IPL Treatments vs Laser

Is Laser better than IPL? This is by far the most common question asked when it comes to hair removal.

In this article, comparisons will be made between Laser treatments and no+vello IPL treatments.

Laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) and IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) are both effective methods of targeting and destroying ‘chromophores’ in the skin using a method of Selective Photo-Thermolysis. Examples of chromophores are hair & skin melanin, haemoglobin (acne, broken capillaries) and water (hyaluronic acid).

So to answer this question let’s take it back to the facts.

Laser

  • Emits a monochromatic wavelength (one colour)
  • Emits coherent light waves (parallel)

IPL 

  • Emits a polychromatic wavelength (multi-coloured)
  • Emits non-coherent light waves (multi-distances scattered)

With those facts in mind, BOTH Laser and IPL have their advantages.

A Laser beam can emit one colour wavelength only as well as the waves being completely parallel so energy is targeted through one single beam.

Advantages of Laser

  • Pin point treatments can be performed
  • A higher level of direct heat on the skin can be reached
  • Specific wavelengths can be targeted

Laser machines have different ‘spot size’ attachments making it easy to adapt to different surface areas. As the heat created from Laser is more direct it is retained in the skin for a lot longer. The wavelength selected is specific to each treatment.

An IPL light emits multi-colours scattering the light in different directions with energy being targeted to different locations.

Advantages of IPL

  • A larger surface area can be treated at once
  • Multiple layers in the skin can be targeted within one light flash
  • Direct heat on the skin can be regulated

IPL machine hand-pieces are a box shape small enough to adapt to all surface areas. The heat created by the IPL scatters into the skin’s layers spreading the heat to a safe but optimum temperature. The wavelength selected is specific to each client, skin and hair type.

So how do you know which treatment is the most suitable for hair removal?

During a consultation with an aesthetic therapist regarding Laser & IPL treatments, the main things being assessed will be:

  1. Client phototype (colour of the skin)
  2. Intensity of concern (g thickness of hair/pigment colour/size of acne
  3. Location of skin concern on the client

Both Laser and no+vello IPL are suitable for all client phototypes. Laser machines may not offer hair removal treatments for all client phototypes using one machine due to safety restrictions, so more than one machine will need to be present. no+vello IPL machines allow hair removal treatments to be performed on all client phototypes using one machine only.

As Laser machines emit a more intense heat reaction via the parallel beam, this can sometimes mean treatments are more painful and slower. 

As IPL machines emit a more multidirectional light, this often means treatments are more comfortable and quick. 

When performing hair removal treatments an energy level specific to the hair follicle strength must be reached. However, if the energy level exceeds what is necessary for that specific hair follicle to be destroyed this can actually stimulate resting hairs surrounding the area to start growing. It is a common misconception that ‘the hotter it is, the better it is.’

How quickly do you want to see results?

There is no such thing as ‘permanent hair removal’ as it is hormones that stimulate hairs to be produced, which will only slow down naturally with age. Both Laser and IPL offer hair reduction treatments making the process of the hair growth much more manageable for the client.

For clients with a higher skin phototype, the process of reducing hair growth can take longer as protecting the skin’s natural pigment from being at risk to heat is a top safety priority. For clients with a lower skin phototype, the process of reducing hair growth can be quicker as there is less natural skin pigment for us to have to protect. Factors that can affect the hair reduction process are, in a lot of cases, hormonal regrowth. It is advised to never compare one area to another, as different parts of the body have different hair growth cycles.

It is argued that Laser treatments can provide a quicker result for the client. With its higher beam intensity and deeper wavelength, hairs in the deepest skin layers can be targeted but this would come with stronger heat retention in the skin, a more uncomfortable experience for the client and more cost. IPL treatments may provide a slower result for the client but with a more regulated heat retention in the skin, a more comfortable experience and less cost, some would argue this is preferable.

Summary

As an aesthetics practitioner with a number of years’ experience and having worked with both technologies, I can state that both Laser and IPL machines have achieved effective results for my clients, so it really is dependent upon individual preferences. Both treatments require a level of maintenance and top ups to manage any hormonal regrowth and to achieve long lasting results.

Written by Annabelle Bourne

no+vello UK Therapist Training Manager and Centre Manager

No+Vello News

Why skin cleansing is so important

On average our skin renews itself every 28 days however this process can be sped up with the use of specific treatments and products. For a ‘normal’ skin a deep cleanse is only necessary to be performed every 21 days to maintain good skin health but for more concern...