IPL vs. Fraxel: Are They the Same Thing?

My first post here :) I am just considering having the Fraxel treatment from my dermatologist. I want to learn more about it before I spend the money. My concern is, 2 years ago I had IPL done with no results. Is IPL the same thing as Fraxel?


Doctor Answers 3

IPL very different than Fraxel

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Hi Gnorton,

The fundamental difference between an IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) and a Fraxel is that the IPL is NOT a laser and a Fraxel is. That in and of itself will not determine which one is more appropriate for you (if any) and that is determined by your skin type and the condition you are treating. What it does tell you is that the power and precision of the Fraxel is greater than the IPL simply because it is a laser and not an IPL (very big flashing lamp). The particulars of what defines a laser and how that's different from an IPL involve some laser physics, but suffice it to say that lasers are much more powerful.

We consider an IPL to be very akin to a Printer/Fax/Copier/Scanner. It is designed to perform many functions, but somewhat marginally well for all of them. The Fraxel has a much more limited scope for the conditions it would be used for, but we generally feel it's better given that the condition being treated is FDA indicated condition for both devices. Hope this helps.

Disclosure **We do not own a Fraxel nor an IPL**

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

IPL is not a Laser

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Intense pulse light (IPL) is a technology that utilizes a broad spectrum of scattered light to address sun spots, broken blood vessels, unwanted hair, and some degree of skin tightening. Fraxel is a fractionated laser (there are erbium and CO2 variants) which means a single wavelength of collumated light frequency is used so that a selective portion of skin is treated, leaving intact surrounding skin to promote healing. Fraxel is designed to address wrinkles, achieve skin tightening, and dyschromias.

When addressing aging skin, it is important to understand that more dramatic results are only achieved with more intense treatments. More intense treatments require more downtime. Fractionated lasers are much more effective than IPL at achieving skin tightening, but typically require more downtime. IPL is frequently oversold on the skin tightening side. I inform my patients that IPL does a great job at addressing brown spots and telangiectasias, and that some patients will also experience very mild skin tightening.

Stephen Prendiville, MD
Fort Myers Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 103 reviews

Intense Pulse Light versus Laser

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There are major differences between IPL and Fraxel, mostly involving physics.

Basically, Fraxel is a type of laser which means all the wavelengths are the same. It is monochromatic and coherent in laser parlance. If you traced one wave length it would have the same amplitude and frequency as all the other wavelengths. They all look exactly alike.

IPL on the other hand is a spectrum of wavelengths. Filters are placed to take out the less helpful ones for the given purpose, be it removing pigment, acne, hair removal.

The Fraxel is a fractionated laser which divides up the energy so that one piece of skin receives the laser energy, the area next to it does not. This permits more rapid healing with considerably less downtime than if the whole skin was ablated.

IPL may be better for some indications, but the fact that it failed you the first time, should not all reflect on the chances of success with Fraxel. It is an entirely different machine with unique benefits that the IPL does not possess.

Arnold R. Oppenheim, MD
Virginia Beach Dermatologist

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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.