Laser Vs IPL
Laser Hair Removal vs IPL
Laser and IPL are both methods of reducing and preventing hair growth through techniques that disable the hair follicles. Both approaches use heat and light energy to disrupt and destroy the follicle under the skin, however their methods are different and Laser Hair Removal is widely accepted to be the more effective approach.
In order to understand why Laser Hair Removal is more effective than IPL, or Intense Pulsed Light therapy, it is important to understand how each technique works.
IPL produces a wide-spectrum of light that shallowly penetrates the skin. This wide spectrum is diffused, and does not target any specific aspect of the hair. Some wavelengths of the light are absorbed by the hair, resulting in heating and disruption of the follicle, while the rest are reflected away. Only some of the energy generated during IPL affects the hairs, making it a less efficient method of hair removal than laser treatment.
It is worth noting that, occasionally, IPL is referred to as IPL Laser treatment. This can be misleading, as the beam produced by IPL is wide-spectrum light and does not involve lasers.
A laser produces a single, concentrated wavelength of light that penetrates deeper into the skin to reach the base of the hair follicle.
The wavelength used in laser treatment has been specifically selected to target the melanin in the hair follicle, unlike IPL, which uses a more scattered approach where only some of the light is absorbed by the follicle. The narrow beam used in laser treatment is targeted, precise, and effective – all of the energy used in the treatment is being utilised for the intended purpose of hair growth reduction/elimination.
Which is better, IPL or Laser?
As you can see from the methods by which the different treatments effect hair
follicle disruption, Laser Hair Removal offers a more targeted and direct approach. It also offers more permanent results, whereas IPL will require ongoing, regular top-up treatments.
Laser Hair Removal also works on hairs that IPL is ineffective at treating, particularly coarse or thick hairs. This is because the targeted beam reaches the follicle, while IPL light cannot effectively penetrate through these types of hairs to generate enough heat.
Various scientific studies have been conducted into the efficacy of both Laser Hair Removal and IPL treatments. These studies use a variety of sample sizes which highlight some key findings that are consistent and significant.
An evidence based review of laser hair removal and light sources in 2006 stated that ‘The hair density for the subjects are reduced significantly compared with hair density before treatment’
A study looking into the effectiveness of a Diode laser removal system in 2014 stated that ‘The Diode laser hair removal device can reduce hair density effective to achieve the result of hair removal.’
In a 2015 study published in the International Journal of Medical Physics, Clinical Engineering and Radiation Oncology, researchers found that, after 3 treatments, hair density was decreased by 58% following use of diode lasers, and by 49% after using IPL.
A 2011 study by Sochor et. al. tested Laser Hair Removal versus IPL, using each method in different areas of each participant’s legs. After the first treatment, hair reduction was 49.9% for Laser and 39.1% for IPL.
The British Journal of Dermatology published a 2012 study in which Klein et al. conducted a similar study. Hair reduction was assessed 12 months after the final treatment, with 69.2% reduction following Laser Hair Removal and 52.7% following IPL.
Dr Heatley Says:
‘Patients reported very little discomfort during treatments, the ability to adjust the comfort level dependent on the sensitivity of the treatment are greatly enhanced this.’
‘Post treatment patients saw little oedema (redness/swelling) to the treatment area.’
Dr. Jonathan P. Heatley MRCGP DPD (Practical Dermatology) MA DCH DGM