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The difference between Lasers & IPL

The difference between Lasers & IPL

Laser and IPL have been used to remove unwanted hair for many years with a high degree of success, however, to be accurate, we must call it “permanent hair reduction”. According to FDA rules manufacturers may not claim that laser and IPL hair removal is permanent unless the FDA determines that there is sufficient data to demonstrate such results.

What this means in practice is that although most hair will be removed over a course of treatment, some hair will remain and some may re-grow, usually much lighter and finer, therefore, occasional top up treatments may be needed.

Laser and IPL use energy in the form of light to destroy the hair follicle. The energy directed from the handpiece is absorbed by the melanin in the hair follicle, momentarily heating it to around 70 degrees centigrade killing the follicle and thus preventing further hair growth. However, to complicate the matters most people also have melanin in their skin that also absorbs the light energy creating heat in the skin. If this heat is excessive, it will cause blisters or burns. For this reason, the ideal candidates for these treatments are those who are dark haired and fair skinned, like the typical Irish complexion, whereas sun tanned skin with very fair hair are poor candidates.

We always insist that clients stay out of the sun for a few weeks prior to the treatment so that the level of melanin in the skin is as low as possible and, therefore, wintertime is the ideal time for treatments, unless you are like so many people now who are very stringent in their sun protection efforts every day.

With care, most people can be treated, but some may require many more treatments and any white, grey and even some red hairs will respond poorly (or not at all) to light based hair removal treatments.  These will require many more treatments at a much lower power level and the operator will have to be extremely careful to ensure the machine is correctly set to avoid skin damage.

Thankfully, most modern laser IPL devices make this process much easier but it is still necessary that we have a highly skilled operator to perform the IPL treatments.

Hair grows in cycles and many factors influence its growth including age, ethnicity, weight, hormones, diet, medication and metabolism along with your hair’s location, thickness and resilience. Only hair that is in its growing cycle will be destroyed at each treatment session. The number of hairs growing at any one time and the length of time between treatments varies, but generally we allow 4 to 8 weeks. There is sometimes mild pain associated with laser treatments. This discomfort ranges in intensity and has been descried from as mild as the snap of a rubber band to the sensation of a hot pinprick. When treating sensitive areas (upper lip and bikini areas) we utilise specific protocols to lessen the discomfort and may even elect to use a topical anaesthetic cream, which helps reduce any discomfort such as Emla (although if you have applied Emla prior to your treatment you must notify your Therapist prior to the treatment).

There are two distinct differences between laser and intense pulsed light system. One is in the area that can be treated in one go and also the treatment speed. Generally IPL treatment heads are up to 8 times larger than the small spot produced by lasers and therefore treatments are much quicker. The other difference is the wavelength of light produced.Lasers produce light with one specific wavelength whilst IPL utilise an entire waveband. Different wavelengths penetrate the skin to different depths so using IPL is like using a group of lasers in a single treatment. IPL provides the ability to change the wavelength of the light, making them more versatile in the range of treatments.

IPL is gentler on the skin than lasers. Energist VPL has a separate cooling system around the sapphire of the treatment head in addition to the inbuilt cooling system.  Therefore, reducing the risk of pigmentary changes.

IPL allows individual selection for different treatments. IPL has pre-configured setting for different skin and hair types. This enhances clinical results.