Three Things You Need To Know Before Introducing IPL Treatments To Your Salon

In February 2007 I established the very first Terra Nova Clinic. We specialised in IPL and in Cellulite Treatments. Neither were commonly offered and both at that time were very highly priced. It was me who first introduced Auckland and then NZ to the multiple treatment deals – although some did get a bit crazy with the pricing.

In the first 8 months of business, I came to experience four different IPL devices – and learned that not all IPL is the same. In fact, I learned so much about IPL my head was popping. Not all suppliers are helpful or knowledgeable, not all conductive gels are the same (shameless plus here, our Ultra Labs Gel is custom made for IPL treatments – it’s fantastic to use and very economic. Definitely you should try it).

So, IPL – Intense Pulsed Light, effective in long-term reduction of dark hairs, and very effective in removing unwanted pigmentation. How hard could it be, right? The thing that was possibly the most important, and that I will share with you first, is that you need to become expert yourself before introducing this treatment to your Salon. You must be the go-to person for both therapists and clients. I will come back to this, and how you can become semi-expert – in a few easy steps.

The second most important thing you must appreciate is that adding IPL to your treatment menu is not a panacea. Many have thought that simply offering the service would ensure loads more clients would be lining up at the door – and that your waxing clients will easily travel across. It does not happen like that. You need a solid launch and marketing plan, and you need robust checks, systems and standards. We’ll come back to that too. You may well convert some of your waxing clients, but this will not happen until your therapists are fully conversant with the treatment and confident with it – loop back to point number one. Their confidence is reliant on your leadership.

The third critical understanding that you need to appreciate is that your team may not be naturals at adopting this technology – below I’ll go into more detail on what my experience was with different generic types of therapists. If you try to push a beauty therapist into delivering a higher risk treatment you are bound to lose both the client and the therapist. Higher risk means higher stress for some, but higher interest for others.

Get that therapist fit right, your marketing and standards on par with the treatment that you are effective if not expert in yourself and then you’ll find it working for you (but only then).

OK, so getting to know this treatment:

IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) is so interesting, as it is an involved, inexact science. You do NOT require a Nursing or Beauty Therapy qualification to learn and understand this treatment – I have neither and became expert quite easily, but an understanding of the structure of the skin must be gained, and an understanding of the growth cycle of a hair is obviously key. A very superficial knowledge of how the Endocrine system works is also very helpful, as you will meet loads of people with hormonal hair if you go ahead with bringing in this treatment. Handling those clients sensitively is, of course, another area of learning. Never use the ‘H’ word unless your client uses it first.

The first thing you need to do is to read as much as you can about hair growth cycles – the three stages: Anagen, Catagen, Telogen. How the cycle differs across the body areas, how males and females differ and how can hormonal activity affect this change. This information is absolutely key in getting optimum results. Hormonal female facial hair, for instance, can be treated 3 weekly for 4 – 6 treatments, as it is much faster growing. I’m not spelling this out for you-you need to dig for the information yourself.

Next, consider melanin. Study what types of melanin there are (there are two) and learn every location on the body where melanin can be found – you will discover the real reason for protective goggles being required is that we have melanin in the back of our eye. A direct flash and you could be blinded. You will also discover that white hairs have zero pigment. No pigment means they can not be treated with this technology. End of story.

Do all this learning BEFORE your training days so you can ask the real questions of the trainer, rather than spending your energy absorbing basic physiology you should already know.

What would also be very useful before your training would be to comprehend the properties of light as a source of energy when conducted into the human body – it is the understanding of which human chromophores can absorb this energy and what happens if/when they do – that is what IPL is about. Specifically, you will need to know about the energy range between 400nm – 1200nm.

If your eyes just glazed over, this is not the future treatment for your business.

Getting Clients for your New Service

Right, so this is my area of expertise. I managed to get 5 IPL machines humming all day long in two locations in very competitive Auckland. How did I do that? Well, I invested a lot in advertising and spent a lot of my Social Media time on informing people what to expect, I all but wrecked myself in managing to field all the incoming calls personally, and I spent HOURS and HOURS training and retraining my team on the Terra Nova Standards. I banged on and on about standards and I made the girls repeat verbatim what I wanted them to say. I taught them where exactly to place the first shot, what to ask the client after the first shot and how exactly to conduct each and every treatment. I don’t think they enjoyed the robustness of this training, but it was successful. No external trainer is going to do this for you-you MUST be prepared to own the standards yourself.

Clients would report back to me as soon as they had an experience that was different to the norm! They knew exactly what position they needed to be in at which stage of the treatment (lol) and – most important – they knew that I would be swiftly on it if the standard was not maintained.

I also had fake clients in the system so that I would know my standards were being maintained. Seriously – if you’re not up for this, then don’t go there. You MUST provide a quality service, especially now in the wake of the one-day deal Clinics now mostly all gone. Consumers are more cautious. Lots of them got ripped off or injured. I can help you with this if you wish.

Once you are up to speed with your knowledge on IPL, it is honestly so interesting that you will find yourself chatting about it to anyone who will listen and you will be on the journey. I hope you can appreciate how the above is very different to plonking ‘the machine’ in a treatment room and ‘sending the girls on training’.

Your own investment of time what is going to make the difference for your success or failure in this category.

On to point number three of your ‘must be considered’ things for consideration – your team.

What makes a great IPL technician?

Good question. They don’t teach them IPL at Beauty College. Really they should. In fact, really they should split them into groups – those who want to achieve results and take a risk in doing so, and those who want to relax and beautify people, as these two areas of the industry are so radically different in skill set and personality types.

Rule of thumb: if a Beauty Therapist excelled at electrolysis at College and found it interesting to learn, she will generally be a good IPL technician. She is the ‘unafraid to confidently insert the needle and zap the living daylight out of that hair’ type. Her eyes, in fact, will light up when she tells you how exciting it is to successfully pull the hair’s bulb out during electrolysis. It’s that enthusiasm you are looking for!

IPL is interesting – fascinating even – almost every treatment is different settings for clients as the hairs reduce. Therapists need to be able to push back on clients and produce evidence of results, as clients forget what they started with. They also need to be able to manage the client in rebooking at the time of treatment, as timing between treatments is an important aspect for IPL. Sometimes the client needs to be rebooked for safety reasons – they hate that, but safety must always come first. An IPL technician/therapist must be fully in charge in the treatment room.

Any therapist who can’t look you in the eye and nod that she is confident about that is not going to succeed. Any therapist who finds electrolysis scary or does not feel comfortable with inflicting it upon a client will be wrong for IPL. Take my advice – do not put both of you through that unhappy marriage!

The good news is that once you have found your IPL team, they will stay with the treatment. IPL is so much easier physically than waxing, takes less time, is much more interesting.

So – are you ready to investigate training options, leasing and buying options? We are not doing either of those at the present moment – maybe we will in the future, but for the moment I am happy to advise you on who in the industry was helpful (and steer you away from those who were not). I have one recommendation for training, but I am sure there are others.

My final words – just be cautioned that those who say that can may not be as capable as they tell you. Ask for references and supporting evidence. Happy to help anyone traveling through this decision, and will be blogging in the future on the topical issue of ‘machine quality’ – is it the machine, or is it the person who does not know how to use it.

PS another shameless plug – don’t forget to order some Conductive Gel 🙂 Julie.