC on both the Diode and the IPL.( it takes quite a while) I have seen people promised things that were a lie. Of course I informed them of what happens in the procedure and what to expect. I worked for an amazing laser company that was slow and so I ventured back to ALC. They have a new CEO, and are changing things. Honestly in being a good consumer you should research, what type of laser they are using?, how the procedure works? what FDA approved means? It means 80-90% reduction. The two year guarantee has rules and almost every patient ignores them even though we remind them at each treatment. ( it doesnt cover you if you have a hormonal imbalance, tan, ...etc ) but ALC still allows for people to receive treatments even if they are doing those things. Yes there are better lasers out there. My favorite so far is the LIGHTSHEER. It's amazing. Good luck everyone.

08.28 | Unregistered CommenterLaser Tech

I dont believe you can fully guarantee that some hair wont come back after a series of treatments. I believe you should always under promise and over deliver as stated previously by med spa guy. Any hair removal on the face is difficult to guarantee due to hormones. I do think when you go to someone who is properly trained and using an effective laser you will get great results and reduce almost all of your hair. I always suggest patients come back for touch ups once to twice a year.

We have a Candela GentleLase that I personally have used on myself starting in 2004. The bikini was the first area "finished" and over 4 years later it's still pretty much gone! I have a few thin dark hairs creepiing in at the edge but thats it. My legs are a "work in progress" as I have worked on them sporadically over the last 5 years. I still have scattered dark haiirs but they are thinner, lighter and slow growing. It does seem that I have some very fine, light vellus type hairs (unsure if they were there before hiding under the dark ones or are converts). Overall it's been a fantastic improvement for a dark haired Fitzpatrick III who previous shaved daily to wear shorts or a bathing suit. Given the 4 year response on the bikini, I'm comfortable advertising this treatment as permanent!

i have an olive skin complexion. and i have dark brown hair. ive been working on my beard line because it grows very high above my cheeks. ive had 3 treatments and i can see reduction as well as finer slow growing hairs. my question is how many more treatments do i need for PERMANENT REDUCTION. i dont care if there are a few hairs as long as theyre light in color. also after i get the necessary number of treatments will the results last for the rest of my life? im 23 and italian.
let me know.

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01.27 | Unregistered CommenterSin

THE GUY
with sorry,premanent hair removal for you (as a male) is far from away,
because your testestron is a hair growther , as you are man your hair regrowth.
this is an experimental note not theorical comment
god bless you

02.12 | Unregistered CommenterDr.marefat

So...if i'm a SUPER hairy guy...i mean REALLY hairy...is this LHR even worth it...i have the "preferred" skin/hair type...it just sounds REALLY expensive...any one have experience with SUPER RIDICULOUS hairy guys? Is it worth it? Or am i cursed?

03.16 | Unregistered CommenterDOH!

i've had VERY good results from IPL by Palomar. I have tried NUMEROUS lasers and IPL systems ! By farrrr this one gave me the BEST permanent results ! i went from hairy to happy !!

03.29 | Unregistered Commentermary

We have been using IPL for HR since 2001 - we have a machine called PlasmaLite, from Sweden, that can output 30-35J/cm2, at skin level (we test it every month with a light metering device) - and it really works. It was very expensive for our market (eastern europe) at that time, it costed about 30000 USD.
Now, the company from Sweden, called Medical BioCare, has gone bankrupt (so you can see I'm not here to advertise), but we can still find filters and lamps, and parts if needed. Never had any big problem with the machine, works like a charm, and the results are there.
The problem with most IPL is that they are simply not powerfull enough. The lamp is capable of outputing the right energy, but if the spot is too big, the energy level on sqare centimeter is going to be too low. Our spot only has 2 cm2.
My wife, FZIII, had a LOT of problems with hair, but not anymore. Armpit absolutly gone in 3 sittings, about 8 years ago, never came back. Same for bikini line, only it took 4-5 sittings. Legs - it took about 8-9, finished 6 years ago, not a problem anymore - some thin hairs still grow, but you dont notice it unless you look really close. Chin and mustache took about 12-14 treatments, and there are still some thick hairs growing - but very very few, not by far the problem it used to be.
We have patients very pleased, recomending us to other patients.
We have a lot of patients coming from other IPL practice after 4-5-6 treatments with different IPL machines, and the results are sometimes zero. This is why most people are inclined to say IPL does not work.

If the machine is powerful enough, it works. But I would say 90% of the machines that are available on the market are simply not powerfull enough. Especially the ones that dont have a sapphire guide, and the ones with very large spots.
We had also another machine, made in Italy (I will not name the company), very cheap one, at around 8000 USD, with lamps without a guide, and cooled by air. The manufacturer claimed 25J/cm2, it had a spot of 2/4 cm, but upon testing, it never acutally went over 18 J at skin level. We had to get rid of it, and I am still ashamed with the guy I sold it to.

My advice - test the machine first. Get an apropriate lightmeter (rent one) and see what it delivers at skin level. If it gets over 30 J/cm2, then it is a good machine, and it will give results.

04.25 | Unregistered CommenterMD Baten

30 on the fluence sounds reasonable, although some YAGs can get great results below 20 on skin types 5-6. I do agree IPL is inferior to lasers in general since they do a lot of epidermal heating, but whatever device you use, clearance that remains after 6 months is mostly the 'permanent' result.

04.28 | Registered CommenterOSTspa

Hello.... I have been receiving treatments for hair removal close to 4 years now on all my face, I have always been hairier that usual but nothing serious, removed my mustache using waxing and had short, fine hairs on the sides of my face, all this changed once I got pregnant and I started growing hairs on my neck on the baseline on my chin following a beard like pattern and the hairs on the sides of my face actually start it moving closer to the cheeks, after I spoke to my gynecologist he told me this was normal on some women after the pregnancy and basically told me to wait around until got better, which I didn't... I first started with the Palomar IPL system, got my whole face shaved (as part of the procedure as I was told) which made my problem worse, the hairs are longer now and I have hairs in places that I didn't before, I did the treatments for 2 years and then moved on to laser treatments ( Lumenis dyode laser) which are not working either, I asked my dermatologist not to shave my face anymore and he told me it was fine that the treatment still worked ( Is this true??) By now I feel kind of desperate and I dont know what else to do.. Should I try another type of laser? electrolysis? I'm on birth control pills to control a PCO problem, nothing serious and I have gotten at least 5 hormonal tests (T3,T4, estrogen, free testosterone,and many more....) that show no hormonal unbalance ... ANY SUGGESTIONS? please help.... By the way, I live in San Jose, Costa Rica... I was told I am a fitzpatrick type III

07.16 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia

Cynthia,

I would ask to be placed on siprinolactone. It is a diuretic but has an anti-testosterone effect. Patients with PCOS tend to have higher androgenic hormone levels which then increase the conversion of the fine villous hair to dark coarse hair. Hoepfully the spirinolactone will slow this process down. I have had patients do very well on this.

Also, if you look at studies on hair growth shaving does NOT make the hair in darker or more coarse. I assume that it is more related to your PCOS. Another possiblitly is that you have a laser/IPL induced hypertrichosis. What this means is that the laser caused more hair growth. You can occasionally have someone that has increased hair growth following laser hair removal. This is most likely to happen with a darker skinned patient usually a Fitz 3 or 4 and of middle eastern ancestry.

The best way to improve the outcome is to increase the energy settings and use a shorter pulse width. The Lightsheer diode laser should work but it may be better to go with a 1064 NdYag laser. It is absorbed less by the skin. Another option your physician would have is to double pulse the area at lower energy settings. I hope this helps and nobody will know better than the physician treating your skin but it will at least be worth talking to him/her about these options.

07.16 | Unregistered CommenterLH

Cynthia,
For the face electrolysis is the only method how you can get rid of hair. I have been treating a lot of clients with your skin type and after many laser or ipl sessions everybody has the same problem (increase in hair growth). I have seen results from every laser and ipl. I am not against lasers they work great on every other part of the body but not the face. I refer my clients to doctors who do lasers for all body work except the face. The darker the skin the less effective laser or ipl is.
Good luck!

07.16 | Unregistered CommenterMarina

I agree that the PCOS is probably the culprit for the increased hair. I know after the birth of number 2 child I developed PCOS and had some serious hair issues. My daughter also has issues with increased hair after a child.

BC doesn't always take care of the problem. A comprehensive hormone testing sounds like it's in order.

I have used IPL laser on my underarms, and for a while I noticed a reduction in hair growth, and fine, thin hair. Suddently, after not doing my underarms for 5 months, my hair grew back thick. It made no sense to me becuase I completed 8 session, and I would only go back to another session when my hair grew back, but it was alwasy thin. By the looks of it, it looked as if my 8th session would have been my last one because of the minimal hair growth. I found it very odd that it came back thick and full 5 months later. Not as full as before I started, but still noticably bad. I'm starting to think that it temporarily removies hair, thins it out, and prevents it from coming back, but eventually, 6 months down the road, 12 months etc, it will come back thick but not as thick as the begining. I personally do not think IPL works well.

Should it not permantely reduce the thickness in the hair atleast?? How can it go from thin back to thick?

03.21 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Hi there, I'm a 24year old female (half Italian, half English,tanned/olive skinned) and would really appreciate any advice you can give me. Over the past year I had an increase in noticeable black body hair, which has left me very uncomfortable and unhappy. It has appeared on my face, top lip, back, neck and many other areas, including a big increase on my bikini line and around my anal area. I have had hormone tests and have been told that there is no imbalance. I'm looking to have a form of hair removal conducted on my bikini/ anal area (not buttock cheeks), but with so much information and sales men around, I'm not sure what procedure would be best for this area? Laser Hair Removal or IPL?
All information/advice is greatly appreciated.

I believe that laser hair removal doesn't mean that you will be hairless for eternity. I noticed that this treatment slows down growth of hairs, making them thinner and lighter, till you are ready for your next laser hair removal.

Hi there,

I'm a 28 year old male and for the last year have been getting IPL treatments on my back. My skin is pale and my hair colour is dark brown. I have probably went to at least 12 treatments. I made maybe 10-15% of the hairs not growing back, and the remaining hairs are thinner, but some are still pretty coarse in a lot of areas, mainly on my shoulder blades. The clinic gave me an opportunity to sign up for another year worth of treatment, for a decent price, but for the last several months, I haven't noticed any improvement. I'm just wondering if there it's worth my while to continue for another year or if I should just save my money. Thanks

08.30 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

It all really depends on your body. The whole FDA label is to dissuade any unfounded promise of hair NEVER coming back in lieu of different growth stages and changing hormones throughout ones life. What you're typically looking for in success is around 75-85% clearance after the treatment cycle. Of course, to reach higher levels of efficacy patients should follow-up every six months or so if there are any recurring follicles still shooting up. For clinicians this is just good business and for patients this is a way to get the best treatment possible.

For those on this thread that have had 10-12 treatments and are not seeing great results - it's time to find a new treatment center. In my personal opinion, IPL systems just take too many treatments to be patient friendly. Yes, you can achieve great results with an IPL, but the treatment cycle is just far too long and can get expensive for patients. I use a YAG laser and have been able to achieve excellent results in a maximum of 6-8 treatments for larger sized areas.

When I had shifted from using an IPL to a YAG laser there was a lot of discussion about how the treatments are going to take so much longer due to a smaller spot size of the YAG, yet in spite of a smaller spot size there only needs to be one pass without overlapping - so it ends up actually being faster. So, that being said, I've been able to see great permanent reduction results from my laser

I am a fair-skinned male and have a lot of dark hair on my chest and stomach. I would like to reduce the amount of hair in these areas (think going from a dense forest to a lightly wooded area). How many laser treatments would it take to permanently (or close to it) reduce the amount of hair? Is one treatment enough?

Hello forest no pun intended. No one treatment would not be enough. It is difficult to predict how responsive you will be to the laser therapy by performing only one treatment. The hair is shaved and the laser performed on clean skin, you will need repeat treatments somewhere between 4-7 weeks several times. The results of laser hair reduction are successful if there is an 80% reduction of hairs after the program, most patients are happy with 20% or less remaining.
Since laser hair removal is still young, ( about 11) the long term stats arent complete but so far it seems that a 10 year or more reduction is obtainable

12.20 | Unregistered Commentergm

I have had 10 ipl treatments on my underarms. Did work well to begin with, I have light skin and black hairs. One month after my treatments were completed the hair started growing back, had an extra treatment, 3 months later all hair is growing back. Wasted money, disappointed and not impressed. Machine used was the plomar starlux

04.15 | Unregistered CommenterBeen there

Palomar is not my ideal choice for hair removal. Even the 1064 hp does not match up to others. I would say a cutera 1064 or cynosure 1064/755 are ideal for hair removal by 10 treatments you should be virtually hairless under the arms long term unless the operator does not know how to use the machine properly, or you have pcos or another hormone related medical condition. However, with a palomar you will likely need 20 plus treatments and still have lots of stragglers..just based on my own experience using it on clients in the past before I changed machines.

I would say that if you are being treated with Nd:Yag at the proper parameters, and the system is working properly every time you receive treatment, the hair should be completely gone after 6 treatments and likely will never grow back. Furthermore you should not wait so long between treatments.

Repeated treatments are normally expected result for laser hair removal. Not all follicles are killed, They grow back, While the growing ones at time of treatment will continue, the completely removed are the ones that fall out gradually.

04.18 | Unregistered CommenterR.Q.

I have used the Palomar Starlux over the last 5 years and have gotten good results for hair reduction. I have personally pulsed off over 2.2 million pulses on the Starlux Platform. I feel that it may take a few more sessions over an Alex/Diode, but it does indeed work. I wouldn't use the 1064 on the Palomar platform...way to slow. The Cutera Xeo is a good platform, but I am not personally a fan of the 1064 for hair reduction unless for skin type 5/6. From my personal experience, the diode and the alex are the best lasers to go with for good results.

Personal experience aside, technical scientific data proves the physics of any laser is going to be superior to that of an IPL, first off.

Diode is not Alex, and is not compatible. Diode, like the Lightsheer, is an IPL- NOT a laser, and therefore physically inferior.

Alex is truly the most tested and proved wavelength (755nm) for all skin types including darker skin types. Yag lasers are marketed for darker skin types because most manufacturers of Alex lasers don't offer a high total average power, which allows for greater parameter choice, and the safe and effective removal of hair on darker skin types.

Laser hair reduction is permanent when done properly. This has been proven over and over again. Anecdotal evidence cannot be used as a rational rebuttal to statistical evidence, as statistical evidence is a numerical evaluation of multiple anecdotal evidence.

You need a predictable energy delivering machine of 800 nm diode. Currently, the only machine which is proven on any type of hair and skin is the Lumenis Lightsheer ET or Duet machine. Try it.

I don't understand the implications of the previous comment, but, technically, it makes little sense. 800nm is NOT the most effective wavelength for laser hair removal, and diode is inferior to laser. Any 755nm Alexandrite laser at similar energy settings with a similar spot size will ALWAYS be superior to diode or IPL. This isn't speculation, notion, or opinion- it is simple scientific fact.

And it is also simply not true that the Lumenis Lightsheer ET or Duet are the only machines proven for hair removal on any skin and hair- this is absolutely not true at all. The Lightsheer, first of all, uses a wavelength outside the best effective wavelength on all skin types (755nm). It is also lower in overall average power than most other lasers (the average is 80W, and the best laser in terms of average power is the EpiCare LPX/DUO with 100W max average power).

I'm opening a laser center, and am looking to buy a laser hair removal machine. The only ones I see that are in my price range are IPL. Are they too ineffective, or is it ok to start out with one? I would really appreciate your input.

05.3 | Unregistered Commentershamou

That's a very broad question, and the answer depends upon how much you want to spend, how many patients you plan on seeing each day, what your patient ethnicity mix is like, and how much supervision you feel will be required for the person/s using the laser. Maintenance costs will also be a factor.

05.4 | Unregistered Commenters.g.

Shamou,

What people don't realize is that IPL has the potential to be far less cost effective than they imagine. To purchase an IPL that can even come close to the effectiveness of an equivalent laser wavelength (not actually equivalent, but whichever wavelength an IPL may be attempting to imitate) you would have to spend about as much as you would on a multi-patform laser, if not more. Because most IPL's use individual hand pieces, your cost for service will also be higher. Because IPL manufacturers usually provide less service information to third party servicers, your access to regulatory compliant service will be far less available, and your liability will go through the roof.

Laser is always the best option. If you cannot afford an adequate laser, don't get into the business until you can afford quality equipment. Don't do what many people do in pure hypocrisy- spend less on a device that delivers less efficient treatment, and charge the same as all the others. Would you want to be the consumer of a business that chose a less effective device simply because they thought they could save money? Soon I'll be starting my own series- Mickey's Medspa Nightmares!

But I digress... Know your target market. Make your target market. Don't buy the notion that some markets are just not friendly to cosmetic procedures- there isn't a market in the United States where people don't regularly take part in some cosmetic treatments of their own- create the market. Once you know your market, and even aid in creating it- choose your weapon. You can contact me directly if you'd like a consultation. I can give you consultation on equipment, but I also have associates who can give you consultation on everything from location, human resources, financing, etc.

shamou, IPL is not a laser and has nothing to do with a laser due to its technical properties. To understand the difference from a deeper technical point of view to choose the right machine, it is worth joining one of those Core of Knowledge courses. There are very few really good IPL estheticians out there who know what they are doing due to their strong technical knowledge of how an IPL works to achieve good results after a treatment - whatever it is - hair removal or skin rejuvenation. Insurance companies say that the highest number of claims are on the cases involving use of an IPL device rather than a laser.

05.15 | Unregistered Commenteranna s

Regardless of which form of hair reduction you choose for your clinic you will get great results when you do a thorough consultation, test patch and treat according to skin type and hair type, this will determine your treatment parameters. IPL will work on skin types 1-3 or even 4 and I've had fantastic results with different machines on the market.

05.26 | Unregistered CommenterDAllen

Most people will tell you that laser is better than IPL for hair removal. If one is comparing an Alexandrite laser (755) to IPL for skin types 1-3, I would say in most cases they would be correct. I used Lightsheer lasers for about 5 years on all skin types using very high energy settings, and then switched to the more versatile Palomar Starlux IPL systems for an "all-in-one" solution. Many people feel the Lightsheer is the gold standard for comparing results across all skin types, and I can tell you after using both for many years (used Palomar's IPL for about 5 years also), that if you keep the power levels high and do appropriate levels of overlap, at least for me, IPL results were equivalent to the Lightsheer.

06.9 | Unregistered Commenteraprice

shamou, first of all its worth the money to go get certified first so you can make a more educated choice and have access to other professionals with experience.Intense Pulse Light is not a great choice for hair removal, it works best for hyperpigmentation...tricky on ethnic skin, there's a lot of great lasers for sale or lease out there for hair reduction, Always do your test patch with the initial consult! btw, additional insurance is a good idea.

07.10 | Unregistered CommenterKooper

If you truly are never treating anybody darker than a skin type 3, and talking about results only, no other considerations, a good 755 laser is superior. However, maintenance costs are generally much higher on an Alex laser, power requirements are usually greater, and you need to have a solid AC system for the room that it is in, because they tend to produce a lot of heat and need to be kept in a relatively cool (70 degrees F) room.

07.11 | Unregistered Commentereverett j

IPL can be effective for treating unwanted hair. Your biggest question is, "What skin types will be requesting hair removal in my practice?" IPL cannot be used on Fitzpatrick types past 3 so you might be limiting your market. Another thing you need to ask yourself is, "who will be using this machine?" The technician needs to really be aware of the skin types they are treating with IPL even more so than most lasers! The bottom line is that if your clientele is primarily caucasian and your technician is experienced, then you should be ok.

08.18 | Unregistered CommenterCathy

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