Laser vs IPL(Intense Pulsed Light)
What is the difference between Laser and IPL/VPL with regards to their use in hair reduction treatments?
We are aware that there is some confusion for patients in understanding the difference between Laser and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) (or Variable Pulsed Light (VPL)) treatments for hair reduction.
Both treatments have been available commercially since the mid 90’s. They involve producing light energy which is then absorbed into the dark pigment of the hair to ultimately cause damage to the hair follicle. Hair growth is then reduced without damaging the surrounding tissue.
The main advantages of using Laser Hair Removal over IPL Hair Removal based technology for hair reduction are:
Laser technology is simply much more effective, and achieves substantially better results than IPL Hair Removal. The majority of patients experience permanent hair reduction after 6-12 sessions.*
- IPL Hair Removal is a cheaper, less effective technology for reducing body hair.
- Lasers are far more precise, and can selectively target dark, coarse hairs while leaving the surrounding skin undamaged.
- Each laser pulse takes a fraction of a second and can treat several hairs at a time.
- Laser hair removal can be used to treat larger body areas.
- Laser settings can be adjusted to suit your specific skin tone and hair colour.
- Lasers are safe for all skin colours, whereas IPL can cause burns on darker skin tones.
*Results may vary from person to person.
The main differences between Laser and IPL/VPL, used as a hair reduction treatment, mainly lie in the technology that each use to generate the light, as well as the different properties of the light being used.
Laser Hair Removal
Laser machines produce a single wavelength of light (pure light consisting of one single colour and form), which has a very concentrated beam and specific target (the melanin in the hair follicle).
The type/colour of your hair and skin will determine the tuning settings of the machine and will be discussed with you during your consultation. Laser machines are tuned to emit the exact wavelength required to treat your hair.
IPL Hair Removal
IPL’s are NOT lasers. The machines produce a broad spectrum of wavelengths (like a light bulb) and cannot be focused to a concentrated beam. Because a range of different wavelengths are dispersed at a variety of depths only some of these will be effective for hair reduction.
A more shallow penetration in comparison to laser means that deeper, thicker hairs are not treated effectively. In addition, some of the light can be absorbed into the surrounding tissue as well, leading to heating of the pigment in the skin. This is why there is more of a risk of burns for a darker skin type.
Laser machines create more heat directed at the hair follicle than IPL systems, hence achieving better results. Because the heat is absorbed by the follicle, and not the skin, there is a decreased risk of burning when using Laser machines. This also makes Laser a safer option for darker skinned individuals.