When shaving, plucking, waxing and all manner of DIY hair removal methods have been exhausted and yet the results still fall below expectations, it’s time to consider other options. For this, most people turn to laser hair removal (LHR) or intense pulsed light (IPL) treatments—but what’s the difference?
When used for hair removal, both LHR and IPL use light to get rid of unwanted hair and prevent it from growing back. It’s a common misconception that the two methods operate on the same technology but, to break it down for you: IPL and laser hair removal DO NOT produce the same results.
This 3-minute read will help you decide which of these hair-removal approaches is right for you, as measured against your expectations, your schedule (and patience), and your budget. Learn more about the factors you need to consider, and how far you’re willing to go to be hair-free.
Table of Contents
IPL vs Laser Hair Removal
Intense pulsed light (IPL)
Intense pulsed light (IPL) uses a broad-spectrum light with varying wavelengths that penetrate the skin at different depths. Compared to a laser, which uses a single-spectrum light, IPL gives off light energy that is weaker, more dispersed, and less targeted.
An IPL device emits pulses of light, which are absorbed by the pigment in hair follicles below the skin’s surface. The light turns to heat that is absorbed by the skin, and essentially destroys the follicle—causing hair to fall off and regrowth to slow down significantly, at least for some period of time.
Broad-spectrum light naturally spreads out, allowing IPL hair removal devices to cover relatively larger areas of skin than laser hair removal devices. So, IPL treatments are generally faster but more IPL sessions are required to get the same results as laser hair removal procedures
Standard IPL hair removal devices work best on lighter complexions with dark hairs. However, there are hairs that may be light on the surface but have dark follicles underneath. For these types of hair-skin combination, IPL also produces results, especially the more advanced IPL devices.
In a nutshell: IPL is a cosmetic treatment offered in many salons and spas for getting rid of unwanted hair, and also sold as home-use handheld units. It can remove up to 70% of hair on the target area, and prevent or slow-down regrowth for up to 1 year.
One IPL session lasts 10 to15 minutes, at upwards of $100 in reputable establishments. Numerous treatments are required to achieve the optimum results, and to avoid exposing the skin to excessive heat stress—risking damage to the surrounding tissue and resulting in redness/burns.
Laser Hair Removal (LHR)
Medical grade lasers work by emitting a single wavelength of light that is specifically focused on the targeted area, resulting in optimum penetration. The light emitted is absorbed by the pigment in the hair, zooming in on the hair shaft and preventing contact with the surrounding skin.
“Laser” traces its origins to the acronym for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation,” where “light” refers not only to visible light but also electromagnetic radiation of any frequency. The primary laser technologies used by dermatologists today are:
· Alexandrite Laser (755nm) – for fair to mid-toned skin with medium-dark to dark, coarse hair
· ND: YAG Laser (1064 nm) – for darker skin types with coarse hair
· Diode Laser (800-810 nm) – for light- to mid-toned skin with dark, fine hair
The top brands for laser devices such as these are Alma, Candela, and Lumenis—all of which are used at The Aesthetics Centre for various laser procedures. The type of laser used on patients is determined by the doctor based skin type and hair texture, and other factors best discussed during a consultation.
Laser hair removal is applicable to most body parts where there’s hair—the face, underarms, legs, chest, back, hands, feet, backside, and bikini or groin areas. It works best on darker hair or those that have chromophore, which is what gives molecules colour.
However, when combined with other treatments that are not dependent on hair pigment, laser hair removal can also eliminate lighter hair shades such as blonde, gray, and red. It usually takes 6 to 10 sessions to reduce the hair significantly, with little or no downtime involved.
People whose hair typically grows faster may need more sessions to get the best results. Follow-up treatments are usually scheduled every 4 to 6 weeks, which is ample time for the skin to recover and heal properly, and for the dead hair shafts to fall out naturally.
In a nutshell: LHR is a medical procedure intended to be performed by doctors and licensed professionals. It can remove up to 95% of hair with minimal discomfort, thanks to its speed and accuracy. Each session lasts 30 min to 1.5hrs, with fees starting at $200 per session, plus consultation.
The succeeding treatment sessions are spaced out by several weeks to ensure that the skin isn’t unduly stressed. But even if hair does grow back, the strands will be finer and thinner. Laser hair removal can prevent regrowth for at least 2 years, or the hair may not grow back at all.
IPL and LHR: A Comparative Matrix
The Aesthetics Centre in Singapore for Laser Hair Removal
Your choice of hair removal method should ultimately come down to what works for YOU. Some may be satisfied with just thinning out the hair while others would want to go for the maximum 95% hair reduction, albeit more sessions are required.
At The Aesthetics Centre, Dr Anita Soosay gets to the root of your hair problem during the one-on-one consultation and performs the procedure, assisted by professional laser technicians to ensure your safety. Our devices have built-in cooling systems that can be configured to the patient’s level of comfort.
Our team is friendly, professional, and honest. We make sure that we provide you with top-quality treatment that is based on a good understanding of the medical-grade lasers we operate. The result: smoother, silkier skin, so you can be more confident and be hair-free as you please!