What is the difference between IPL and Laser hair removal?

IPL hair removal vs Laser

Well first off, you should know that there are two main permanent hair removal options: IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) and LASER hair removal. Both technologies rest on the same principle, but use different mechanisms to produce their effects. We will cover these two methods of hair removal technology and consider the pros and cons of each. 

Laser Hair Removal Explained

Did you know that LASER is actually an acronym for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”?

Sounds rather complicated!

In simple words, LASER is a strong concentrated beam of light!

In order to understand how laser hair removal works we first need to understand the cycle of hair growth. Not all hairs grow at the same time. Have you ever noticed that a week later after you have waxed or used an epilator, there are a few stray hairs that start to grow again? These are not the hairs you treated a week prior, but hairs from other follicles at a different stage of their growth.

The Three Stages of Hair Growth:

Anagen – the period of growth. The blood supply nourishes the hair follicle and the cells in the hair bulb divide rapidly creating new hair growth. This period of active growth of hair continues for an average of 2-7 years before the hair follicle becomes dormant.

Catagen – the transition phase. During this period, which only lasts 2-3 weeks, the hair stops growing and detaches itself from the blood supply .

Telogen – the resting phase (around 3 months). While the old hair is resting in the root, a new hair begins to grow beneath it. Without nourishment the old hair dies and falls out. The cycle is complete and restarts with anagen phase.

Human hair growth

Laser hair removal is only successful when treating hairs in their growing phase. Only then, the laser can destroy the BULB of the hair follicle where the blood supplies the hair with oxygen . Simultaneously, the laser also destroys the STEM CELLS in the hair bulb responsible for hair regeneration. Temperature of around 70 degrees is necessary in order to destroy the hair follicle.

Hair laser machines emit a single concentrated beam of light. The pigment in the hair absorbs the light and lets it penetrate deep under the skin. This light then converts into heat that damages the hair follicle but not the surrounding tissue. The darker the hair, the more pigment it contains and more light it will absorb, convert to heat and reach 70 degrees. It is also important to remember that you shouldn’t pluck or wax prior to laser treatment as there will be no hair to convey the heat to the hair follicle.

Since laser hair removal relies on the contrast between skin colour pigmentation and hair colour, the process tends to work best on fair skin with dark hair. Unfortunately, this means that laser hair removal does not work as effectively when skin color and hair color are closer in pigmentation. 

IPL Hair Removal Explained

IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) technology is another form of hair removal that uses bursts of light to remove hair. Similar to laser, IPL machines transmit light energy that converts into heat to damage the hair follicles.

People often refer to IPL treatments as “laser” therapy. However, IPL technically does not use lasers. IPL devices use a broad spectrum of light with different wavelengths, rather than a single-wavelength concentrated laser. The result is that IPL hair removal devices produce more scattered and less focused energy that can treat a larger area of skin in shorter time. 

IPL technology uses different wavelengths of light to target pigment and penetrate different structures in the skin . To that end, IPL can effectively treat various skin conditions – pigmentation, redness and skin texture and tone.

IPL Hair Removal vs Laser: Which is Better?

Both IPL and Laser Hair Removal have their pros and cons. 

Treatment Time: Lasers emit a highly concentrated beam of light and therefore cover a very small treatment area. IPL machines, on the other hand, use a broad spectrum of light and cover a larger treatment area at once. This means that an individual IPL treatment is way faster than a laser treatment.

Pain: Laser hair removal machines produce a concentrated beam of energy which is often rated more painful than IPL hair removal treatments

Price: Lasers light is expensive to generate. That is why in office laser treatments are generally more expensive than IPL treatments. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost per session for professional laser hair removal is about $430. The average cost for an IPL hair removal session is approximately $285. This cost also depends on the size of the treated area at the time.  

Results: Generally, laser treatments are more directed and produce longer-lasting results. It generally takes fewer laser sessions than IPL sessions to permanently remove hair. This also means that you will require fewer top-up treatments with laser light treatments.

So, which is better: IPL or Laser hair removal?

In Summary, we consider laser hair removal better. Laser technology is way more precise than IPL and achieves substantially longer lasting results than IPL treatments. Laser hair removal generally causes more pain and takes longer, but the trade-off for a bit of pain and time is more thorough longer-lasting results. 

The only downside of laser hair removal is that in office treatments do come with a hefty price tag. Luckily, there are now at home laser and ipl hair removal devices that are much more affordable. You can use them from the comfort of your own home and achieve results similar to professional treatments!

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