Laser hair removal treatment is an extremely popular cosmetic procedure for both men and women alike. Most areas on the body and face can be treated with lasers for permanent hair reduction with the most popular treatment areas being the chin, upper lip, cheeks, legs, arms, underarms and, chest, bikini line and back.
You may have heard of both IPL (intense pulsed light) treatment and laser hair removal as treatment options for hair removal, however there are often questions about what these two treatments do and how they are different to each other.
How do IPL and lasers work to remove hair?
Let’s start with how they both work. This is where the two treatments are most similar. Both IPL and lasers work to remove hair by using a light source to destroy the hair. Light is directed on to the skin which is then absorbed by the melanin pigments in the hair.The absorption of the light causes the hair follicle to heat up. By using the correct amount of light energy heating the follicle to the correct temperature, the heat is able to interrupt the hair growth cycle causing the hair to stop growing.
For both IPL and lasers, a course of treatment is required to see the desired results. As hair grows in cycles, not all the hair will be targeted during one single treatment session. For IPL, it is often recommended to have at least 10 treatments, often one month apart. Lasers often require slightly less treatments, with results often seen between four to six sessions. With both treatments, this is dependent on the thickness of the hair being removed, as well as the skin type and hair colour.
What is the difference between IPL and lasers for hair removal?
The key difference with these two treatments is the type of light that is used. IPL uses a less specific light source compared to a laser, using a broad spectrum of light with multiple wavelengths. Due to the light source being less specific and less targeted, IPL can target not only the melanin in the hair follicle, but also the melanin in the surrounding skin. Due to this, the energy output when using IPL needs to be limited to ensure safety. Lasers on the other hand use a monochromatic coherent light source, which means one wavelength or colour of light going in one direction. This makes laser light more concentrated and more targeted to the hair which needs removing.
A good way to imagine this difference is that IPL, which has multiple wavelengths, is like a flashlight. When using a flashlight, you can point the light at a particular object but you can also see the surrounding area. Laser light, which only uses a single wavelength, is much more specific and is like a laser beam pointing directly at the object you are targeting.