There is (and always has been) so much confusion surrounding Laser vs IPL (Intense Pulsed Light). Most people initially think that it’s the same thing. I mean, they both semi-permanently remove hair using light so I suppose it’s fair enough to make that assumption. However there is a big difference between the two, and it’s important to know the difference before you choose whether laser or IPL is best for you.
Lasers and IPL can both be used for hair removal and pigmentation removal. However, today we aren’t looking into IPL vs laser for pigmentation removal. This article will look into the difference between IPL and laser for hair removal, evaluating the pros and cons of each.
Lasers and IPLs have been used for permanent hair reduction and skin rejuvenation treatments for over 20 years. Although both IPL and Laser are light-based technologies, there are distinct differences between the two. Without getting too technical, light is a part of the electromagnetic wave spectrum – see image below to jog your memory of high school science classes. The name itself stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation (L A S E R). To understand how LASERs work we need to try and understand two terms: coherent and incoherent light.
- Incoherent Light is emitted by normal means such as a flashlight or a bulb. This is the light used by IPL systems. The photons (particles of light) of the multiple wave frequencies of light are oscillating in different directions. This means that the photons will disappear before reaching the [hair] follicle.
- Coherent light is a beam of photons that have the same frequency and are all at the same frequency. This is what laser technologies use. Only a beam of laser light will not spread and diffuse. In medical graded laser machines, waves are identical and in phase, which produces a beam of coherent light.
I will try to provide an example to put this concept into perspective. Imagine if we were treating your arms for laser hair removal. However we treated your left arm with an incoherent light (i.e. IPL) and treated your right arm with a coherent light (i.e. LASERs). Whilst you would have a reduction in the amount of hair that grew back on both arms, you would notice significantly more hair returning on the left side than the right.
Why? When using an intense pulsed light, we cannot guarantee that all the hair within the gauge (gauge = the area that makes contact with the skin during treatments) is being affected by the light. Some hairs will be affected – and thus fall out after treatment – whilst others will not be affected at all. Whereas when using lasers, we can guarantee that all the hair within the gauge is being affected by the light and will fall out 10-14 days after your treatment.
IPL or Laser – which is better?
There is a reason why we only use lasers for our laser hair removal treatments. By using actual lasers, we are able to guarantee treatment results, provide safer & effective treatments, and provide an accurate timeframe of when treatments will be complete. Specifically, we use the medical grade Candela GentleLase laser which uses a Long Pulsed Alexandrite beam (755nm). The long wavelength of the laser means that there is less scatter of the laser beam, guaranteeing the results of the treatment. It also has a deeper penetration into the skin which means there is less risk of causing any damage to the surface of the skin. Don’t worry though, it’s not deep enough to reach any internal organs!
This differs from IPL as it is not a single, consistent wavelength being emitted into the skin. IPL will deliver multiple shots of light with different wavelengths over the area being treated. Whilst it is not as effective as laser hair removal, it is also riskier as the inconsistent wavelengths also means more risk of burning the surface of the skin.
Other Laser Machines
There are other types of Candela lasers that you may have heard of such as the Candela GentleLase Pro laser or Candela GentleYag laser. These are all Syneron Candela Australia machines, and are all candela hair removal devices. We specifically use the Candela GentleLase Alexandrite laser as it allows us to provide more of a thorough service and is optimal for most skin types.
Other Pulsed Lights
Some machines are simple IPLs, others are SPL hair removal, APL or VPLs, then there are SLPLs… It’s a little confusing! So the important thing to remember is that anything “PL” – is a Pulsed Light and NOT Genuine Laser. The manufacturers invent many of the names for new Pulsed Light (PL) Systems for the purposes of describing the point of difference of their equipment compared to their competitors.
The truth is that the majority of Pulsed Light (PL) Systems work on the same principle. I.e. computer generated Pulsed Light with an incoherent light wave pattern.
- SLPL – This abbreviation stands for Super Long Pulsed Light. As the name obviously suggests pulses or shots are longer in duration. However, this does not necessarily mean better results. The wave light pattern is still incoherent.
- VPL – V stands for Variable pulse. This allows for multi-pulsing (several pulses of light within each shot) is still incoherent
- SPL – S , in this example, stands for Square Pulse Light. This means the light is equally dispersed under the skin and it takes a lot less energy to achieve the same effect as it would with a “standard” pulse. SPLs are usually lower energy machines with an incoherent wave pattern.
I hope this article clears things up for you and helps you differentiate the difference between IPL versus laser hair removal. I strongly encourage you to spend some time researching your chosen Hair Removal clinic and the equipment they use.
If you would like to visit us, please contact us to arrange a FREE laser consultation. In the consultation, you can talk to one of our laser therapists who will discuss a laser treatment plan that suits your needs.