Controlling body hair is a key grooming requirement for virtually everybody. Unfortunately, in many cases staying on top of hair removal can be a time-consuming, costly and uncomfortable process. The only permanent way to remove hair is through electrolysis. As this procedure involves delivering an electric current to each hair follicle in order to destroy it, it’s only suitable for very small patches of hair: for larger areas and for people that want a more cost-effective hair removal method, alternatives include depilatory creams, shaving, laser hair removal and intermittent pulsed light (IPL). Here we take a look at the differences between laser hair removal and IPL, considering factors such as cost, number of treatments, effectiveness, comfort and regrowth.
Laser hair removal or IPL
Although both involve the use of light, laser hair removal uses a single wavelength that is continuous whilst the laser is in operation. In comparison, as the name suggests, IPL utilises an intermittent beam consisting of many different wavelengths. This “scatter gun” approach to wavelength is one of the reasons that IPL usually has worse results than laser therapy. A laser wavelength can be specifically targeted to optimise results, depending on variables such as hair and skin colour. In comparison, IPL has a “one size fits all” mode of operation, which means that some people may find it doesn’t work particularly well. In both cases, the destruction of the hair occurs through the conversion of the energy absorbed by the hair pigment into heat energy. Different pigments absorb different wavelengths – in laser therapy, the wavelength can be preset to match the individual.
IPL requires more treatments
Both laser hair removal and IPL require a course of treatments before a noticeable result is achieved. Research suggests that of the two procedures, IPL treatment courses generally need to be significantly longer in order for an adequate level of hair removal to be achieved. Once the treatment has been completed, most patients find that regrowth is faster and more vigorous when they have used IPL, in comparison with laser hair removal. Using a laser not only causes hair growth to slow, it also results in the regrowth being finer and paler, meaning it’s less noticeable.
IPL is frequently thought to be more uncomfortable
Although both procedures are well-tolerated and generally have few side effects beyond localised tenderness, reddening and swelling, it is often the case that IPL is found to be more uncomfortable than the laser. If you are considering a regular programme of hair removal, it’s important to find a method that’s as tolerable as possible. Nobody wants to spend hours in more discomfort than they need to. For this reason, many individuals opt for laser hair removal, as their time at the clinic is then as comfortable as it can be.
Not everyone is a suitable candidate for IPL
Because of the way that IPL operates, it’s really only useful for patients with pale skin. In comparison, laser hair removal, depending on the type of laser in use, provides effective hair removal on medium toned and darker toned skins. Even on paler skins, IPL is generally less effective than laser hair removal.
Although IPL is cheaper than opting for laser hair removal, poor results, the need for a larger number of sessions and the relative discomfort of the procedure when compared with using a laser mean that it’s rarely the most suitable solution for effective long-term hair removal.
Get in touch with our expert team at The Derm Lab to learn more about the benefits of laser hair removal and why it’s a popular option for many people who crave fast, effective and long-lasting body hair removal.