Differences Between IPL and LED Skin Treatment?

Trying to choose between 6 Intense Pulse Light (IPL)  treatments or 24 sessions of sitting in front of an Infrared/Red light skin therapy lamp. The latter is more passive and is less expensive. Both are at the same derm's office. Does anyone know the differences?

Doctor Answers 5

Power delivery and Pulse delivery.

OK, you may see that some LED sources use the same wavelength as IPL eg. Blue light at say 420nm. The difference is the power delivery and actual power. IPL as the name suggests uses INTENSE light that is PULSED, namely the power outputs of IPL are much higher, delivered over a very very short time, measured in hundreds of a second. Hence the name Intense Pulse Light. 
LED on the other hand is more 'background' light- namely weaker energy levels measured over minutes. 

IPL is great for pigmentation, whilst LEDs can help with acne and in theory help with collagen stimulation and healing times. 

I hope this helps.

Dr Davin Lim
Laser and Aesthetic Dermatologist

Brisbane Dermatologist
4.7 out of 5 stars 75 reviews

IPL and LED skin treatments

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) is a broadband light device that delivers a spectrum of wavelengths that treat red spots (blood vessels), brown spots (sun spots) and sun-damaged skin. Results/effects are usually very obvious.

Gentlewaves is an example of an LED photomodulating device that emits a 590 nm wavelength yellow light at a low level. Some studies suggest that exposure to the LED light can hasten the reduction of redness for example, after treatment with the IPL. Some claim that the LED can treat sun-damaged skin and fine wrinkles.

Unless someone can convince me otherwise, I tend to believe that the LED does little, if anything for sun-damaged skin and fine wrinkles, based on a recent study that concluded there was no objective improvement in photoaging with use of the device. LED light may be beneficial for individuals with rosacea/sensitive skin, but I don't believe there is enough supporting data to make any recommendations in this regard.

Hope this helps.

Good luck.

Bryan K. Chen, MD
San Diego Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 reviews


The IPL is Intense Pulsed Light, or Photo Rejuvenation, treatment focuses mainly on achieving a beautifully even tone to your skin. With every treatment, there is noticeable improvement in brown hyperpigmented areas, as well as a reduction in overall redness.

Red light therapy activates collagen production to improve the visible signs of aging, to restore glowing, healthy-looking skin. It can also be used to reduce age spots, sun damage, and overall redness, flushing, and dilated capillaries. Red light therapy can also reduce the appearance of bruising and reduce healing time. Results are often immediate.

Dennis Gross, MD
New York Dermatologist
4.4 out of 5 stars 5 reviews

IPL vs. LED Treatments

IPL is designed to work well for:
  • Brown pigment
  • Red vessels
  • Sun damage
In general, the multiple wavelengths of light have much more energy to be absorbed by the targeted damaged pigment, blood vessels and collagen.

LED is good if the damage is very minor or someone can't have any downtime at all. It must be a really weak light source if it takes 24 sessions.

Margaret Weiss, MD
Baltimore Dermatologic Surgeon
3.7 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

IPL is great for hair removal, and treating unwanted brown-spots and redness.

We have been using the Palomar StarLux for several years with great success. It's FDA approved for permanent hair removal, and PhotoFacials. A PhotoFacial uses IPL to eliminate unwanted brown spots and redness from conditions like rosacea.

For specific information about LED therapy, you should ask your dermatologist. I'm not sure what benefits you'll get from LED.

Best regards.

Eric M. Joseph, MD
West Orange Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 418 reviews

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.