IPL for Hair Removal or Laser? Which Is Best?

Laser hair removal is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures in the beauty industry. It seems that every where you turn, someone is advertising laser hair removal. Remove your hair permanently. It sounds like a great concept right?

The problem is, not every technology is equal or provides safety or results. Laser is the most effective and safest way to remove unwanted hair. 80% of the clinics or spas in the US that advertise this treatment are not actually performing the treatment with a laser. Instead, they are performing it with an IPL (intense pulse light).

What is the difference? Well it's simple. The difference is how the technology destroys the hair and how it affects the skin. An IPL is a very wide range light spectrum and targets everything including the hemoglobin, water and pigment at a very slow rate. The lower rate, the shorter the energy penetrates the skin. In other words, how deep the energy will penetrate.

IPL is the most common technology used when removing unwanted hair. There are many brands of IPL available on the market, however, none of them penetrate deep enough to remove the hair long term. IPL at best, will only penetrate about 800 nm (nano meters) into the skin. Why is this important? The hair typically grows at a depth of 800-1100 nm. Therefore, if the technology is only capable to penetrate 800 nm into the skin, it is not effective in destroying the root of the hair resulting in permanent reduction. When using IPl technology to remove unwanted hair, the technician or doctor performing the treatment may ask that you do not shave. This is so that the technology will have more of the hair to target in hopes that the energy will target pigment and water less and focus more on the hair itself. Neverheless, the technology does not penetrate deep enough to effectively remove the hair.

It is recommended that 5-6 treatments are needed to provide results. This is true but only for a laser. Many times someone selling an IPL technology will provide the same expectations, nine out of ten times those IPL clients will end up needing 10-15 treatments depending on how the ability of the IPL in targeting the hair.

When we talk about safety of a technology in terms of adverse side effects; IPL is also a more unstable technology that can cause adverse side effects such as blisters or post inflammatory hyper pigmentation. An IPL technology has a very wide light spectrum. Again, the light targets everything including water. When heat is applied to the skin, naturally the water in our tissue is absorbed. If the energy is not controlled, and too much water is absorbed, blistering can occur. An IPL is also associated to pigment. The more pigment a client has in their skin, the more heat that will be created and the higher risk the client has in developing a burn. For this reason, alone, is why IPLs are not recommended for skin types other than a one or a two.

A laser is a much more effective treatment and also a safer option. A laser provides light at a much faster rate when penetrating the skin that results in less water absorption that in turn results in less change for any adverse side effects. A laser also penetrates deeper and further than an IPL technology which targets the hair where it grows and reproduces. Hair can grow as deep as 1100 nm into the skin. Where an IPL can not penetrate that deep, a laser can. This makes a laser a much more effective solution.

So why do clients choose an IPL over a laser? One, they are not provided the option and not provided education on the difference between an IPL and a laser. Two, the client is not given the option or the clinic does not offer both technologies. Three, IPL is a cheaper treatment over a laser. Typically an IPL treatment is a third of the cost of a laser when looking at a 5 treatment package of treatments. However, in the end the IPL is more expensive because most patients will need continuous treatments to maintain the results or to target the hair.

IPl can be very effective for thick, dark hair on light skin types because the hair is easily targeted because of its color and texture. If the client has light skin tones then the chance for an adverse side effect is lowered.

When considering “laser hair removal, it is important to research the type of technology that will be used and the brand that the technology comes from to insure it is a laser and not an IPL.

As a whole a laser for hair reduction is the best option because it can be utilized on every skin tone, target all densities of hair and has a lowered risk of potential bulk heating that can result in blisters or more severe reactions.