You may be familiar with “Laser Hair Removal” as a generic term associated with any procedure that uses light to eliminate unwanted hair. The technologies behind many hair removal devices, however, can be quite different. If you wish to do away with shaving or waxing once and for all, your journey to becoming hair-free will hinge on one of two options: IPL or laser.
Whether you choose IPL or laser is a personal decision, although other aspects need to be considered, mainly how much pigment is present in your skin and hair follicles. Another important factor is the level of contrast there is between your skin and hair. In fact, it’s these considerations and not the technology itself that should guide your selection process. Keep in mind that IPL definitely has some advantages over laser which will be discussed below.
What is IPL Hair Removal?
IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light. IPL devices use scattered broad-spectrum (many colours) of visible light to destroy hair pigment and inhibit hair growth. Imagine light waves spreading like a cone instead of a beam. IPL energy is specifically modified to eliminate shorter wavelengths so it can effectively pass through the multiple dermal layers.
When used for the purpose of hair removal, IPL energy is like a heat-seeking missile that hones in and destroys its target: hair pigment. Once the light energy is absorbed by melanin, it causes a spike in hair temperature, followed by ‘damage’ to the follicle. After a series of IPL sessions – typically anywhere from 8-12 – the hair root does not recover and the strand stops growing.
How does laser work?
Laser is an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emissions of radiation. Like IPL, it’s a medical device that emits light. Both IPL and laser can target melanin in your skin and hair. Additionally, both technologies can provide permanent hair reduction after a series of treatments.
The defining difference is that laser is more controlled and focused, emitting light as concentrated beam instead of spreading out like a cone.
Laser is also a single-spectrum (one colour) light source, rather than having broad spectrum properties like IPL.
The biggest drawback of laser hair removal is the increased risk of potential side-effects (particularly in darker skin individuals). Whenever there is minimal contrast between the skin and hair pigment, laser light can get ‘confused’ and deploy into the skin instead of the hair. This can result in burning, blistering and even post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
What are the benefits of IPL vs laser hair removal?
- Intense Pulsed Light technology offers greater versatility – IPL can be fine-tuned to more precisely target different hair types and ethnic backgrounds. The latest advancements in IPL devices allows for a greater variation of settings – modifying pulses of light to better match the skin and hair being treated. IPL can offer more patients in the general population an effective form of hair removal that takes into account their skin colour, hair colour and coarseness.
- Larger areas can be treated – since broad-spectrum light has a natural tendency to spread out like a cone, IPL devices can treat a much larger surface area than laser. Treatment sessions can be reduced considerably, leaving more time in your day for other activities. IPL hair removal can easily be done over your lunch break.
- Cost per treatment is cheaper – quicker treatment time comes with a cost-savings. Many medical spa treatments are based on how much time they take to perform. So it only makes sense that a quicker treatment is going to be less expensive. Note: do keep in mind that for those with more pigmented skin, additional sessions may be required to achieve the same results.
- IPL treatments are less painful – modern IPL devices are manufactured to be less irritating and painful than traditional laser hair removal. This is a pleasant surprise for patients who dread the hot ‘snapping’ sensation of laser.
Who is an ideal candidate for IPL hair removal?
Generally speaking, dark hair and fair skin is the perfect combination to get the most effective results. This rings especially true for laser. The great news is that our IPL technology here at Restoration Clinic can offer more patients an effective solution for permanently removing unwanted hair.
IPL can safely and effectively be performed on the face (excluding eyebrows and scalp), and most areas of the body, including legs, arms, underarms, back, chest and tummy.
Most people are extremely happy with their IPL results; however, it’s not suitable for everyone. You may not be an ideal candidate if you:
- Have a tattoo located in the treatment area
- Have dark skin in combination with very light blonde or red hair
- Won’t be able to have a patch-test done prior to treatment
- Want a 100% guarantee that the hair will be gone by a certain amount of time
- Cannot commit to consistent IPL hair removal sessions
To learn if IPL hair removal is right for you, we invite you to book a consultation with one of our experienced technicians. You can also call us at (08) 9025 3218