The key difference between laser and IPL is the type of light. IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) is a broadband pulsed light source, whereas laser is a monochromatic coherent light source. Both methods target the melanin in the hair follicle and permanent results can be expected from both. Professional laser treatment is working more selective and therefore the very high energy will focus on the hair follicle rather than surrounding skin. Therefore Professional laser will lead to fast results as well as being suitable to darker skin tones. Energy, frequency and hair colour are all determining factors in the efficacy of the treatment, while the light source, whether it is a laser or an intense pulsed flash light plays a minor role.
How It Works: The Similarities Between Laser And IPL
IPL and laser are two popular types of permanent hair removal methods that use light to remove or reduce hair in specifics areas of the body. Laser hair removal devices produce a concentrated beam to penetrate deep into the skin and zap the melanin (the dark pigment of the hair) inside the hair follicle, meaning the hair growth cycle is inhibited, without impacting the surrounding skin. For this reason, darker skin tones are less suited to light-based hair elimination techniques.
IPL treatment sessions are similar to laser hair removal in that it also uses light to damage the hair follicle. IPL stands for intense pulsed light. It is a broad spectrum high-intensity light that emits multiple wavelengths to cover a wider area of skin.
What Are The Differences Between Laser And IPL?
Although both IPL and laser machines use light energy to keep follicles from forming new hairs, the key difference between laser and IPL is the light source. IPL devices work by emitting several intense pulsed wavelengths that get absorbed by colored hairs. These wavelengths don’t penetrate the skin as deeply as laser does, which means that they work best on people with darker or thicker hair. For people with darker skin tones, YAG lasers may be a suitable option.
Here are more differences between the two:
The following are the advantages of using laser hair removal over an IPL:
- Long term hair reduction result is more evident with the laser than the IPL.
- Different types of lasers available for different skin types. Ruby and Alexandrite lasers are recommended for pale skin tones. While Nd:Yag is recommended for darker skin tones.
- Safer option for darker-skinned individuals.
On the other hand, the following are the drawbacks of laser hair removal over an IPL:
- Slight discomfort a sensation like being flicked with an elastic band.
- May cause minor redness, itching, and swelling after the treatment.
- May also cause more serious complications, such as hyperpigmentation, scarring and changing the skin pigment color.
- More expensive especially when treating larger body parts.
There are several advantages of choosing IPL over laser. These include:
- Users who’ve used both report less pain associated with IPL treatments.
- Lower risk of skin damage or infection compared to laser (for lighter skinned individuals).
- Recommended and more efficient to treat larger areas such as chest and back.
- May be cost effective as there are now many FDA-cleared IPL devices available for home use.
These are certain drawbacks to using IPL hair removal, including the following:
- Generally, IPL doesn’t work on darker skin types.
- May leave tan patches or discoloration on the skin, since the process damages the melanocytes — the skin color pigmentation cells.
- It does not work on red or grey hair.