Laser vs. IPL: What are the differences?

laser vs ipl

The working principle

The principle of laser and intense pulsed light (IPL) is the same. The device emits light penetrating into the dermis and absorbed by melanin in the hair follicle. It delivers the energy to the hair root, raises the temperature of melanin, heat the follicles and cause them enough damage to slow down hair growth. 

If the working principle is the same, what is the difference between laser and IPL? The most important one when you are considering which treatment to undergo is the light source used. Laser device produces very specific light of one wavelength, all going in one direction. While IPL uses a wide range of wavelengths of light, more like a natural light that appear with an orange / red flow when the device is flashed against skin.

As broad-spectrum light naturally spreads out, the coverage of IPL is greater than laser hair removal devices. While laser generates high energy focusing on one small area of the hair follicle rather than surrounding skin.

Due to the difference of wavelengths, the two treatments vary in terms of:

• Treatment time: Because the light source laser uses is very concentrated, laser devices have a smaller treatment window than IPL devices. IPL can cover a much larger skin area each flash, making the treatment procedure quicker, meaning a less time of each session.

• Pain rating: Most people find IPL treatment less painful because IPL uses more spread-out light source.

• Safety: The light laser device generates is very powerful because it is more concentrated, sometimes dangerous. Because of this, when you book a laser appointment, make sure you find a professional technician. IPL is much safer as the light is less concentrated, so it can be used at home risk-free.

• Cost: laser light is expensive to generate. Therefore, laser treatment is much more expensive than IPL treatment.

Number of sessions needed: Both laser and IPL can achieve similar effective permanent hair removal result. But you may need more sessions when you choose IPL.

Which one is for you?

Laser treatment is more expensive, more dangerous. Each session takes more time, but fewer sessions are required. In most situations, you need to book appointments with laser spa. IPL is cheaper, safer. You can do it all from the comfort of your own home. Each treatment takes only minutes, but more sessions are needed to achieve the same result.

IPL generally achieves better results for paler skin. If you have darker than coffee-with-milk skin tone, laser is a safe choice. Because darker skin contains more melanin, absorbs more light energy than paler skin. The nature of lasers being more concentrated, generating smaller areas of light can greatly reduce the risk of skin burn compared to IPL.