The Difference Between IPL and Laser Hair Removal

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Robert Morrell, MD

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So, what exactly is the difference between IPL and laser hair removal? People often assume that these treatments are the same, but they are distinctly unique for a number of reasons.

The Basics of Intense Pulse Light (IPL)

IPL is an Intense Pulse Light that treats using a full spectrum of light with different scattered wavelengths, while a laser uses one specific wavelength of light.

IPL can release light over a wide wavelength range, unlike lasers, which can only deliver one specific, yet very powerful, wavelength. Why are wavelengths so important? Different colours absorb different wavelengths and the colour of the hair follicle is the target.

IPL and lasers both work by sending intense light energy into the hair follicles. Once the hair follicle absorbs the light, the light converts to heat and destroys the hair follicle.

Comparing Laser Hair Removal and IPL

For one thing, Lasers were developed to provide permanent hair removal solutions. IPL was developed to treat a variety of skin conditions, with hair loss as a side effect. IPL targets brown pigment so its hair removal properties are unfortunately limited to light skin and dark hair. People with darker skin are much more prone to side effects when using IPL, such as burns, hyperpigmentation and other skin damage. IPL also does not effectively treat light hair, such as blond, white, grey or red hair due to the lack of pigment.

Overall, Laser hair removal is more effective and less painful than IPL hair removal. Laser treatments target strictly the hair follicle as opposed to the pigment surrounding the hair follicle resulting in less collateral skin damage and happier patients.

So, you could argue that laser hair removal is a safer and more effective alternative when seeking hair removal solutions. Of course, there is no permanent hair removal. But, you can successfully experience permanent hair reduction with both laser hair removal and IPL. The decision is yours.