IPL vs Laser: See The Light

Pop quiz: do you know the difference between IPL and Laser? Does the difference even matter? Aesthetic technology and terminology can be confusing, but I think it’s important that my clients know as much as possible about the different choices available, so that they can select the best possible treatment for their needs.

There seems to be a common assumption that IPL and Laser are just different terms that describe the same thing. An understandable misconception, perhaps, given that many clinics like to promote their treatments with phrases such as “IPL Laser Hair Removal”. Using two completely different technologies in the same sentence – now that is confusing!

So what’s the solution? Even if you were to Google the difference between IPL & Laser, it’s explained in such a complicated way that you’d practically need a science degree to decipher what you were reading. Instead, I aim to educate the ‘normal’ everyday consumer in a simple, understandable way.

What’s the difference?

IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light. I find the best way to explain it is to compare it with a light bulb. The light is very bright at the bulb, but as the light spreads out across the room it gets less powerful. The energy from the light bulb spreads out to light up the entire room – and not just the area around your desk. In a similar way, IPL can target a wide range of cells in the skin, delivering energy to each cell it hits.

By contrast, a laser is exactly what you’d imagine – a direct beam of light. It doesn’t spread out widely like IPL does. I could fire a laser from one end of a football field to the other, and until such time as the laser hits an object, it will not decrease in strength.

Similarly, a laser can only target a small number of skin components at a time; but what it does target receives more focused energy. Laser allows you to target one specific concern at a time, with greater intensity.

That’s (hopefully) the difference explained – so what do IPL and Laser have in common? Both technologies deliver energy to the skin, and the light they emit is absorbed by the cells they are targeting. When that light is absorbed, heat is created – and it’s that heat that delivers a result.

What do they do?

Ideally, we want to use that heat to destroy what we are targeting, but without adversely affecting the surrounding tissue. So in aesthetic treatment terms, we use IPL or Laser to target blood (to treat issues such as redness and broken capillaries); pigment (hair removal, tattoo removal and skin pigmentation); or water (resurfacing and rejuvenating treatments).

In other words, both IPL and Laser achieve great results when utilised correctly – and they can even be combined, depending on the desired treatment outcome. Our experienced aestheticians will be happy to advise you accordingly, and create a personalised treatment plan that maximises the benefits of each and every available technology.


See you in clinic soon!

By Natasha Bennett, Courthouse Clinics Manager Brentwood