IPL vs Laser Hair Removal: What’s The Difference?

• 10 July 2023

Unwanted hair can be a buzzkill. Whether you’re a woman wanting smoother legs, underarms and bikini line or a man looking to tidy up your back, chest or body hair. Choose between laser or IPL (intense pulsed light) technologies to achieve a permanent hair removal solution that works for you. But what’s the difference between IPL vs laser hair removal? With the average woman spending around £23,000 on hair removal in her lifetime, it’s high-time we got some answers about the best hair removal treatment for you.


What is laser hair removal and how does it work?

Laser hair removal generates a concentrated beam of a single light wavelength to absorb melanin within the hair follicle. Over multiple treatment sessions, this laser energy generates heat that progressively weakens and destroys the hair follicle, resulting in long-term hair reduction.


How does IPL (intense pulsed light) hair removal work?

Just like laser hair removal, IPL also targets melanin to destroy hair follicles. However, unlike laser treatments that use a single wavelength, IPL utilises multiple light wavelengths to emit diffused energy, ensuring minimal to zero skin damage. 

These wavelengths are delivered in continuous, consecutive pulses – resembling the effect of a camera flash. What’s even better is that IPL treatments can be done professionally or with home-use devices, in contrast to laser hair removal which can only be achieved in a clinic.

IPL vs Laser hair removal

IPL versus laser hair removal for the face

Both IPL and laser hair removal offer various benefits for women, helping to control peach fuzz, maintain smooth skin and hormonal hair growth. For men, these technologies offer solutions to reducing ingrown hairs from shaving. 

Laser is effective for black or dark brown hair, along with a broader range of skin tones with contrasting hair colours. IPL works best for light to medium skin types with dark hair, as well as targeting light brown hair. Neither method is suitable for blonde, grey or white hair.

The key difference however, is the accessibility of each technology. IPL uses a flash lamp mounted on a portable hand-held device available for clinic-based and home use. Laser requires a bulkier machine for emitting laser light performed only by trained professionals in a clinic. 




Is IPL more painful than laser hair removal?

No, IPL hair removal is typically less painful than laser because it uses lower-intensity light, advanced cooling air systems and UV sensors to minimise discomfort. Simply prioritise eye protection by wearing the goggles often provided. Many at-home devices use skin safety sensors, such as the AMIRO A2 IPL Hair Removal Device. Built-in sensors optimise the amount of light waves for your skin tone, while sophisticated Bi-Layer 360° technology reduces skin surface temperature to a comfortable 10/15°C for a pain free experience.

While both laser and IPL may lead to temporary side effects like minor redness and swelling, IPL hair removal is considered safer – particularly for sensitive skin. Especially when laser hair removal may result in blistering, bruising or hyperpigmentation.


Braun IPL


How long does it take for IPL and laser to remove hair permanently? 

Research says it takes 4 to 6 sessions over 12 to 16 weeks to see significant results with IPL hair removal, although some devices can achieve similar results within just 4 sittings. One such device is the E-One Clinic Permanent Hair Removal, which uses a wide optic cartridge to deliver 3,000 light flashes over a larger surface area. And instead of weekly IPL sessions, you only need to use the E-One every 6 to 8 weeks to see hair-free results.

Laser hair removal works slightly faster, showing results within 3 to 4 sessions. However, those with lighter hair or darker skin tones may require more sessions. The CurrentBody Skin Laser Hair Removal Device is the only FDA-cleared permanent at home laser hair removal device and promises 80% hair count reduction in just 4 weeks.



How long does IPL hair removal last?

Results from intensive twice-monthly sessions for 12 weeks typically last for 6 to 8 months, with the opportunity to extend to 1.5 years with repeated touch-ups every 3 months. Hair growth variations can influence the longevity of these results. For example, hormone-driven hair regrowth over the lip, chin, underarms, chest, back and bikini line may need more touch-ups than the hairline, arms, legs, hands and feet.


What is better, IPL or laser hair removal?

While both technologies have their advantages, laser hair removal is faster, more precise and can cater to darker skin tones. However, IPL steals the show with its versatility, fewer side effects, suitability for sensitive skin and budget-friendly nature. The compact, travel-friendly SmoothSkin Pure Mini takes this a step further, delivering hair-free results in just 4 weeks – without interrupting your travel schedule.

In-clinic laser sessions can cost anywhere between £500 to £1500, whereas portable IPL devices offer an affordable one-time purchase of £200 to £300. IPL hair removal provides comparable results to laser, along with the additional convenience of home use.

IPL vs Laser

Dr. Alpana Mohta Board-Certified Dermatologist
Dr. Alpana Mohta, FAAD, M.D., D.N.B., is a Board-Certified Dermatologist and founder of Dr. Alpana Skincare. She's won multiple international scholarships for dermatology and has over 80 publications for various peer-reviewed journals under her belt. Her areas of interest include clinical dermatology, cosmetic dermatology and dermatosurgery.
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