Choosing the right IPL system for your business

Looking at bringing IPL into your clinic, but not sure where to begin? With all the different information you are probably given and with IPL being an unregulated industry at present no wonder it’s so confusing for therapists to decide. The reason so many clients are getting burnt is because low quality machines + inadequate training = disaster. Having lived and worked in the UK for six years where the industry is regulated, I was quite shocked on returning to New Zealand three years ago to find so many unsafe machines being sold and used here. I have at least two or three people contacting me a month really upset about being sold IPLs that burn easily and regularly break down. With little support from some suppliers, many clinics aren’t sure what to do. Don’t believe everything the salesperson tells you or be fooled by glossy brochures as there are plenty of ways you can make you own informed choice. Some of the cheapest machines are actually priced quite high considering IPLs manufactured in Asian countries can be bought for around a few thousand dollars. I know this as they are offered to me all the time from the manufacturers. The reason so many Chinese-made machines are being sold here is that some of them are actually banned from being used in China because they lack SFDA (Chinese Government) approval. So countries like New Zealand, where there are no regulations at present, end up with an influx of dangerous, poorly-made machines. So make sure if you are going to purchase one of these it has SFDA approval. The best way to tell if the IPL you are looking at purchasing is safe and well made is to check if it’s up and running in the UK and USA where the industry is well regulated. The UK Healthcare Commission, because it is an independent body, is extremely knowledgeable and helpful in offering good advice. I was offered the distribution rights for an IPL brand a few years ago. It sounded great – good specs, glossy brochures, impressive website and well priced. I found they weren’t operating in either the USA or UK so I decided not to go ahead. Unfortunately, the machines made their way into New Zealand anyway and ended up blowing up, catching fire and being unrepairable. I felt really sorry for the clinics that had purchased these machines. I went to see a worried clinic owner last year and noticed the distributor had put his own CE approved stickers on the machines. I looked into it and found the manufacturer didn’t have any FDA or other approvals. Needless to say the matter ended up with lawyers. The most important factor to consider is: who made the IPL? I’m surprised when I find out people have dished out huge amounts of money on a machine they know little about. You wouldn’t buy a TV or computer if you didn’t know who made it would you? Make sure to check the website yourself as a clinic owner recently told me about a salesman cold calling on clinics trying to sell an IPL which doesn’t match the one on the website he gave them. The following should be considering when purchasing: • US FDA Approval which means two things: safety and effectiveness • International medical standard • Independent clinical research which shows a manufacturer has gone to great lengths to rigorously test their machines and provide clinical evidence • A reputable manufacturer. Do they specialise in light-based technology? How long have they been working in the sector? • Patented technology. There are a lot of companies working in this market but only a select few have the rights to use the best technology in their machines. Skin types. Some of the more advanced machines are capable of working on darker skin types. Client comfort. IPLs vary in how comfortable they are for your clients. Another very important aspect is training. Make sure you don’t feel rushed, that you take lots of notes, ask loads of questions and do not operate an IPL machine until you feel completely competent in using it. It’s not just about pressing a few buttons and if you feel the training from the distributor isn’t sufficient, there are longer courses available now in New Zealand. I always tell operators “when in doubt don’t”. Also take running costs into account. Conventional IPLs can be expensive to run because they require extraordinarily high energy levels. Too often people are told that the higher the joule power the better the machine will perform. We should be asking, “How much wattage is the machine putting out?” If what you are being told regarding the joule power is true, why is it that one of the most respected and used IPLs in the world, the Ellipse, has joule power in the 20s? There are several leading manufacturers with the latest technology whose machines are 26 joules and below. There are quite a few really effective, well made IPLs available from reputable companies not just out to make a quick buck but really passionate about making the industry safe and keeping standards high.  It’s just not worth compromising the safety of your clients and the reputation of your business, so buy well or you will just end up having to buy again. For independent advice on choosing IPL machines visit

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