Laser and IPL Hair Removal Frequently Asked Questions

With hair removal technologies now easily accessible, it’s hard to know the differences and which method is best for you. Keep reading to find out…

If you’ve been looking for hair removal treatments, you’ve probably heard of laser and Intense Pulse Light (IPL) hair removal. But what’s the difference? 

While both forms of hair removal treatments use light energy, they’re actually quite different technologies. So, while there are similarities in laser and IPL, your experience, the potential benefits and important information you need to know will differ.

To help you find the right method for you, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about two of the most common types of permanent hair reduction. Remember, results may differ between person to person, so this guide is for informational purposes only. Always consult a professional.

Photo by Womanizer WOW Tech on Unsplash

How do laser and IPL hair removal work?

Both laser and IPL hair removal techniques have generally the same process. Light is absorbed best by dark objects (which is then converted into heat), thus damaging and potentially destroying hair follicles, while lighter colours reflect light. This is why both of these treatments work best on lighter skin tones with darker hair. The light can easily pinpoint the dark pigment and reach the hair follicles and won’t be attracted to nearby skin tissues. Yet, more recently, these methods have been adapted to suit all skin and hair types (laser more than IPL) by adjusting the machine settings.

Are IPL and laser the same?

In short, laser and IPL hair removal share the same purpose, but the technology is different. They both can be used to reduce hair growth by using light to destroy hair roots. 

Laser is more precise and can pinpoint dark hair, adjusted to suit any skin tone and hair color and leave surrounding skin undamaged. IPL is more likely to burn darker skin types as it uses scattered lightwaves while laser uses one lightwave. 

Thus, laser hair removal provides faster results, while IPL hair removal is less effective but can be the more gentle solution for clients with rosacea or facial flushing.

What is laser hair removal?

Laser hair removal is a common treatment, which uses light to pinpoint hair pigment and destroy the hair follicles to prevent hairs from being able to grow. The light emitted from a laser is a singular wavelength, which allows it to specifically target melanin and avoid unnecessarily harming surrounding tissues. 

To explain this in more depth, laser possesses parallel light waves, which means it’s more powerful and can better destroy hair follicles. Laser hair removal machines can be adjusted to different settings best suited to different client’s specific needs for the best outcome. Laser treatments are recommended around every 4 weeks for 2 to 3 months to see adequate results. It’s recommended clients receive 10-12 treatments for more permanent results.

What is IPL hair removal?

IPL hair removal also uses light energy to cause damage to the hair follicles. IPL is different as it utilises scattered wavelengths, while laser uses a singular wavelength. As a result of a broad spectrum of light, it’s more difficult to target hair follicles. It’s more difficult to target hair follicles and there is an increased risk of potential burns and other problems.

On the other hand, IPL has the advantage of helping treat skin conditions such as wrinkles, spots and textures. IPL skin rejuvenation inflicts controlled harm to the skin causing the area to produce new cells to repair itself. This procedure can be used on acne, uneven skin colouring, damaged capillaries, redness, sun damage, freckles and other skin conditions. Therefore, intense pulse light treatments are more commonly used for rejuvenation treatments rather than hair removal.

What is the process for laser hair removal?

Before getting tied down to laser hair removal, you have the option to book a free consultation and can also get a free test patch to help ensure your skin reacts well to the treatment. Skin patch tests are recommended, especially for IPL, where treatments are more likely to have more contact with the surrounding skin near hair follicles. 

Before getting any Laser or IPL it’s recommended to:

  • Avoid excessive sun exposure 2 weeks prior to your appointment.
  • Avoid using any creams, lotions, tanning products, perfumes, etc. before your appointment.
  • Do not wax or pluck hairs 4 weeks prior to appointment.
  • Shave 12–24 hours before your appointment.

After your appointment it’s recommended to:

  • Apply the cooling cream immediately after (this will be provided during your appointment) and 1–3 times daily over the following 3 days to reduce swelling.
  • Use the recommended exfoliating scrub 5 days after your appointment.
  • Avoid direct sun exposure and intense exercise (you want to keep the areas of treatment cool to avoid discomfort) for the next 2 weeks.

*Information sourced from Australian Skin Clinics.

IPL and Laser FAQ

Are IPL and Laser the same?

No, IPL and laser are both methods to reduce hair growth, but laser uses a singular wavelength of light while IPL is scattered.

Does laser remove hair permanently?

If the laser successfully destroys a hair follicle then it can be permanent. However, a variety of factors affect the outcome of receiving laser treatments. 

It can be expected for some hair to grow back over time, but it will generally be far less hair that is thinner too. This is due to the hair follicle being damaged, but not destroyed. In short, laser hair removal has the potential to permanently remove hair, but expect it to be imperfect as it’s difficult to destroy hair follicles. Yet, even with hair follicles just damaged, there will be less hair, which grows back slower and less coarse.

How effective is IPL home hair removal?

In general, you can get IPL at home devices, but not laser. This is because laser needs to be operated by professionals as it is stronger and IPL can be reduced enough to make an at-home version. 

When receiving hair removal treatments by a professional, the results can be more predictable and tend to be safer. Although IPL home hair removal devices do help to reduce hair growth, they are less powerful and hence tend to be less effective.

Does IPL Hair Removal work on darker skin types?

It’s recommended to use laser over IPL for darker skin types. Laser machines have more adjustable settings, allowing it to treat all skin types and hair colours, whereas IPL is a broad light that can be damaging — especially to darker skin tones.

Can I get IPL or Laser if I have tattoos?

In short, the answer is no. You can get laser hair removal on areas not covered by tattoos, but you cannot receive such treatments on top of/over tattoos. Lasers try to recognise the dark pigment and will not be able to decipher dark hair follicles from ink which can lead to damaging results.

How long does it take for results?

In general, most patients see 80% or more hair reduction after 4 – 8 treatments (spaced about 4 weeks apart).

Again, always consult an IPL or laser professional. Find your local laser clinic near you on!

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      The information provided in this article is true at the time of publication and is for general informational purposes only. Localsearch (nor) the author are not liable for the misuse of information. Please consult a professional for relevant information to your circumstances.

      Chloe Thistle

      Junior Marketing Administrator

      Chloe Thistle is a Junior Marketing Administrator at Localsearch, bringing her talents and background in digital and social media marketing to her role. She has sharpened her marketing skills across many different industries, including entertainment, fashion and in the B2B field. In her spare time, Chloe can be found either lounging at the beach or five coffees deep at one of her favourite local cafés. No stranger to adventures, she’s trekked to Mt. Everest Base Camp — fueled by coffee of course — has completed the Kokoda Challenge and is always looking for the next mountain to climb! Chloe loves looking for ways to combine her passions for adventure, sustainability and marketing, always chasing the latest trends in both marketing and fashion. Now, she’s utilising her vast life and digital marketing experience to blog and assist in the content with the Localsearch Marketing Team.