The Difference Between Laser Hair Removal and IPL

a woman's bare legs are up against a blue wall.

Ah, hair removal. Such a pain (literally and figuratively). Whether you’re waxing every month or shaving every day, you’re over the never ending, hair-ripping cycle.  After all, what are you left with… spikey, ingrown, rashy results? No thanks! 

So after looking into a simple, virtually permanent silky smooth solution, both laser hair removal and IPL have caught your eye. Both effective. Both seemingly permanent (or are they?). But which one:

  • Gets better results?
  • Is safer?
  • Hurts the least?
  • Better for you? 

Read on as we break down the difference between Laser Hair Removal and IPL, so you finally get the silky smooth, hairless skin you’ve been dreaming about. 



How the technology works

Both of these hair removal solutions use light to heat up the hair follicle which damages or ‘kills’ the root. This light is absorbed into the dark pigment (melanin) of the hair follicle to sever its growth. 

But this is where the similarities end. Laser hair removal and IPL are starkly different. Let’s take a look:


Laser Hair Removal

Laser hair removal uses a monochromatic coherent light source. This is a narrow source of light that affects hair in the anagen phase (growth phase) when the cells in your hair root are in the process of multiplying and creating new hair. Because of this hair cycle it generally takes around 6 – 10 sessions to get full results. 



Intense Pulsed Light technology uses a broadband pulsed light source. To kill the hair root it uses a broad spectrum of light pulsing on multiple different wavelengths. Meaning it has a more unfocused/scattered energy that is absorbed into the hair follicle at different levels. Because this is a less intense light source it is sometimes seen as less effective. You’ll likely need around 10 – 15 sessions to see results. 


a woman touches her bare legs while laying on a white sheet. there is a pump bottle next to her.
Silky smooth! Laser hair removal is key to effective and long term results.


What treatments are good for

These are both viable hair removal options, but laser hair removal is generally more effective in giving you long term or even permanent results. This is because of the honed in and extremely concentrated nature of the beam of light. This light really targets the hair follicle, destroying it right at the root. 

IPL is a broader light source than Laser, which means hair removal results can be less effective and take a lot longer to see. The wavelengths IPL uses range from 500 – 1000 nm and it’s important to note that these also have an effect on the skin. Because of the broadness of the light source, these wavelengths are automatically exposed to the skin too, targeting everything in its path. For this reason, IPL treatment is weaker.

However, because IPL targets skin so well, it has a range of other brilliant uses, that help promote a youthful visage, targeting issues such as acne, age spots, sun damage, freckles, birthmarks, varicose veins, wrinkles and rosacea.


So, which treatment is right for you?

Deciding between Laser Hair Removal and IPL it’s important to take into account the following.

  • Skin type
  • Hair type
  • Price
  • Number of sessions
  • Effectiveness of results.

See an overview below and then read on to dive in to the detail.

Laser IPL
Results 72% reduction of hair growth 6 months after treatments. 66% reduction of hair growth 6 months after treatments.
Cost Depends on the provider and area of treatment. View our price list here. Depends on the provider and area of treatment.
Treatments needed 6-10 treatments. 10-15 treatments.
Longevity A few years. A few years.
Skin type Suitable for all skin types. Suitable for dark hair and light to medium skin.
Area for use All areas of the body. All areas of the body.
Safety Considered safe. Rare negative effects. Considered safe for some skin types. Potential negative effects.


Skin types for each technology

This is where it gets interesting… Basically, not everyone’s skin type works for IPL hair removal. IPL is generally only effective on people with dark hair and light to medium skin tone. It is also important to note that IPL can not be safely used for hair removal on dark skin. (Add all of these up, and that instantly rules out a lot of people.) Laser, however, works on all skin types, skin colours and hair colours including dark skin. This is because of the exactness of the laser. The heat gets absorbed directly by the hair root, avoiding the skin.


What results should I expect?

So let’s now investigate the most important thing. Results! Which ones work, which ones only work a little bit and which ones actually last so you aren’t left with returning fuzz down the line. In short, IPL is less effective, suitable for less hair and skin types and requires more sessions. However, it does result in an approximate 66% reduction of hair growth 6 months after treatments, for those who are suitable for the treatment. Laser delivers much stronger results in fewer sessions and suits a wider range of skin and hair types, making it our preferred method for hair removal. With laser you’ll see a hair growth reduction of approximately 72%, 6 months after treatment. 


Is there any pain involved?

You might be wondering how much IPL and Laser may hurt. Well, any form of hair removal does come with a level of pain but it’s different for everyone. This can be dependent on your skin type, your skin structure and your personal pain tolerance level. For some, it might feel as light as a rubber band flick, for others it can be a little greater. IPL is generally considered to be less painful than Laser. This is because IPL has a cooling system inbuilt. However a fanning mechanism is provided during Laser, so all bases are covered. 


How much does it cost?

Because IPL is less effective than laser, it comes at a slightly lower price. However you’re likely to need more sessions, and you may be required to book in more frequent appointments to maintain the results. 


Are there any risks involved? 

Performed under quality care, these are both extremely low-risk treatments. However, IPL does come with a higher risk of burns due to the broader spectrum of light. Because there are risks involved we do always recommend seeing a trained professional. This means avoiding at home treatments which often aren’t as safe or as effective. Getting treatment under the observation of a trained therapist means you are guaranteed the best possible results in the safest possible environment. 

When you book in for your free consultation your therapist will run through each risk to ensure you feel informed and confident in the process. 

Ultimately getting silky smooth, hairless skin doesn’t have to be a pain.  If you’re interested in Laser Hair Removal or IPL the most important thing to do is be completely informed so you can decide which treatment is best for you. Book a free consultation with our cosmetics nurse to discuss your options today. 


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Azure Medical

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