The rivalry between IPL and Laser Hair Removal treatment continues, but which one is truly better for both the client, and you as a clinic owner? You will find the internet is littered with articles extolling the virtues of both Intense Pulsed Light and laser hair removal. But more often than not these articles will be totally contradictory based on what is being sold.

Today’s article will give an in-depth comparison between the two forms of hair removal treatments, detailing their advantages and disadvantages. We will look at the differences in experience for both the customer and clinic owner, and how these experiences can affect the performance of your clinic.

How Do IPL & Laser Hair Removal Treatments Work?

Intense Pulse Light Technology (IPL) and Laser treatments both have the same goal in mind, they are both forms of hair removal treatment which use a process called selective photo thermolysis. This targets melanin and heats up the cells in the hair follicle causing them to reduce the rate in which hair grows.

The difference between the two becomes evident when you examine how this process is complete. It is easy to assume because both forms of treatment involve the use of light, they are doing the same thing, but delving deeper into these treatment types we begin to reveal where their differences lie.

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IPL uses a broad range of wavelengths (500 nm to 1200 nm) to heat the hair follicle, this results in a high amount of ‘unfocussed’ energy around the hair and skin. This usually means the customer will have to undergo multiple treatments (in the range of six to eight) to see complete hair removal in an area. But this is not necessarily a bad thing, the lower intensity can be gentler on the skin resulting in a very low risk of irritation in the treatment area.

Laser hair removal treatment uses a far more concentrated, single beam of light to heat the hair follicles. It focuses on a specific wavelength dependent on the device and the light source to provide a very direct form of hair removal. This means effective treatment lasting between four and eight weeks.

Differences between IPL and Laser Hair Removal

When it comes to Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and Laser Hair Removal, one of the key factors that sets them apart is the energy source they utilise.

IPL treatments employ a broad spectrum of light that encompasses multiple wavelengths. This light is generated by a xenon lamp, which emits pulses of intense light energy. The broad spectrum allows IPL to target various skin concerns, not just hair removal, making it a versatile option for individuals seeking skin rejuvenation alongside hair reduction. IPL treatments effectively target the pigment in both hair follicles and skin cells, leading to the desired outcomes.

On the other hand, laser hair removal relies on a single wavelength of light that is highly concentrated and focused. This light is produced by a laser device, such as an Alexandrite, Nd:YAG, or diode laser. The focused beam of laser light specifically targets the melanin pigment found in the hair follicles, effectively disabling their ability to produce new hair growth. Laser hair removal treatments primarily focus on hair reduction and are less commonly used for skin rejuvenation purposes.

Similarities between IPL and Laser Hair Removal

While Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and Laser Hair Removal have their differences, they also share some notable similarities.

  1. Treatment Process: Both IPL and laser hair removal follow a similar treatment process. Before the actual procedure, pre-treatment preparations are necessary to ensure optimal results. This may include shaving the treatment area and avoiding sun exposure or tanning beds. During the treatment, a handheld device is used to deliver the light energy to the targeted areas. The duration of each session depends on the size and number of areas being treated. After the procedure, post-treatment care is essential, such as applying soothing creams, avoiding direct sunlight, and following any specific instructions provided by your practitioner.
  2. Long-Lasting Hair Reduction: The primary goal shared by both IPL and laser hair removal is long-lasting hair reduction. These treatments work by targeting the melanin pigment in the hair follicles, heating them to a point where their growth cycle is disrupted. Over a series of sessions, hair follicles are weakened, resulting in a significant reduction in hair growth. With both IPL and laser hair removal, you can achieve smoother, hair-free skin for an extended period.

Cost to the Client

A client will be searching for the best cost-benefit for their treatment option, on the face of it, laser hair removal treatments have similar prices to IPL. So, which one will provide more cost-effective treatment?

Due to the less targeted natural of IPL treatment the customer will usually have to undergo a high number of treatments in total to get the same results. This of course increasing the cost to them. Initially it begins to look as though laser treatment is the obvious way to go, however it is vital you consider your customers needs.

Laser Treatment

A customer looks for a business which will benefit them and has their best intentions at heart. For example, a customer with higher skin sensitivity could be less suitable for laser hair removal treatment and would therefore benefit from the gentler natural of IPL. In contrast, a customer with a darker skin tone and lighter hair will experience a less effective treatment when undergoing IPL and would therefore see a better result from laser hair removal.

Speed of Treatment

Speed of treatment can have a big impact on both you as the clinic owner, and the customer. It is advantageous to both parties to keep treatment times at a minimum, allowing you to complete more treatments per day, and giving the customer an efficient experience.

This is an area where IPL treatment can really excel, due to the application of multiple wavelengths – although weaker, it is possible to treat a larger area of skin in a certain time when compared to laser treatments. This means the time your customer undergoes treatment is considerably reduced. However, due to the need for more treatment sessions you must look at your targeted customer group. In other words, you are trading less treatment time in one session for a more frequent number of treatments – is this what your customer is looking for? Are you targeting a group which would rather get treatment done and out of the way, or customers who don’t mind returning?

The answer to these questions is far from straight forward, but you should consider:

  • Your location – If your clinic is situated further away from your customers it is a less attractive proposition to ask them to return frequently, in which case this could be a dealbreaker for them. So, in this case laser hair removal might be the best option.

  • Target age groups – What age group do the majority of your customers lie in? Customers who are more likely to be working full time will have less flexibility in their appointment times so keeping appointments to a minimum through laser hair removal will result in a more manageable appointment schedule. This will also mean a lower concentration of appointments in the evening, freeing up time for a great customer base.
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How Painful Is the Treatment?

Quantifying the pain experience for treatment is always a difficult measurement. With many customers experiencing a varying pain independent of treatment type – anything from zero pain to a burning sensation. Though scientifically, more levels of the skin are impacted by lasers so this could theoretically result in a high amount of pain.

However, the one thing that all the experts agree on, is that both treatments are much less painful when administered by a qualified and experienced hair removal technician. This emphasises the importance of correct training in this industry. Whether you opt for an IPL treatment system of a laser hair removal device it is vital to ensure both you and anyone in your clinic who use the equipment is fully trained on the devices they are using. After all, even if your customer experiences the best results they could hope for, they will never return if the treatment procedure was unbearably painful!

Which One Gets the Best Results?

The best results between these two forms of treatment are specific to you and your customers needs. It takes a highly qualified technician to be able to advise and adapt based on experience and a clinical understanding of the hair follicles when using either device. Intense Pulsed Light treatments are less successful on dark skin and lighter hair. Laser hair removal generally requires a lesser number of treatments but has the drawback of slightly longer treatment times. Deciding which treatment will work best for your clients probably has more to do with your local community’s understanding of both treatments and how prepared you are to your chosen form of hair removal treatment.

To conclude, both treatments will offer a significant reduction in hair re-growth if applied professionally, something that all of your customers will benefit from.