The principle is the same
The principle of both laser treatments and IPL are the same - they both use light to heat hair follicles and prevent regrowth.
- The light (laser or IPL) enters the skin and is absorbed by the melanin (pigment) in the hair shaft.
- The absorption of light causes the hair shaft and follicle to heat up.
- If the correct amount of light energy is used, the hair follicle cells are heated up to a critical temperature that results in an interruption of the hair growth cycle.
- Dependent on a number of factors (like energy, frequency and hair color), the effect can be permanent or temporary.
How do they differ?
How IPL works
First off, IPL treatments are not actually not laser-based, so it's quite misleading if you call it as such.
IPL uses a broad spectrum of light that emits multiple wavelengths to cover a wider area of skin. Hair color and size are important factors in predicting its effectivity. Coarse and dark hair has a higher tendency of absorbing more energy and respond better than light and fine hair.
That's why IPL is not recommended on areas with tattoos or moles. Or when used on dark skin, it's recommended to use the device with a lower intensity setting.
For those hairs that are already in the later phases of its life cycle, the follicle may not be destroyed and will replace the destroyed strands some weeks later. This is the reason why hair removal treatments require several sessions, in specific time intervals.
How laser works
Professional laser treatment is working more selective and therefore the very high energy will focus on the hair follicle rather than 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 flash light plays a minor role.
Let's compare quickly
|Type of light||Monochromatic coherent light source||Broadband pulsed light source|
|Cost||Laser light is expensive to generate. Thus salons charge more.||More affordable.|
|Safety rating||Laser light is very powerful and can even be dangerous. Better to leave it to professionals.||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.|
|Wavelength / Pain rating||808nm, could be painful||550nm-1200nm, less pain|
|Energy / Effectivity||25 J/cm², less treatments required||6-16 J/cm²|
|Area / Treatment time||9mm * 9mm||10mm * 30mm, covers a wider area, thus faster treatment time|
|Need goggles?||No||Yes, to protect the eyes|
|Need gel?||Yes||No, more convenient to use|
Which one is right for me?
To summarize, 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 touch-ups!
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?