Many people tend to confuse between IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) and laser skin treatment. Perhaps that’s because both treatments target some similar skin problems including skin aging, broken blood vessels and hair removal.
But while both treatments work by directing concentrated light at the skin, IPL and laser are quite different. Understanding how each works and their benefits as well as limitations is essential in choosing the right one for your needs.
1. Laser Skin Treatment
There are several types of laser treatments but they all work by directing a high-energy beam of light onto specific parts of the skin.
The most common treatment is laser skin resurfacing which is used to peel of the top skin layer and trigger the formation of new skin cells.
Laser skin resurfacing is highly effective in getting rid of sun spots, acne scars, uneven skin tone and brown spots.
Laser treatment can also be used to get rid of broken capillaries especially on the face. The intensive light energy causes the capillaries to collapse away from the surface of the skin.
Another popular use of laser treatment is hair removal. As with other treatments, high-intensity light energy is used. The light is absorbed by melanin and travels down to the hair shaft. The high concentration of melanin in the shaft causes the absorbed light energy to turn into heat.
The heat destroys hair-making cells, this preventing hair growth. Typically you need several laser hair treatments before you can achieve permanent hair removal.
Advantages of Laser Treatment
Laser skin treatment is generally more effective than IPL especially in hair removal and treatment of blemishes such as acne scars.
It also offers much more versatility than IPL. For instance, while IPL on dark skin is a no-no, some types of laser treatment can be safely used on dark skin.
Laser Treatment – Limitations and Concerns
The main downside of laser treatment is the range of side effects. Because it is more powerful and concentrated than IPL, laser treatment tends to affect the skin more. It also requires more downtime after treatment to allow for complete recovery.
Some of the possible side effects include burns (especially in dark skin), hyperpigmentation/hypopigmentation (darkening or lightening of the treatment area), itching, reddening and tingling. Without proper protection laser treatment can also cause eye injuries.
Because of these concerns and safety risks involved it is always best to get a laser treatment at a professional clinic. This makes laser treatment more expensive and time-consuming than IPL.
Another limitation laser treatment shares with IPL treatment is that they both cannot be used on white, red, grey or blonde hair.
2. IPL Skin Treatment
Laser treatment involves the use of a single high-intensity light wavelength. IPL treatment involves multiple wavelengths of light. That’s the main difference between laser and IPL.
IPL or Intense Pulsed Light is commonly used for hair removal at home. It works roughly the same way as laser only that the light energy is less powerful.
An IPL hair removal device emits various light wavelengths which are absorbed by melanin in the skin and travel down to the hair shaft. There the light energy turns into heat and destroys the cells responsible for hair growth.
As with laser hair removal several treatments are necessary to stop hair from growing back.
IPL treatment is also used to treat various other skin conditions including broken capillaries, dark spots, some forms of acne and dull skin.
Advantages of IPL Skin Treatment
IPL is much safer and has fewer side effects than laser treatment. That’s why you can easily do it at home without any worries. You don’t even have to protect your eyes (though you should not use an IPL device on or around your eyes).
This makes it cheaper and more convenient since you don’t have to go to a professional.
IPL Treatment – Limitations and Concerns
The biggest limitation with IPL treatment is that it cannot be used on all skin types. You shouldn’t use it if you have dark skin (could cause burns because of excess heat) or white/grey/red/light blonde hair (doesn’t work on them).
As for side effects they are few to none. If you have sensitive skin you may experience some redness but only mild.
When to use Laser Treatment
- When you need faster hair removal or to get rid of serious skin blemishes such as deep acne scars and hyperpigmentation.
- Also at the advice of your dermatologist.
When to use IPL Treatment
- When you want an easy, safe and convenient way to remove hair at home or your dermatologist recommends it.