Most consumers know the term Laser Hair Removal but technically the FDA has cleared both laser and IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) technology as “Permanent Hair Reduction”.
Laser hair removal vs. IPL. They both do the same thing, so how are they different?
The term IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) has caught on, but there are other emerging terms that refer to the same thing but might confuse you. For instance, IPL can also be referred by some technology brands as BBL or broadband light and by others as OPL or optimized pulsed light. Regardless of the term being used IPL, BBL and OPL all refer to a wide range of light wavelengths. Laser on the other hand is specific to one wavelength.
IPL and LASER are both light based technologies that work similarly to permanently reduce hair growth. The characteristics of their light are what make them different.
Similarities of Laser and Intense Pulsed Light:
- Light base technologies
- Permanently reduce hair growth on the face and body
- Target the melanin or color of the hair
- Selectively heat and destroy cells responsible for hair growth without damaging surrounding tissue
- Targets hair in the active growth phase
- Can take 6-8 treatments for optimal results
- Is not effective on white , gray or red hairs
- Can be riskier on dark skin types
Whether Laser or IPL is used to treat your unwanted hair, the color of your hair does play a role in how effective the treatment will be. Darker, thicker hairs are a larger target and therefore will be treated more effectively. Both methods produce heat that destroys the cells responsible for hair growth. Because hair grows in different stages all the cells may not currently be present at the time of treatment. Therefore multiple treatments spaced approximately 4-6 weeks apart are necessary.
Difference between Laser and IPL:
- Monochromatic- it consists of photons of a single wavelength. i.e. One color of light
- Collimated beam of light- All of its rays travel parallel to one another in a single direction with a very little divergence over distance. This allows the laser to be focused at a very high intensity.
- Coherent- Laser light travels together in the same space at the same time. Ex: A Laser pointer.
- Polychromatic- it is a range of wavelengths i.e. light that exhibits more than one color.
- Non Collimated- IPL is a large flash of light.
- Incoherent- Light contains scatter offering more coverage of the skin within each pulse of light.
To break down the differences, Laser treats hair at a specific wavelength, which can be more intensified. IPL offers the ability to target a large wavelength spectrum. The spot size of a laser tends to be smaller then the spot size of IPL.
The conversion of light to heat with both IPL and LASER treatments can make the treatment feel like a rubberband snap and therefore causes some discomfort during treatment. Different brands of these technologies offer different approaches for client comfort and safety.
Protecting Skin During Laser and IPL
Aloe Vera applied on the skin during treatment, cold bursts of air to reduce heat on the skin and cryo tips which deliver an ice pack sensation on the skin before during and after each pulse are all example of different ways the skin is protected so that the treatment is as comfortable as possible.
Whether the clinic you decide to get treated at uses laser or IPL, 100% of the hair in any given area is not guarantee to be removed.
At Denver Laser Solutions, we use an IPL technology that is effective and safe for all skin types. Learn more about our treatment and process here.