Laser Versus IPL (Intense Pulse Light)!

Considering Laser Treatment? Read to Learn More.

What Are The Differences Between Laser Versus IPL (Intense Pulse Light)?

It is easy to confuse IPL and laser treatments because both use light mechanisms to treat similar concerns. Although both share very similar goals, they different in their mechanism of action.  If you are considering light therapy treatment, you must know the difference, let’s start by clarifying the uses and treatments! 

IPL (intense pulse light) – Works by sending a broad spectrum of light wave lengths at the skin. Since IPL targets melanin, aestheticians working above hair bearing areas have to be cautious I.e., eyebrows, hairlines and as well on skin Fitzpatrick scale 4 and up (darker skin tones). Typically, IPL treatments are thought to be lighter and less effective than lasers due to its broader more superficial approach. Known to be the jack of all trades and treats most skin concerns with less efficacy versus laser treatments. Less downtime versus lasers but may require more treatments for results.

Laser- Controlled single wavelength pulses of light that penetrates deeper into the follicle and targets pigment and water. Can be used to penetrate deep into problematic areas, as the light is highly concentrated and monochromatic, you should expect little chance of skin damage or discoloration. Depending on the settings and mechanism of laser action, lasers can require longer downtime. Less treatments are required versus IPL for results.

There are also subcategories of lasers to be aware of. Skin resurfacing lasers can be ablative such as erbium (Er) lasers and carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers or non-ablative, including fractionated Er lasers and neodymium (Nd) lasers are less invasive. The basic difference is that ablative lasers remove the top layer of skin, while non-ablative lasers work by heating up the underlying skin tissue without harming the surface. 

Who is an Ideal Candidate?

Skin types 4-6 are not recommended to undergo IPL. It is suggested to go with lasers for treatments due to the mechanism of light therapy targeting melanin in the skin.  Whereas individuals with lighter hairs will not receive effective laser hair removal results.


Both lasers and IPL can have skin resurfacing, skin correction and hair removal benefits, but it’s important to determine whether you are the right candidate. IPL for any purpose is usually only an option for those at the lighter end of the Fitzpatrick Scale, while those with light hair are not a good fit for hair removal. Lasers, meanwhile, may come with a higher price tag and more downtime but often offer more variety.