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Laser vs IPL - which is better for hair removal

Laser Vs IPL: Which Is Better For Hair Removal?

Constantly shaving, plucking, and waxing is a tiring and painful way to get rid of unwanted hair. All three take a lot of work, and you’re usually still left with unimpressive results (and fast regrowth). 

Two options you can turn to when you’ve exhausted all the tedious methods of hair removal are laser hair removal (LHR) and intense pulsed light (IPL) treatments. 

But what’s the difference between laser and IPL and which one is better for hair removal?

Both laser hair removal (LHR) and intense pulsed light (IPL) use light to get rid of unwanted hair. This light helps prevent hair from growing back long-term making these options incredibly attractive to people. 

Many people think these methods of hair removal are the same. They are similar, but they don’t use the same technology and they don’t produce the same results.

So if you’re thinking of opting for IPL or laser hair removal you should first figure out which one is right for you. 

What is an IPL treatment for hair removal?

IPL or intense pulsed light treatment is a way of getting rid of unwanted body hair, as well as treating pigment or vascular lesions. 

By using a broad spectrum of light, IPL can target dark hair. Similar to the way wearing black on a sunny day can cause you to heat up, the dark hairs absorb the light, heat up, and are destroyed all the way down to the root. 

IPL treatments have one major advantage over hair removal techniques like waxing or plucking: they’re permanent. Any living hair follicle that’s treated is completely destroyed and won’t grow back. 

IPL treatment for permanent hair reduction works best on darker hair and might not be as effective on lighter-coloured hair.

As soon as your IPL treatment is over, your unwanted body hair will be reduced for good.

What does an IPL treatment cost?

IPL treatments for hair reduction can cost anywhere between $85-$400 per treatment and can take approximately eight treatments for up to a 70% reduction of hair. 

What is laser hair removal?

Laser hair removal is similar to IPL, but at the same time completely different! Medical grade lasers emit a single wavelength of light that focuses on a target area. This light is absorbed by the pigment in the hair only and doesn’t make contact with the surrounding skin or other types of tissue in the treatment area. 

The laser causes the hair shaft and the hair follicle to heat up which interrupts the hair growth cycle and stops hair growth.

Laser hair removal can be used on most parts of the body, including the:

  • Face
  • Underarms
  • Legs
  • Chest
  • Back
  • Hands
  • Feet
  • Bikini line

Laser hair removal works best on darker hair and might not be as effective on lighter-coloured hair, the same as with IPL treatments.

What does laser hair removal cost?

Laser hair removal treatments can cost anywhere between $85-$400 per treatment and can take approximately eight treatments for up to a 94% reduction of hair. 

What’s the difference between laser hair removal and IPL?

Both laser and IPL use light to heat the hair follicle. This prevents growth and gets rid of any unwanted hair. 

The key difference between IPL and laser hair removal is that IPL is associated with higher amounts of discomfort, whereas laser hair removal is virtually pain-free. Despite this, both modalities are highly effective in the treatment of unwanted hair. 

However, it’s the technology that delivers the light that is the key difference between the two. That and the kind of light that’s being used. 

Lasers produce a specific type of light for the treatment that only has one wavelength (colour) of light going in one direction. This creates a beam similar to a laser pointer. 

IPL devices produce a much wider range of wavelengths of light which appears as a single white flash. The type of light in an IPL is similar to natural light and can have a light orange glow when flashed against the skin. 

When it comes to hair removal both laser light and IPL light work in exactly the same way. The light enters the skin, is absorbed by the pigment in the hair shaft and the hair follicle. 

One of the main objectives of laser or IPL is to hit the right temperature in the hair follicle and avoid heating up the skin. If the skin was to be heated up then it would cause damage and could result in a blister, as well as undesired pigment changes.

Is laser hair removal or IPL better?

To figure out whether IPL or laser is better for hair removal we’re going to take a look at 5 different factors and compare them. 

  1. Light source

IPL uses a broad spectrum of light. This targets the hair’s melanin pigment and heats the hair up, causing damage to the follicles. 

Laser hair removal heats up the hair and damages the hair follicles with light energy. The laser focuses on a smaller area and often travels further into the pore. The light used with lasers is concentrated more finely on an area where the hair is being removed, increasing its effectiveness and decreasing the potential for side effects. 

  1. Follow-up treatment

Laser hair removal is definitely a more aggressive treatment. It penetrates deeper into the pores giving you better results. This means you may require fewer treatments to get your desired outcome.

IPL on the other hand doesn’t solely focus on hair so you may require more treatments to stop your hairs from growing back.

  1. Treatment time

IPL can be a very slow and tedious treatment because it’s performed in pulses, whereas laser is very quick because it’s performed in motion. 

Average treatment times of IPL vs Laser:

Treatment AreaIPL treatment timeLaser treatment time
Legs60 minutes20 minutes
Under Arms15 minutes5 minutes
Back45 minutes15 minutes
Brazilian30 minutes10 minutes
  1. Time Savings

The average woman spends 72 entire days of her life or 1,728 hours, just shaving her legs alone! 

The time savings and improved quality of life are substantial with the treatment of permanent hair reduction with either IPL treatments or Laser treatments. 

  1. Pain rating

IPL typically has higher amounts of discomfort, whereas laser hair removal is virtually pain-free.

We’ve pulled out the most common treatment areas and the average treatment pain rating on a scale of 0 (no pain) – 10 (worst pain you’ve ever had) below with lighter skin colour and dark hair.

Treatment AreaIPL treatment pain ratingLaser treatment pain rating
Under Arms51

Are you still unsure which treatment is best for you?

We always offer free consultations to help you determine which is the best and most appropriate treatment, to help you become your best self, at any age. 

If you’d like to find out more about IPL or laser hair removal then feel free to get in touch with one of our team members. 

Here at Ageless Living we recently just added a brand new laser machine – Soprano Ice by Alma – and it’s a safe, virtually painless, fast, gold standard in laser hair removal! 

If you’d like to find out more feel free to book in for a consultation

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Megan Nicholls

Megan graduated with honours in 2011 from Georgian College, Ontario, as a practical nurse. She has completed extensive training and certification in the fields of dermatology and aesthetic medicine. Megan specializes in BOTOX® and filler injections, medical-grade skincare, assessment and treatment of varicose and spider veins, and the application of light and energy-based technologies, to name a few. She is qualified as a Certified Management Professional, and a Certified Aesthetic Consultant and is currently undertaking a Master's Degree in Business Administration. Megan serves as our Director of Operations, where she leads our team with the vision of providing unrivalled products and services while utilizing the concepts of the "Improving Your Business Through a Culture of Health" program from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.