The Difference between Laser and IPL

Most people think that laser treatments are the same as intense pulsed light (IPL) treatments, and for the lay person there is very little difference. This is why IPL treatments are categorized under laser treatments. Essentially both methods use light waves, but that is where their similarity ends. They are in fact very different technologies. In brief, lasers produce a concentrated beam of light of a single wavelength, which will be determined by what they are being used for. IPL is also a beam of light but filtered to remove the ultraviolet (UV) range of waves, so it is said to be a broad spectrum beam.

Lasers have been developed and used for medical applications for more than 50 years. Because it has been around for quite a while, the technology has been fine-tuned to pretty much do what it has to with few or no side effects. It hasn’t always been safe, though; it took decades to develop a hair removal laser that could target hair follicles precisely enough so that it did not damage the surrounding tissue and even then it took some more years for experts to finally agree that alexandrite lasers was the most effective for depilation.

IPL, on the other hand, is a relatively recent development and was initially used to treat spider veins and broken capillaries. Because it is broad spectrum, it wasn’t long before it as discovered that it also had some positive effects on acne, skin texture and tone, and hair removal.

The choice between laser and IPL treatments eventually depends on the knowledge and experience of the attending healthcare practitioner to accurately evaluate each case. There is no one-size-fits-all solution even for similar cases; individual idiosyncrasy will always affect the outcome. This is why it is important to consult with a qualified skin professional before embarking on laser or IPL treatment.

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