Laser vs IPL: Which Hair Removal Option Is Best For You
The Problem With Conventional Methods Of Hair Removal
In the quest to remove excess or unwanted hair from your body, you’ve likely happened upon a number of traditional methods. Chances are, you’ve tried shaving only to find it time consuming and ineffective. Or, maybe you’ve attempted chemically formulated, over-the-counter hair removal solutions, only to find them even more time consuming, smelly, and hard on your skin.
The fact is, many people quickly tire of the hassles and hazards of temporary hair removal and turn to something more permanent.
In general, there are two primary methods of long-term hair removal and reduction in hair growth: intense pulsed light, or IPL, and laser hair removal. Both methods work in similar ways by preventing existing hairs from regrowing, slowing the growth speed of the hairs remaining on the body after removal, and addressing overall body hair thickness. While both methods are very effective, everyone is different and may prefer one method over the other.
What is the difference between the two major methods? What is IPL? What is laser hair removal? What can you expect from both? Most importantly, which method of hair removal is right for you? Consider this detailed guide to hair removal options to help you answer these questions and make your decision regarding hair removal.
What Is The Difference?
Both IPL and laser hair removal use the same principle to isolate and remove excess and unwanted body hair. Both utilize light energy to treat the area with the unwanted hair. This light energy does not generally harm the skin; rather, it is absorbed by materials with higher amounts of pigmentation, such as hairs. When the light energy is absorbed, it heats up the hairs involved, damaging the follicle.
Since the follicle is the part of the hair that provides nutrients and material for the hairs to continue growing, damaging the follicle serves to slow or even halt hair growth. In many cases, regrowth is prevented completely. While other areas of high pigment, such as moles and freckles, may experience high heat as well – and be a factor as you determine which method of removal is best for you – the concerns surrounding IPL and laser hair removal are minimal, and prevention of regrowth is generally very effective.
The main difference between the two procedures involves the sources of light used. Simply put, IPL utilizes broad-spectrum light while laser hair removal uses lasers to target the follicles of the hair. Further differences exist between the two, and discussing each in-depth will provide you with a better understanding of how each procedure works.
What Is IPL?
IPL, or intense pulsed light, is a hair removal technique that utilizes visible, broad-spectrum light. Broad spectrum light covers the entire electromagnetic range of the light spectrum from infrared to near-ultraviolet light. Broad-spectrum light is used in multiple applications and is subject to special controls that are designed to remove the shortest wavelengths; this allows the light to target and heat specific structures the provider wishes to focus on.
IPL can be used for vein reductions in the cases of spider and varicose veins because it targets the darker-hued vein structures – particularly, via the hemoglobin in the blood. In hair removal applications, IPL focuses on the melanin-rich hair structures, which absorb the majority of the light. Eventually, too much heat affects the follicle of the hair, slowing and preventing hair regrowth.
What Is Laser Hair Removal?
Similar to IPL, laser hair removal also directs light energy at areas of increased melanin – in this case, hairs – in order to damage the follicle and prevent or slow hair regrowth. After laser hair removal treatment, future hair growth may even be halted. In the case of laser hair removal, however, instead of using broad-spectrum light, a laser is used to target the hair follicle.
Like broad-spectrum lights, lasers have benefits that make them conducive to hair removal applications. Lasers are generally very focused beams of light that can be directed at specific areas in which the client wishes to remove hair. They can be used from relatively long distances without spreading and allow users to target smaller areas of hair.
Is IPL or Laser Hair Removal Better?
Although both IPL and laser hair removal are extremely effective, choosing one or the other is a personal decision that may be affected by the unique properties of each procedure.
Involved in your decision should be your hair type and texture, your skin type, skin tone, and body type. Careful analysis of these features plus a general idea of how much hair you want to remove and your overall hair removal budget should help you make a decision. In addition, read on for some benefits of both IPL and laser hair removal.
Benefits of IPL
As mentioned, IPL uses broad-spectrum light from nearly all of the electromagnetic light spectrum. By nature, this type of light spreads out so that coverage of the tool being used is much larger than that of laser hair removal tools. In general, larger treatment areas covered during a single session can reduce the length and cost of each session. However, more sessions may be necessary to achieve the results you want.
Since IPL’s broad spectrum light covers the spectrum, it can be adjusted to specifically match the skin and hair types of each user. Variations of the tool – usually referred to as variable pulsed light, or VPL – allows users to vary the spectrum as well as the frequency of the light pulses depending on the hair and skin areas they are targeting. As such, users with different skin tones as well as different hair textures on the body – such as bikini line and arm hair – can target each area effectively.
Benefits of Laser Hair Removal
The nature of a laser allows users to focus light directly into the pore of each hair and treat each hair very close to the follicle. This method allows more precise treatment of unwanted hairs, and may provide quicker results since each hair absorbs more heat with every pass. As a result, fewer treatment sessions may be necessary before you see results.
This same specificity is also beneficial to people with darker skin. Due to a higher amount of melanin in the skin, darker skinned people experience more risk of heating of the surrounding skin. Thus, lasers provide a more precise targeting of the hairs only, reducing risk of burning the surrounding skin.
Side Effects of IPL and Laser Hair Removal
Although side effects of both IPL and Laser Hair Removal are relatively mild, the two procedures produce similar effects. Primarily, you may experience slight skin irritation such as reddening, itching, tenderness or slight swelling. If you treat hair removal side effects as you would a sunburn, they should not typically last more than a day.
On a related note, skin that has recently undergone hair removal will temporarily be more sensitive to the sun. As a result, you must take care to use adequate sun protection, especially if you plan to spend an extended period of time outside. Use of sunscreen before and after treatment can help reduce skin irritation side effects and keep your skin healthy.
What Results Can You Expect?
Unlike waxing, threading, shaving, or chemical hair removal, you will not experience immediate smooth skin and the complete absence of hair. Over time, your hairs will die and drop off over the few weeks following your appointment. However, while results are not immediate, they are much longer lasting, leaving you with smooth skin for much longer than any of the previously mentioned methods. Additionally, you will likely need a follow up treatment to target any hairs that were not in the grown-out stage during your first treatment, though you may shave in between to prevent grow-out times.
After one to ten treatment sessions, most users find they’ve achieved permanent elimination or severe reduction in hair growth, with the average being six treatments to achieve desired results. Any hair that does reappear is usually lighter in color, finer in texture, and much slower to reappear. Some users may need a refresh session once every six months to a year, but most experience near-permanent hair removal.
Which Is Right For You?
It is important that you choose the hair removal procedure that is right for you. Depending on your skin color, hair thickness, hair texture, and hair color, one or the other may be a better fit for you. You must also determine whether your budget for hair removal results in a preference for one of the other. Then, analyze all available information and make the best decision for you.
To help you decide, please consider these top benefits of both IPL and laser hair removal and see if either set applies to you.
Laser hair removal:
- Usually produces quicker results
- Usually requires fewer sessions overall, but is more expensive
- Is more suitable than IPL for darker skin
- Is more precise than IPL
IPL hair removal:
- Is often cheaper than laser hair removal
- Usually results in quicker session times than laser hair removal
- Can be more suitable for lighter hair and lighter skin tones than other tones
- Covers a broader area than laser hair removal
If you’d like a consultation or wish to speak with someone regarding your hair removal options, please contact us at your earliest convenience.