Hair removal – The Difference between IPL Devices and Medical Lasers

Given the vast amount of misinformation which is circling the Internet and other media regarding permanent hair removal treatments using IPL devices, with this text we want to draw attention to differences in methods of epilation, which are carried out by medical lasers and IPL devices.

laser hair removal

The operation of medical lasers and IPL devices is based on the same principle, they have similar basic parts and technology as both aim at targeting pigment in the root of the hair, but…

  • IPL appliances are beauty-grade devices and not medical-grade equipment like lasers for permanent hair removal. Unlike medical lasers, which emit coherent light of specific wavelength, IPL devices emit a broad spectrum of light in all directions like a light bulb. The wavelengths of IPL spectrum range mainly from 500 nm to 1000 nm. Thus, IPL mode of operation does not allow for precise targeting of the hair follicle at the depth at which it typically is because most of the energy is absorbed by vascular lesions in the skin structure. This means that several layers of the skin which were not meant to be treated with IPL machine will inevitably be treated.
  • In IPL devices each fired light burst has a different wavelength and direction while the medical lasers for hair removal fire light rays that are always unidirectional and of the same wavelength.
  • It is possible to add various cutoff filters to IPL devices to narrow down its emission spectrum. Then again, it is a fair question to ask if with the filters IPL devices are just right, how come there are so many manufacturers of lasers for permanent hair removal such as Syneron-Candela, Lumenis, Blanket, Cynosure, Asclepion, Cutera and others and how come their sales are blooming.
  • IPL devices produce spatially wider light pulses than any medical laser, which makes treatments faster because one light burst covers larger surface area. This on the other hand indicates the quality of the treatment with IPL devices.
  • IPL machine can be sold to anyone, but an actual medical laser can be owned and used only in a medical clinic. Also, personnel that work with IPL devices does not need to have a formal training to use them, while medical lasers can be run only by people certified to work with them. This is so not only in Serbia, but everywhere in the world.
  • Treatments with IPL devices are less painful and much less successful in permanent hair removal then medical lasers because the lasers generate more power per pulse causing more damage to hair follicles. This is why most of the medical lasers for hair removal have specially provided systems for skin cooling which also protects the surrounding tissue.
  • IPL machines are several times cheaper than medical lasers. The difference in price is usually up to 10 times. The price of household IPL appliance starts at 500 Euros, while more professional ones cost between 5,000 and 10,000 Euros. Prices of medical lasers for permanent hair removal vary between 60,000 to 100,000 Euros. The difference in the effects of treatment is proportional to the difference between the purchase prices of these two technologies.
  • Unlike IPL devices that emit always the same amount of energy and the same spectrum, medical lasers can be adapted to different skin types and colors of hair. Laser for permanent hair removal can safely treat dark skin types (Fitzpatrick IV-VI) while IPL devices can produce skin burns.

More about permanent hair removal read in another text.