IPL Vs Laser

Many people do not know the difference between an IPL and Laser where IPL is often incorrectly referred to as a laser. Laser and Aesthetics will discuss the difference between them both.

Buying Guides IPL Vs Laser
Laser treatment

The Difference between IPL and Laser Devices.


A lot of people get confused by the difference between Laser and IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) systems, and indeed many people are unaware that there is any difference at all.

To add further to this confusion, it is not uncommon to hear the term “IPL laser treatment” and several companies sell ‘Lasers’ which are in fact IPL systems and not Lasers at all.

Here at the Laser and aesthetics, we will try to bring some clarity to the subject and provide a clear understanding of the difference between the two terms, as well as describing some of the benefits and disadvantages of each.


Similarities between Laser and IPL

Lasers are similar to IPL (intense pulsed light) in that they generate light energy, to treat a particular condition by targeting a specific chromophore.

(The chromophore is that part of a molecule responsible for its color. The color arises when a molecule absorbs certain wavelengths of visible light and transmits or reflects others. Since these chromophores only absorb specific wavelengths of light energy, they can only be treated with that same specific wavelength.)

The difference between an IPL and a Laser is the manner in which they generate that light and the nature of the resultant light energy produced.



Laser is an Acronym for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”. It describes a device that generates an intense beam of coherent monochromatic , collimated light (or other electromagnetic radiation) by stimulated emission of photons from excited atoms or molecules.

In other words, a narrow, highly concentrated beam of light energy

Coherent” means light in which the electromagnetic waves maintain a fixed and predictable phase relationship with each other over a period of time. They are ‘in-phase’.

Monochromatic”   comes   from   the   Greek   words   ”mono”,   meaning   single,    and   “chroma” meaning color. It therefore means light of a single wavelength. Different lasers produce  light of different wavelengths which can then target different chromophores.

Collimated”- means light waves which are parallel and will spread minimally as it propagates over a distance; i.e. It is non-divergent.


IPL - Intense Pulsed Light

In contrast to Laser, an IPL device produces a broad spectrum of non-coherent light, a bit like a standard light bulb; and this cannot be focused as a concentrated beam.

IPL systems typically produce a spectral range with wavelengths between 500 to 1200 nm. Various cut-off filters are then used to filter out lower frequencies and narrow this spectrum to target specific structures and chromophores.

IPL’s are neither Monochromatic, Coherent nor Collimated.

Due to the fact that numerous wavelengths are produced only some of which can be absorbed by the targeting chromophore, results can vary; and there is a lot of wasted energy which is either absorbed by the body - increasing the risk of side-effects and heat damage, or filtered by the device prior to reaching the patient.


Which is Best?

As a result of the above differences, IPL systems are often considered inferior to, and less effective than, Laser.

In truth, which one is best will be dependent upon a number of factors including:

  • The use of the equipment
  • The chromophore being targeting
  • Skin type of subject receiving the treatment
  • Manufacturer of the device
  • Training of the individual performing the treatment

Due to the advances in technology IPl’s can give very good results for hair removal and in some cases better than some lasers. It is all to do with who produces the technology and who is using it.

As example, if you were to drive a fiesta to the best of your ability it may drive well, but put Lewis Hamilton in it and it would drive better. Why?

He has had the better training.

Likewise, if you had to get from A to B the quickest, you in a Fiesta and him in a Ferrari, who would win? Him! Why?

He has the better manufacturer.

The same can be said for Lasers and IPL’s: In the right hands, with correct training, performing the right treatment, with a good quality device; excellent results can be achieved using either type of system.

BUT, better results should be possible with a Laser.


Lasers are generally more expensive to buy, but cheaper to maintain with lower running costs; so the choice is yours.