What’s the difference between Laser Hair Removal and IPL?

We have lots of customers coming into the clinic each week to enquire about hair removal. Usually, the same questions come up – how does it work? What does it cost? What’s the difference between Laser and IPL?

Brighton is saturated with clinics offering hair removal and so it is important to establish what technology is being used and what results you can expect.

Scientific research in the early 1990s proved that lasers were an effective method for reducing unwanted hair and the first approved machine entered the US market in 1996. Since then we have witnessed the emergence of many different types of hair removal technology, from Laser and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) to Light Heat Energy (LHE) devices.

How Do These Hair Removal Devices Work?

These devices share one aim – to produce energy to disrupt the growth cycle of individual hair follicles, without damaging the surrounding tissues.

These treatments are most effective when the hair follicles are in what is known as the anagen or ‘active’ phase of hair growth. During the growth phase, the hair follicle has increased pigmentation (melanin). The laser uses a beam of light to penetrate the skin and is absorbed by the pigment colour in the hair where it is converted to heat. This heat travels down the hair shaft, to the hair root, and destroys it so that further hair cannot grow.

How do these devices differ?

The fundamental difference lies in the technology used to generate the light energy.

Intense Pulsed Light machines produce a broad spectrum of wavelengths – rather like a light bulb. These wavelengths are dispersed at a variety of depths, only some of which are effective for hair reduction. This system delivers a more shallow penetration and therefore deeper coarse hairs are not treated as effectively. Some of the light energy will be absorbed by the skin, leading to heating of the pigment in the skin. Therefore some may argue that IPL carries a greater risk of burns or hyper-pigmentation.

Laser technology is designed to deliver extremely focused light energy rather than the diffuse energy offered by IPL. They emit a single wavelength of light (pure light of a single colour) with a specific target – the pigment (melanin) in the follicle. They can create more heat directed specifically at the hair follicle than IPL and can therefore achieve better results.

As the laser energy is so much more specific is it less likely to be absorbed by the surrounding skin tissue and therefore has less risk of creating burns. The laser uses a cooling mechanism to help reduce any discomfort during treatment.

Laser technology enables your practitioner to fine-tune the settings according to your skin type and hair colour, offering more precision than traditional IPL systems.

Watch this demonstration of how Laser’s work to reduce hair growth:

It is worth noting that both Laser and IPL offer up to 90 per cent permanent hair reduction because they have been proven to remove hair for longs periods of time. However, neither system can claim ‘permanent removal’ of hair as there is still a possibility that some hair may grow back.

IPL treatments are often cheaper than Laser making it an appealing option. However, it may take a longer course of treatment in order to achieve a good result because the treatment is less precise.


  • Always ask which technology is on offer
  • Your practitioner should always offer you a patch test and consultation – This is an important step so the practitioner can establish your skin type and can adjust the settings accordingly to ensure no adverse reactions occur during treatment.
  • Ask about your practitioners’ qualifications – beauty salons can offer IPL but this does not necessarily mean the practitioners are qualified to deal with arising complications.

If you would like any advice on laser hair removal treatments to get in touch with our team today.


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