IPL Hair Removal Effectiveness

I´m studying skin therapist in Stockholm and I´m working on a study about laser and IPL. And the question is : which technology is the best for hair removal? I´ll also buy a machine for my clinic in october 2008 and I´m searching for a machine that is effective, safe and works on a wide range of haircolors as possible. I´ve also read about diodlaser, a combination od radiofrequency and IPL, and that it´s the newest technology.

Doctor Answers 17

Lasers are more effective than IPL for hair removal

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The most effective hair removal occurs with lasers not IPL. In addition, IPL is least effective and has the most side effects for darker skin types because it does not have the correct wavelength range (1064 nm) to effectively treat this skin. The most effective types of lasers for permanent hair removal are:

  • Diode and Alexandrite (light skinned patients)
  • Long Pulsed Nd:Yg (dark skinned patients)

If you are in Stockholm your best bet is going to be the Lumenis Lightsheer for safety, efficacy and durability. It is the gold standard for light skinned hair removal.


Los Angeles Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Lasers are better for hair removal

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Nancy,

Most laser hair removal studies show that for permanent "Hair Reduction" 755nm or 810nm Lasers work the best. Dark hair responds the best and blond hair has the poorest response. Many treatments will cause the hairs to enter telogen, but don't offer good hair reduction when patients are followed long term.

Daniel Reichner, MD
Newport Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 51 reviews

Lasers are the Preferred Option

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While IPL is indicated for the reduction of hair growth, it has it's limits.  It is not particularly safe or effective on all skin types or hair colors.  In my experience IPL has not been as effective as lasers.  There are multiple options when it comes to laser hair removal. Not only are there different wavelengths, there are also many brands.  There are many good devices, just some work better than others based on the individual patient. A 1064nm Nd:Yg (Yag) is effective on all skin types, but is best suited for darker skin types.  A diode laser, 810nm, which is again effective on all skin types, but is better for lighter complexions.  If a patient is a candidate for both, I prefer the diode. We have the Soprano Ice, a newer model of an 810nm diode, and we have seen very good results on all skin types.

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IPL or Laser - which to choose?

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Light, be it IPL or Lasers allow you to achieve hair removal because the hair follicle and hair shaft absorb light of certain wavelength's or colors and reflect the others. That is why objects look a certain color - because they reflect to your eye the colors they DO NOT absorb. In the case of hair, you want to deliver an intense pulse of light to the hair follicle and shaft of a color that will be absorbed by the tissue. This causes sudden heating of the tissue and its ultimate destruction.

First it is important that you understand the difference between the two technologies -

1. IPL - Intense pulsed light (also known as BBL - broadband light on the Sciton machines) - this is highly concentrated pulses of light of many different colors (wavelengths). It is effective against hair because some of the wavelengths of light delivered are absorbed by the tissue and result in follicular heating and destruction.


2. Laser - This is light of only one wavelength or color. It is collimated which means all the rays of light are parallel and not scattered as with IPL. If the wavelength of the laser light beam matches what the target tissue (the hair follicle) will absorb, then you are using all your available light energy for the purpose desired and so it is more efficient. there are many different wavelengths of light used for hair removal, to name a few of the more common:


Nd-Yag 1064, Alexandrite 755 and Diode 800 but there are many more types for different purposes. Some lasers are best for darker skinned patients to reduce the risk of pigmentation problems. Some lasers are faster for hair removal (ie diode) than others (Alexandrite).
There is more to this than just picking a wavelength - you have to consider the delivery system - is the laser energy delivered evenly to reduce risk of burning the skin, how do you make adjustments to protect from burning the skin or getting post treatment pigmentation problems.


I did many years of research on the technology before pulling the trigger and purchasing a system. Although there are several good systems around, I settled on the Palomar Vectus LASER system for a few reasons:


1. It is a Diode laser which makes it useful for skin types I - VI.
2. The delivery system has a broad treatment area making it quick and easy to obtain excellent results on even the most challenging of surfaces like a hair male patient's back.  In comparison tests with the Lumenis Duet system, also a very good system, it performed much more efficiently.
3. The energy dispersion is much more even than the Duet, so there is less risk of burns and undertreated areas.

4. SAFETY - this is a big one for me - it has a "Skin-Tel" system which allows the operator of the laser to take measurements of the patients melanin content (pigment) in their skin and the computer in the laser makes automatic adjustments in the energy delivery so as not to over treat or burn a patient.


My office has had this laser for almost two years and we are very happy with it as are our patients. I hope that this answers your questions.

Elyse Rafal, MD
Stony Brook Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

IPL for hair removal - choose lasers instead

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With the advancement in technology in laser hair removal over the last several years, it is not a surprise that there is confusion about what works best to get the optimum results you are looking for as a patient.  After all, you do deserve the best, right?  First, lets look at what makes laser and IPL different.

A LASER is a specific type of light that is the brightest and most powerful light available.  It is extremely specific and calibrated and the light does not spread out.  It is concentrated and focused into one precise spot at a time making it very powerful and accurate.

An IPL or INENSE PULSED LIGHT is a light based device that is distributed through a filter that is scattered over a surface almost as if a light bulb’s light spreads. A more shallow penetration in comparison to laser means that deeper, thicker hairs are not treated effectively.

Both treatments produce energy in order to interrupt the growth cycle of the hair follicles to reduce hair growth without damaging the surrounding tissue.  The similarities end here.

There are many published studies that prove lasers to be more effective than IPL.   

There are lasers safe and effective for all skin colors. The Alexandrite laser is safest and most effective for light to medium toned skin and the Long pulsed nd yag is most effective and safest for darker skin types. IPL has never been shown to be as effective as these lasers for hair removal and can potentially cause significant damage to the skin.


Michael Law, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 123 reviews

Lasers are betters than IPL for hair removal

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IPL and lasers can both be used for laser hair removal. IPL is safer for darker skin types but it takes longer to achieve permanent results. Diode lasers are usually very effective and work best on light skin and dark hair. They also require less treatments.

Lasers or IPL for hair removal

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I use both. The lasers work better and are safer for darker skinned patients. But, I feel that alternating the two during alternate treatment sessions is more effective than one alone.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

Lasers vs. IPL

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Both lasers and ipl can be effective. For an understanding of which modality is right for you, visit an experienced practitioner.

Kris M. Reddy, MD, FACS
West Palm Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 56 reviews

IPL’s Effectiveness in Removing Hair

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Interesting inquiry! Although IPL treatment can be utilized to reduce the growth of area in specific parts of the body, it still comes with some limitations even up to this date. Moreover, it can be selective in treating particular hair colors as well as skin types. In this light, laser is still the most effective and safer option when it comes to hair removal. Laser treatment provides a variety of options such as wavelengths, device brand, etc. In addition, laser treatment is effective on every skin type existing, although some devices may work best for a specific skin type over the others. For instance, Nd:Yg can be effectively used on any skin type, although it would serve best for patients with darker complexion. Diode laser, on the other hand, can also be used on any skin type, but this is the preferred device for patients with lighter skin color. Best of luck!

Robert W. Sheffield, MD
Santa Barbara Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 23 reviews

Permanent hair reduction

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Thank you for your question Nancy Haddad. I understand your concern. An IPL photofacial is an outstanding treatment for facial rejuvenation. It works by using bright light to target and destroy pigment and redness in the skin.

The light energy delivered by the IPL Photofacial gently heats the upper layers of the skin. The heat absorbed by the targeted areas will destroy unwanted pigment and redness while stimulating the skin cells to regenerate new collagen. This process will restore the skin to its natural beauty, blending its natural colors and making it smoother, vibrant and younger looking. The IPL photofacial can treat a number of concerns including dark discolorations (e.g., freckles, age spots), broken capillaries, generalized redness, acne, loose skin, uneven texture, and unwanted hair.

For photoepilation (permanent hair reduction using a laser) multiple devices are available and effective. Permanent hair reduction works by the theory of selective photothermolysis. This states that (in the case of permanent hair reduction) the pigment in the hair is absorbed by light from a laser or IPL device, which causes it to heat up and be destroyed. It is important to understand that the melanin pigment that absorbs the light is the eumelanin that is seen in dark hairs. Pheomelanin that is seen in light brown, blonde, and red hair will not absorb the light and is not amenable to permanent laser hair reduction. The same is true for white hair which lacks pigment altogether.

To select a device it is important to know the skin types of the patients that will be treated. This is because those with darker skin types have a higher level of baseline melanin in their skin. And this melanin can also absorb the light. Therefore in darker skin types a device that uses a wavelength with a lower affinity to melanin is safer. There are four main devices that can be used for permanent hair reduction: Alexandrite laser (755 nm wavelength), diode laser (800-810 nm wavelength), Nd:YAG laser (1064 nm wavelength) and IPL (400-1200 nm wavelength). The higher the wavelength (in this range) the lower the affinity for melanin, and thus the safer it is for darker skin types.

Permanent hair reduction can be achieved using many devices. It is important to understand that a series of 6-10 treatments may be required at one to two month intervals (depending on the area on the body). Also, correct settings must be used depending on the person's skin type and the hair itself. One maintenance treatment is recommended every one to two years after the initial series.

Please consult with a doctor for specific recommendations. Good luck!

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.