Laser or IPL? Which one is best?

The question that still burns!

Even after 20 years of performing hair removal using light based technology, I still get asked time and time again by both clients and fellow aesthetic therapists.

There are two camps of people. IPL is best camp and Laser is the only way camp.

To answer the question of ‘which is best’ is neither quick or easy, so I will simplify the pros and cons of each.

First, a brief explanation of the two types of light is needed.

IPL (Intense Pulsed Light). This technology is basically a very powerful lightbulb. IPL delivers a broad spectrum of light, Eg. It delivers a range of different colours. IPL produces a bright flash of light that you can see. It has much more heating effect in the surface of the skin.

LASER (Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation)

Hair removal lasers all produce only Infrared type of light. Infrared is invisible type of light, and is just one part of the light spectrum. The laser beam is straight and concise which means all the energy is concentrated into a small beam and is more precise. Laser energy penetrates a bit deeper into the skin and causes less heating on the skin surface than IPL.

laser-hair-technologySo, Which is best Laser or IPL?

This depends on two main factors.

  1. The quality and the power the machine is able to deliver.
  2. The skin and hair type that needs treating

QUALITY AND POWER: Because lasers are precision engineering, they generally only work if they are well made. Of course some lasers are better quality than others, but even the lower quality laser machines will work to a reasonable standard.

IPL, however, is very different. There are a lot of poor quality IPL machines being used in clinics and salons. They contain lightbulbs with poor energy output.

Low quality IPL machines also have less ability to control the energy output. They are made more simply so the operator needs less training and very little thought is needed to adjust treatment settings.

This is maybe why I get many clients who say they had lots of IPL treatment and it didn’t work.

However, a well made good quality IPL will have high energy output and the ability to adjust the treatment settings. This means good training is needed so the operator can tailor best parameters for your skin and hair type.

A good quality IPL can be as good as a laser to achieve hair removal results.


This makes IPL more risky when treating tanned skin or very dark skin types.

Treatment Exceptions

The exceptions are when it comes to treating three types of skin:

  1. Recently Tanned Skin.
  2. African and Caribbean skin types.
  3. Lighter Hair Types (Caucasian, white people).

In the first two skin types, the NdYAG type laser is the safest choice of laser. NdYAG laser has the least heating effect in the surface of the skin because it is less absorbed by pigmentation, so the risk of a surface skin burn is greatly reduced.

As opposed to IPL that has much greater heating effect at the skin surface. This makes IPL more risky when treating tanned skin or very dark skin types.

In the third skin type: Light skin types that have medium to light brown, or dark blond hair. This lighter type of hair does not get hot very easily and does not absorb light very well.

IPL has a better heating effect in these lighter hair types. I have found much better results on lighter hair types when using a good quality IPL than with an NdYAG laser.

To find out more visit our Laser and IPL treatment page or book a free consultation call:

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