Both laser and IPL (intense pulsed light) use light to heat the hair follicle and prevent regrowth. Both methods target the melanin in the hair follicle and permanent results can be expected from both. The key difference between laser and IPL is the type of light.
The laser is a monochromatic coherent light source, produce a very specific type of light consisting of one wavelength or color of light all going in one direction, which creates a single beam like a laser pointer.
IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) is a broadband pulsed light source, IPL hair removal devices produce a wide range of wavelengths of light to produce a single white flash. This light is closer to natural light and can appear with an orange/red glow when the device is flashed against the skin, like a camera flash.
Professional laser treatment is working more selective and therefore the very high energy will focus on the hair follicle rather than the surrounding skin. Therefore Professional laser will lead to fast results as well as being suitable to darker skin tones. Energy, frequency and hair color are all determining factors in the efficacy of the treatment, while the light source, whether it is a laser or an intense pulsed flashlight plays a minor role.
So laser or IPL, which one is better?
You should know one of the primary objectives for light-based hair removal using either laser or IPL is to achieve this critical temperature in the hair follicle whilst at the same time not heating up the surrounding skin to a temperature that could cause damage such as a blister.
Here is a comparison of the two:
Treatment time: Because the beam of light used in laser treatments is very concentrated, laser devices have a very small treatment window. Thanks to the broader flash of light used in IPL, IPL devices feature a bigger treatment window and so can cover a much larger area at once, meaning a much faster treatment time in comparison to the laser.
Pain rating: The single, more pointed beam of light used during laser treatment is often reported to be more painful than IPL treatment. (Related: Is laser hair removal more painful than waxing?)
Cost: Laser light is expensive to generate, and so, in salons especially, laser treatment comes with a hefty price tag whereas IPL is often much more affordable.
The longevity of results: As a trade-off for the increased price tag and pain level, the results from laser treatment can mean fewer top-ups are required between sessions. But, as with any kind of light-based hair reduction, you’ll always need to continue with top-up treatments to stop hairs from growing back.
Safety: Laser light is very powerful and can even be dangerous. Because of this, at-home laser hair removal devices use significantly reduced power, especially in comparison to their expensive salon equivalent. The bonus of IPL treatment is that it’s much safer to use as the light is less concentrated, and so can be used at-home risk-free for long-lasting results.
To summarise, IPL can give the same standard of results as laser-treatments, as long as you follow the prescribed treatment regime – and keep on top of top-up treatments! Both hair reduction methods are great choices, you can according to your budget or hair type to choose the treatment you think fits your needs best. In return for your dedication to your regime, you can save time, money and endless trips to the salon, completing your treatments in the comfort of your own home. What’s not to love?