Are home-use intense pulsed light (IPL) devices safe?

Lasers Med Sci. 2010 Nov;25(6):773-80. doi: 10.1007/s10103-010-0809-6. Epub 2010 Jul 13.


The domestic market for home-use hair removal devices is rapidly expanding and there are numerous intense pulsed light (IPL) products now available globally to consumers. Technological challenges for the design of such devices include the need to be cost-effective in mass production, easy to use without training, and most importantly, clinically effective while being eye-safe. However inexpensively these light-based systems are produced, they are designed to cause biological damage to follicular structures, so precautions to prevent both ocular and epidermal damage must be considered. At present, there are no dedicated international standards for IPL devices. This review directly compares three leading domestic IPL hair removal devices: iPulse Personal (CyDen, UK), Silk'n/SensEpil (Home Skinovations, Israel), and SatinLux/Lumea (Philips, Netherlands) for fluence, emitted wavelength spectrum, time-resolved footprint, and spatial distribution of energy. Although each device has a primary mechanical or electrical safety feature to ensure occlusion of the output aperture on the skin to prevent accidental eye exposure, the ocular hazard of each device has been measured to IEC TR 60825-9 standard using an Ocean Optics HR2000+ photo spectrometer for both potential corneal and retinal damage. Using established measurement methods, this review has shown that the measured output parameters were significantly different for the three systems. Using equipment traceable to national standards, one device was judged at its two highest settings to be hazardous for naked eye viewing. This investigation also reports on the significantly different pulse durations of the devices measured and considers the potential impact on safety and efficacy in the light of the theory of selective photothermolysis. Although these devices offer low-cost personal convenience of treatment in the privacy of the home, ocular safety may be inadequate in the event of primary safety mechanism failure.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Equipment Safety / standards
  • Eye Injuries / etiology
  • Eye Injuries / prevention & control
  • Hair Removal / adverse effects*
  • Hair Removal / instrumentation*
  • Hair Removal / standards
  • Humans
  • Laser Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Laser Therapy / instrumentation*
  • Laser Therapy / standards
  • Optical Devices / adverse effects
  • Optical Devices / standards
  • Self Care / adverse effects
  • Self Care / instrumentation