IPL Versus Laser Hair Removal

What is the difference between IPL and a medical grade laser system in terms of hair removal?  

Which among the two would be a good option?  Read on, and we hope you will be enlightened and reach a well-informed decision.

What is IPL?

IPL stands for intense pulsed light.  To bust the confusion, IPL treatments are not lasers!

IPL machines use a high-output flashlamp (essentially a very bright flashbulb) different wavelengths of light penetrate the skin at different depths, as a result only some of the light energy is used effectively for hair reduction.  In addition, some of the light can be absorbed into the surrounding tissue, leading to the heating of the pigment in the skin.  This is why there is more of a risk of burns for darker skin types with IPL.

What is laser hair removal?

Medical grade lasers work by emitting one single wavelength of red light which is precise enough to be focused deep into the individual hair follicles.  The light emitted is absorbed by the pigment in the hair, concentrating on the hair shaft.  This causes the hair to be eliminated without harming the surrounding skin.  

What is the difference between IPL and laser technology?

Lasers are more intense and precise.  This means that they can be used to target very specific areas of skin, whereas IPL treats a larger area, less precisely.

Which is cheaper?

IPL hair removal is usually cheaper per treatment session as it uses a less complex type of technology.  However, you will need more sessions with IPL to achieve the desired result, so calculate the overall estimated cost before you commit to either one.

Why can’t IPL be used for darker skin tones?

It is not always safe for darker skin tones because of the type of light that is emitted during the treatment.  It uses a broad spectrum light which heats up melanin (pigment) in the hairs – and also the skin.  Laser works in the same way but can be controlled more easily and focused on the actual individual hair follicles, minimising contact with the surrounding tissue.  The broad spectrum light in IPL when used on dark skin tones, is more likely to heat the surrounding skin too which can result in skin damage and pigmentation changes.

Which is better for hair removal?

The answer will largely depend on your goal.  Patients should communicate their needs and what areas whey want to focus on, because each device available today has their own strengths.   The question you should be asking is “what do I need to treat my concerns?”.  Maybe, IPL will already give you the results you seek, or maybe your hair situation requires a more aggressive approach through laser treatments.  Don’t be swayed by price, but rather look at the bigger picture and how you can benefit from it in the long term.

Laser hair removal vs IPL at a glance:

Laser Hair Removal

  • Uses a focussed precise collimated beam of red light, thus lasers are more precise and can selectively target hair while leaving the surrounding skin undamaged.

  • Laser treatments use only one wavelength which allows deeper penetration and the energy is directed straight to the target.

  • Suitable for all skin types.

  • Initial course of 6-8 treatments is needed, with a maintenance top up treatment once or twice a year.

  • Laser can deliver results much faster, which is why it requires less sessions.

  • Not suitable for white, grey, or blonde hair

  • Usually more expensive per treatment than IPL, however you will require less treatments.

IPL Hair Removal

  • Uses a less-precise, diffused white light.  It can heat the surrounding skin and cause skin damage.

  • For IPL to heat deeper targets, high energy levels must be used. This can lead to adverse effects such as blistered, and pigmentation changes.

  • Suitable for lighter skin tones only.

  • 10-12 treatments is normally needed, with maintenance treatments required 4-5 times a year.

  • IPL requires more sessions before it can achieve desirable results.

  • Not suitable for white, grey or blonde hair

  • Usually cheaper than laser but you will require more treatments than laser.

When you research your options for hair removal, always ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the provider using an IPL or a laser for the treatment?

  • How many sessions are required to achieve the desired results?

  • How much will the treatment course cost in total?

  • How qualified and experienced are the therapists?

  • Is the machine used an award winning, recognisable brand or an unknown generic machine with an unproven track record?

Website Editor