Laser Therapy and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL): What's the Difference?

 Laser Therapy and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL): What's the Difference?

You’re ready to remove that unwanted hair, age spot, or broken blood vessel. You’ve heard that laser therapy and intense pulsed light (IPL) are effective methods for sun damage treatment, treatment for rosacea on the face, and hair removal. But which method is best for your unique skin type and dermatology needs?

Learn the differences between these two treatments: their methods, recommended target areas, costs, and typical results. Knowing the unique features of each therapy will help you make the best choice for revitalizing your skin.

What Methods Are Used?

Both laser treatment and intense pulsed light (IPL) treat your skin by focusing wavelengths of light at a target area, like a hair follicle. The pigment cells in your skin absorb the light, which becomes heat that kills the pigment cells or hair follicles, effectively removing unwanted skin spots, spider veins, or hair.

In laser treatment, just one focused wavelength of light is used, whereas IPL releases different wavelengths of light with different colors, like a camera flash. Because IPL emits a more diffuse light, it is a gentler treatment. Also, an IPL device head is usually larger than a laser device, allowing for a larger area to be treated in a shorter amount of time.

What Is Each Treatment’s Recommended Use?

Laser therapy and IPL are recommended for spider vein removal, to remove unwanted hair, and to even out skin tone that’s been affected by rosacea, sun exposure, age, freckles or birthmarks. IPL is best used to remove freckles and dark spots and for rosacea skin care, or other red or flushed areas on fair skin.

Laser therapy is generally better on darker skin tones and is effective at removing undesirable hair and deeper wrinkles. Because the laser therapy emits a more focused light onto the hair follicle, it is less likely to damage the surrounding darker skin, which tends to absorb more light and thus be more prone to damage from light treatment. The more focused light of laser therapy also makes it more effective at removing thicker hairs than IPL can accomplish.

Both IPL and laser therapy work better to remove hair on lighter skin and darker hair because the contrast helps the laser focus more effectively.

How Do These Treatments Feel?

Both laser treatments and IPL can be moderately painful, and your dermatologist will apply an anesthetic gel to numb your skin prior to treatment. Many people report a feeling like a rubber band being snapped against your skin. Typically a laser treatment is more painful because of the light being more pointed on your skin than the light from an IPL device.

Although neither treatment has much downtime, the more penetrating laser treatment will require more downtime to reduce redness, swelling, or bumps resulting from this method.

What’s the Cost Comparison?

Generally, individual treatments of IPL cost less than a laser therapy treatment. But you will probably need more treatment sessions of IPL than you would need for laser therapy, making the cost different minimal.

Will I Get the Same Results?

The primary difference in results is time. With a laser treatment, you will see faster results and require less treatments. IPL will generally involve a series of treatments spaced 3-6 weeks apart. Hair removal can take 6-12 IPL treatments, whereas it might only take 2-6 laser treatments.

Whether you’re getting laser treatment or IPL, it’s important that you have the procedure carried out by an experienced doctor. Call Vanguard Dermatology, located in the greater New York City area, to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable dermatologists. You can discuss which light treatment is the best for your skin type and unique situation. It’s time to bring deep healing and change to your skin.

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