What Could IPL Hair Removal Do to Recently Tanned Skin?

I was on vacation a couple of weeks ago and I tanned plenty. Now I'm back and I haven't been exposed to much sun light for these past two weeks, but I'm still pretty tanned and I've got an IPL hair removal session in 3 weeks, what will happen to my skin if these weeks weren't enough for my tan to fade?

Doctor Answers 5

Avoiding IPL Side Effects

 DO NOT do IPL if you are tanned or even if you have had recent sun exposure without tanning. Having said that, if you have absolutely no sun exposure until the IPL (5 weeks from sun exposure) you might be fine assuming the IPL operator is experienced and can adjust the settings.

Austin Dermatologic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 3 reviews

Do NOT do IPL or laser hair removal on areas with tanned skin. Here's why:


I bet you had a wonderful time in Rio, but I would wait, and wait, and wait, and wait as long as you can before going back to the IPL (or any hair removal laser or light based device) for hair removal. The reason is that the devices look for the contrast between the dark root of the hair and the surrounding tissue, and if your skin is tan the IPL can get confused and target your skin too much, causing a burn. These burns can blister and peel, and even cause permanent scarring that is not reversible. The best condition for light-based hair removal is very dark hairs with very pale skin. There are certain lasers (not IPL) made to work more safely to remove hair on darker skin tones, but this still does not include a tan. Wait for it to fade. Speak to your dermatologist or plastic surgeon before proceeding.

Jessica J. Krant, MD, MPH
New York Dermatologic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 41 reviews

IPL hair removal not for tanned skin

The IPL will be absorbed by your tan rather than by the hair pigment in the follicle.  Your skin could burn and blister with potential scars and you would not have a good treatment for the hair.  You must wait until your tan has faded and discuss it with the technician.

Martie Gidon, MD, FRCPC
Toronto Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 22 reviews

IPL on tanned skin

Having a tan can put you at a greater risk for burns from the laser.  The laser seeks out the melanin in the root of the hair and when the skin is tan the melanin comes to the surface which gives you the tan or darker apperance.  It's best to wait till your skin has returned to its natural color with no tan lines and that you are careful with the sun while doing treatment with the IPL laser.

Paul L. Leong, MD, FACS
Pittsburgh Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 47 reviews

IPL on Tanned Skin

The heat from the IPL seeks out the pigment in the skin or hair follicle and “heats it up” in efforts to eliminate it. When your skin is tanned or darker, you are at a risk of burning, blistering, and even causing permanent discoloration. You want to avoid these treatments until your skin color has returned to its original shade.

Steve Laverson, MD
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 47 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.