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Laser Hair Removal or IPL – Which is best?

Philips Lumea 2009 IPL Home Hair Removal

The Hair Removal industry is booming, clinics are opening up and down the country offering Laser Hair Removal or IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) treatments, both are said to offer a ‘permanent’ solution to unwanted hair but which is best and what are the differences between them?

How do they work?

Laser and IPL are both light-based treatments for hair removal, they work by using light energy to target concentrations of melanin in the hair.  The pigment (melanin) in the hair absorbs this light energy which heats and damages the hair follicle, thereby reducing future growth.  Both treatments are best suited to darker hair types as the more melanin the hair contains the more it absorbs the light energy and therefore the better it works.

Laser Hair Removal

Just remember, Melanin in the hair is good but Melanin in the skin is not a good thing for light-based therapies such as Laser Hair Removal or IPL.  So if you have tanned or dark skin tones be careful, as your skin contains more melanin which will attract and absorb the light energy which means a greater risk of damage to the tissue or skin surrounding your target area.  If in doubt it is always best to seek to the advice of a professional.

One of the key differences between Laser and IPL hair removal is that Laser uses a single light wavelength whilst IPL uses a much wider spectrum of light. The benefits of a single wavelength as used with laser hair removal is that the laser penetrates deeper and burns the hair shaft closer to the follicle resulting in a more effective treatment. One if the best advantages of IPL, particularly in the case of home IPL devices is that you can cover a wider area in a short space of time and as it does not penetrate as deep as laser hair removal, it is a much safer option to do yourself at home.  If this sounds like something you are interested in doing yourself at home we recommend the Philips Lumea range.  Click here for more details or check out our product reviews to see which home IPL device might be for you.

Philips Lumea 2009


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How effective are Laser and IPL treatments?

Since lasers, particularly the Diode laser, penetrate deeper, the chance of permanently removing hair is greater. IPL would need to use higher levels of energy to penetrate as deeply, which increases the chance of damage to surrounding tissue. Both remove all the visible hair and are considered permanent hair reduction though some hair does grows back. The hair that grows back is finer and lighter than before.

 Tria Hair Removal Laser 4x Limited Edition

Tria Hair Removal Laser 4X Limited Edition

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Stages of Hair Growth

Knowing the stages of hair growth helps in understanding how laser hair removal and IPL work.

Basically, there are three stages of hair growth.

•    Anagen – This stage is the growing stage. Hair length is determined by this stage, which lasts anywhere from two to seven years.
•    Catagen – This is called the transitional stage. During this stage, the hair follicle undergoes shrinkage and becomes detached from the dermal papilla. This stage lasts about ten days.
•    Telogen – The last stage of hair growth is the resting stage and lasts about three months. At the end of this stage, the hair falls out and new hair grows.

How IPL works

How IPL hair removal works

Only the hair in the Anagen stage is removed permanently by lasers or IPL because it is the only stage in which the hair follicle is affected by them. Hair removed in the other stages of growth will grow back. For this reason, treatments need to be repeated over time.

How Safe Are They?

Used properly on people with the right skin tones for the method being used, both are safe. Risks do exist though. IPL and Laser hair removal do cause discomfort and are said to feel as though a rubber band is being snapped lightly against the skin. The darker the skin, the more uncomfortable it is. Some people say the laser method does cause more pain than IPL.

Braun Silk-expert BD 5009 IPL Hair Removal System and Body Exfoliator

Braun Silk Expert IPL Hair Removal System


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Possible Side Effects

After a hair removal treatment with either method, some people notice a slight amount of swelling, pinkish or reddish skin in the treated areas and some tenderness. This is usually gone in a day or two.

If an area receives too much of the light energy, damage to the pigment can leave patches of paler skin or blistering and scarring can occur.

These side effects are not as likely to occur in people with pale skin to begin with. If either device is kept in one spot too long, damage to the surrounding tissue can occur.

Silk'n Flash and Go HPL Hair Removal System


Laser Hair Removal

1. After several sessions of hair removal, most people see permanent hair reduction.
2. Laser hair removal is less painful than waxing or electrolysis.
3. Large areas such as the back and legs can be treated in one session.
4. The hair that grows back is frequently of a finer texture and lighter colored.
5. Various lasers make it possible for practitioners to customize treatments based on a person’s hair color and skin tone.


1. The light spectrum used in IPL treatments is safer for a wider range of skin and hair colors.
2. IPL has been given FDA approval for use in permanent hair reduction.
3. Since it can cover a larger area at one time than lasers, it may be less time consuming and a little more cost effective.
4. With the exception of dark skin, the risk of skin damage is less than with lasers.
5. It is well suited for hair removal from large areas of the body.
6. Pain is less often reported than for other methods of hair removal.

Philips Lumea 2006/11 IPL Home Hair Removal Device

Philips Lumea 2006/11 IPL Home Hair Removal Device


Laser Hair Removal –

1. Requires treatments multiple times before satisfactory results are achieved.
2. It is not a good option for people with dark skin because of possible damage to skin.
3. It doesn’t work for hair without much pigmentation, such as white or red.
4. Many notice discomfort and some pain during treatments along with some swelling and redness afterward.
5. Can cause skin damage on dark skinned people.


1. The IPL hair removal method has not been around long enough to know what long term affects it might have.
2. It may be difficult to find a professional trained in its use as it is still fairly new.
3.  It takes multiple sessions over a period of time before the results desired have been achieved.
4. Some discomfort may be experienced during treatments followed by what resembles a mild sunburn.
5. Skin damage can occur if not used properly or is used on dark skin.
6. Does not penetrate as deep as laser methods so more hair grows back.

Overall Laser Hair Removal is the preferred method for long term hair reduction.  IPL Hair Removal does however still have a place in hair removal with many people use the Home IPL Hair Removal devices to maintain the results of laser hair removal treatments they have had at salons.

Home IPL devices such as the Philips Lumea 2006/11 or the Remington I-Light Pro Face and Body provide great value when compared to Salon treatments and are perfect for those areas you would rather do yourself in the comfort of your own home or simply as a top up to salon treatments.

Tria Laser Hair Removal

Tria Laser Hair Removal

If you would prefer to try Laser Hair Removal but dont want to have to fork out for expensive salon sessions then you could try the Tria Laser Hair Removal System which according to reviews provides significant reduction in hair regrowth at a fraction of the price of a trip to the Salon.

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