LASER vs IPL — The battle of the lights

What is better: Laser or IPL? Tricky question on everybody’s lips…

Although, personally, I’m a huge fan of IPL for many reasons, including its safety, effectiveness and versatility; I will objectively present you several points (over the next few blog posts) that you need to consider before you make up your mind. So, let’s talk light…

It’s incredible just how far the light technology has come and how great are results it can help deliver in the hands of a trained, skilled professional.

An interesting piece of writing was brought to my attention by a lovely client of mine recently. It was written by a “big name” Australia laser clinic with a very strong focus in favour of lasers for hair removal and very much against IPLs. I checked out the company’s website and noticed the same thing. Everything’s FOR laser and AGAINST IPL hair removal. They even go as far as saying “IPL is not recommended for hair removal”. A statement without substance, which raises a number of questions in my mind.

It is a fact that most IPLs have gone through the same process of accreditation and approval as lasers. Studies of effectiveness of IPLs are well documented and clinically proven. So, is it a governing body that’s not recommending it or is it the laser clinic who perhaps imported laser machines and attached their company name labels on the machines? And why exactly is it not recommended?

A few years ago I had the pleasure of attending a seminar where the head of the company in question presented herself and her company. The presentation was of course very much pro laser and against IPL. Although the most entertaining part for me was that presenter did not give me an impression of thorough understanding the physics of light, she sounded quite convincing. I couldn’t help but think this is how public gets brainwashed into believing things without even investigating a particular topic.

That’s how we jump to conclusions, a bit too quick at times…

Still reading? You must be an intelligent consumer who expects great results and is interested in learning about the differences between these light sources.

IPL vs Laser hair removal analysis continues.

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10 Responses so far.

  1. Laser Hair says:

    Hey, i am glad i came across your site… keep it up!!!!

  2. Very useful information. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. suma says:

    Hi all,

    I want to share my experence with IPL which is really bad. I had the traditional Laser the first time and it was effective. The second time I went to IPL – which is supposed to me more effective and having less side effects. But the IPL left five dark burnt scars on my face . Now I am freaking out dont know what to do.

    But definitely IPL is mush riskier especially for people with my skin type – I have brown skin and tans very easily.

    IMP: when they do patch test wait for atleast couple of days before going for treatment. B’coz for me the patch test scar surfaced after one day.

  4. LSW says:

    Hi Suma,

    Thank you for sharing your story and I am sorry to hear about the bad experience with IPL hair removal that you had.

    As a general rule IPL is safer and softer on the skin that a laser device would be. This is providing you are being treated with a quality IPL device, by a highly skilled hair removal specialist and all the contraindications to your IPL treatment have been taken into consideration. We in our Melbourne Laser Clinic see many patients with various hair and skin conditions. Some of the most frequently seen contraindications to both IPL and Laser treatments that may cause a reaction of this nature include recent sun exposure, spray tan on the area that you treat or some antibiotics, antidepressants, herbal supplements etc.

    The importance of a test patch prior to IPL hair removal or IPL skin rejuvenation treatment cannot be stressed enough, particularly for darker skin types, especially if an operator is somewhat new to the industry. Although usually hyper-pigmentation appears within a couple of days following an IPL test patch it is recommended to wait 4-7 days after a test patch for people with olive skin and up to 21 (!!) days for people with very dark skin. So use this as a guide for your future IPL treatments.

    I hope this helps

  5. Drew says:

    my wife recently had some IPL treatment without a patch test and I believe she has had a bad pigment change to her chest… a registered nurse I am concerned about this
    , can you offer any advice

  6. LSW says:

    Hi Drew,

    Thank you for your post. Unfortunately, burns and pigment changes can happen after IPL skin rejuvenation treatments. Luckily most of the side effects are only temporary. Treatment of these unpleasant side effects is possible and depends on the “age” of the side effect.

    Most well trained practitioners I know that operate in Melbourne laser clinic and Melbourne skin rejuvenation centers will offer some form of treatment to help skin heal faster.

    In the first instance I would go back to the clinic where treatment was performed to get some help.

  7. Gabbi says:

    Hi all,
    I have just had my first IPL treatment last week and although I felt a little nervous about how much pain if any I would feel beforehand. My technician was very friendly and seemingly capable and she made me feel that she knew how I felt and reassured me before, during and after the treatment. There was pain, about the same as being flicked by a rubber band but it was tolerable. I can already see a reduction in hair re-growth and I have good expectations about the success of future treatments(maybe 7 to 9). I guess the answer is like anything in life, take the time to find a reputable clinic and pay a reasonable amount for what you are having done. Good luck, Gabbi ; )

  8. LSW says:

    Thank you for such positive feedback Gabbi.

    We are delighted to hear this and very happy we were able to make a positive difference.


  9. Sophie says:

    I have olive skin and black hair. I had three IPL treatments to remove facial hair. I have stopped the treatment for two months and noticed a definite increase in the volume and length of my facial hair. Can IPL stimulate hair growth on people with olive skin?

  10. LSW says:

    Hi Sophie. Thank you for your post. Facial area takes the longest to respond to IPL hair removal and with 3 sessions you would have only treated 3 hair growth cycles (providing correct number of weeks in between sessions).

    With approximately 8 sessions (for face, as it’s different with other parts of the body) you should notice a dramatic improvement. Sessions should continue every 4 weeks if possible in the initial part of the treatment plan.

    There is some evidence to suggest that IPL and Laser may increase volume of hair growth if peach fuzz (velus hair) get treated but not where thicker, coarser, darker hair (terminal hair) is treated. However, I have not seen a lot on it at all in the recent years. The general rule is to get treatment with a highly skilled professional, quality equipment and at the right schedule. This ensures an excellent response (approx 80-85% of hair is removed and the rest is maintained by a session or two a year) in majority of population.

    In over ten years I have only seen one female patient not responding as well as I usually like to see it.

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