Alternatives to shaving and waxing, IPL and laser are two very effective procedures for long-term hair removal. In addition to preventing hair from re-growing, both treatment methods reduce growth speed and thickness of remaining hair. They work in similar ways: Light energy heats and damages the hair follicle, slowing down and eventually preventing hair growth. Multiple treatments are usually necessary. The main difference is the light source.
Lasers are single beams of intense, one-color light that can be focussed into small areas. Lasers penetrate individual pores, and blast a concentrated beam of heat on the hair follicle.
IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light and uses broad-spectrum, visible light. Its effectiveness is optimized, targeting specific chemicals by emitting just the right combination of wavelengths. For hair removal, IPL targets the melanin pigment in hair. Where the light energy is absorbed, it transforms into heat, causing damage to the target.
Except in lasers, light naturally spreads out. The coverage in IPL devices is therefore greater than in laser hair removal devices. Treatment times can be quicker, and larger areas can be treated at once. IPL can be considerably cheaper per session, but they are less intense—more sessions are typically required.
IPL uses a broad spectrum of light, so it can be put to multiple uses including hair removal, photorejuvenation, treatment of skin pigmentation, sun damage, thread veins, as well as to alleviate dermatologic diseases such as acne. It can be altered to match different skin and hair types. Not only do different skin tones have different requirements for light-based hair removal devices, but different areas of the body, like the course bikini line hair will require different settings than thinner hair on the arms.