Laser Hair Removal vs. Intense Pulsed Light Hair Removal

Laser Hair Removal vs. Intense Pulsed Light Hair Removal

What Really Works Best? : Laser Hair Removal vs. Intense Pulsed Light

Have you ever wondered, what is the best way to get rid of unwanted hair?

In this article, I will describe the pros and cons of the latest two methods to achieve permanent hair reduction without tweezing, shaving, electrolysis, or waxing.

You want the easiest, fastest and most effective way to remove your hair without breaking the bank.

Let’s take a closer look to help you achieve this goal.

What is Intense Pulsed Light Anyway?

The abbreviation for intense pulsed light is IPL.

First, a little physics. Don’t let your eyes glaze over. I’ll make it easy for you to understand.

Intense pulsed light uses a machine, which is the light source. Light beams produced are in the range of 515 to 1200 nm.

IPL is not a laser.

With a laser, laser light is focused so it does not spread out as it travels. IPL spreads out just like the sun’s light or light from a bulb.

With IPL, cutoff filters can filter out some frequencies and narrow the spectrum to target your hair.

Intense pulsed light was first used for hair removal and reported in the literature in 1997.

A study done in 2006 in the journal, “Lasers and Medical Science” found the following results.

Hair reduction after 6 months was 68.75% for alexandrite lasers, 71.71% for diode lasers, and 66.96% for IPL.

Diode lasers had the highest rate of complications in this report. Side effects were 9.5% for alexandrite lasers, 28.9% for diode lasers, and 15.3% for IPL.

IPL is often the treatment of choice for hair removal in Great Britain and Australia. They frequently perform stripping for varicose veins in England and are behind the times.

You can read more about how they feel about IPL in England on a Google search.

What is Laser?

Laser light does not spread out. The letters in the word, laser, stand for Light Amplification of Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

The light stays narrowed over long distances over long distances and focused. With a strong enough laser source, you could shine a laser beam and hit the moon!

Lasers have different wavelengths. Some wavelengths target hair better than others do.

The Alexandrite lasers that we use have proven to be the most effective for hair removal. They are very fast.

Laser vs. Intense Pulsed Light Hair Removal / Pros and Cons

  • Laser is faster
  • Laser hurts less than IPL
  • Larger areas of the body can be treated in less time with laser
  • IPL is not used much for hair removal in the U.S.
  • IPL has a steeper learning curve and is harder to master early on
  • Laser results are better in studies
  • Laser has less complications
  • Laser can cause more eye damage if not used properly
  • Laser cannot be legally used by non medical professional in some states

Legal Issues of Who Can Operate a laser vs. Intense Pulsed Light Machine

The debate over which method is used becomes more important to you if you live in a state where only a physician can legally operate a laser. These states include Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, and North Dakota. Other states require a physician directly supervise the use of the laser.

The following is my two cents worth.

It is easy to see why it is important that laser can cause complications in the wrong hands. Thirty-five states consider laser hair removal to be the practice of medicine. It is not like getting a haircut.

Our physician is on site at all times during your treatment. The best and safest way to perform laser hair removal is in physician’s office and not some random spa. That is important for your safety. Sometimes people focus more on cost than safety.

Also, make sure the laser center that you choose does not rent their lasers instead of purchase them. That is a sign of inexperience. These places can’t fill their schedules and only bring a laser in for a day per month or whenever. They have to scrounge together enough patients to make it worth their while.

I am a big fan on reading reviews of other people’s experience before I buy something or choose a service. Check out reviews about IPL here.


Sometimes it’s confusing.

National chains with offices all over the country use Alexandrite lasers but legally can only operate in certain states  because they are not true medical practices as required by law.

The laser hair removal vs. intense pulsed light debate is not an issue in these cases. However, safety issues are stretched to the limit.

Would you want to have your laser hair removal done where no doctor has set foot?

To obtain your goal of optimum results at a fair and reasonable cost, choose a physician’s office with decades of experience.

In our state, the laser hair removal vs. intense pulsed light debate is moot. The law clearly states that lasers must be operated only under the direct supervision of a physician. Unfortunately, in reality that is not often practiced at the laser chains.

We perform laser hair removal in a physician’s office. Our physician is always on-site for your safety.

Call us at 724-969-0600 or click here to learn more about how we can help you to achieve your goal of being hair free!

About The Author

Dr. John Happel

Dr. John Happel has been in practice as a surgeon since 1986 in the Pittsburgh region. He specializes in vascular surgery and has subspecialized in the treatment of varicose and spider veins since 1999. Dr. Happel is board certified in vascular surgery and recertified in vascular surgery in 2012. He was chosen in 1985 to fulfill the position for the vascular surgical fellowship at the world renowned Mayo Clinic.

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