What the difference between Laser & IPL Hair Removal?

At Purple Valentine Laser & Skin Clinic we offer both IPL hair removal and Laser Hair Removal.

We are aware that there is some confusion for clients in understanding the difference between Laser and Intense Pulsed Light treatments for hair reduction.

Both treatments can remove hair but Laser hair removal will always be more effective than IPL.

Both treatments have been available commercially since the mid 90’s. They involve producing light energy which is then absorbed into the dark pigment of the hair to ultimately cause damage to the hair follicle. Hair growth is then reduced without damaging the surrounding tissue.

The main advantages of using Laser over IPL based technology are:

  • Laser technology is simply much more effective, and achieves substantially better results that IPL. Ninety percent of our patients experience permanent hair loss after 3-5 sessions.*

  • IPL is a cheaper, less effective technology for reducing body hair.

  • Lasers are far more precise, and can selectively target dark, coarse hairs while leaving the surrounding skin undamaged.

  • Each laser pulse takes a fraction of a second and can treat several hairs at a time.

  • Laser hair removal can be used to treat larger body areas.

  • Laser settings can be adjusted to suit your specific skin tone and hair colour.

  • Lasers are safe for all skin colours, whereas IPL can cause burns on darker skin tones.

*Results may vary from person to person.

The main differences between Laser and IPL, used as a hair reduction treatment, mainly lie in the technology that each use to generate the light, as well as the different properties of the light being used.


Laser machines produce a single wavelength of light (pure light consisting of one single colour and form), which has a very concentrated beam and specific target (the melanin in the hair follicle).

You will not see much light when the laser aesthetican ' fires a shot ', as you would with IPL.

The type/colour of your hair and skin will determine the tuning settings of the machine and will be discussed with you during your test patch consultation. Laser machines are tuned to emit the exact wavelength required to treat your hair.

IPL (Intense Pulse Light)

IPL’s are not lasers. The machines produce a broad spectrum of wavelengths (like a light bulb) and cannot be focused to a concentrated beam. Because a range of different wavelengths are dispersed at a variety of depths only some of these will be effective for hair reduction. This is why you will see a bright flash of light once the laser aesthetican fires a shot.

A more shallow penetration in comparison to laser means that deeper, thicker hairs are not treated effectively. In addition, some of the light can be absorbed into the surrounding tissue as well, leading to heating of the pigment in the skin. This is why there is more of a risk of burns for a darker skin type.

Laser machines create more heat directed at the hair follicle than IPL systems, hence achieving better results. Because the heat is absorbed by the follicle, and not the skin, there is a decreased risk of burning when using Laser machines. This also makes Laser a safer option for darker skinned individuals.

Laser treatments may be more expensive than IPL, but the effects are much more prominent.

IPL’s have an important place in treatment of the skin. The non-specific nature of an Intense Pulsed Light is what makes the treatment so effective when we are targeting skin problems, such as superficial pigmentation and fine blood vessels.


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.


‘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

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