IPL is an abbreviation for Intense pulsed light which is a technology used to perform various skin treatments. These skin treatments can range from aesthetic to therapeutic purposes with the most common use being hair removal. Even though hair removal is the most popular use of the technology, it is not the only one. Other uses include treatment of skin pigmentation and skin ailments like acne. IPL is not just good for hair removal but many people also use it to even out their skin tone and tighten skin.
Hair removal technologies have evolved over the course of time and various new techniques have made it to the scene. IPL is not laser hair removal method even though both involve subjecting the hair follicles to intense light beams. In laser treatments, the hair removal diode emits only a single wavelength while IPL uses multiple wavelengths which then scatter beneath the skin till they find the melanin rich root of the hair. IPL works on the pigment of the skin and hair, also known as melanin.
The technology makes use of a high-powered flashgun which is controlled by a computer. The flashgun then delivers an intense, broad-spectrum pulse of light which is targeted towards the pigment of hair. The hair's pigment absorbs the light which quickly turns into heat after absorption. The hair then gets destroyed from its very root. The method can easily target dark and coarse hair because they contain lots of melanin.
The pulse of light, when delivered to the skin, travels along the skin till it finds concentrated melanin (which is usually at the root bulb of the hair) and is then absorbed by the hair, as described above. This means that if your skin was dark and naturally had more melanin, the procedure would not work for you. Also, it wouldn't work for those who have fair hair because they don't contain much melanin. In other words, the procedure works best for those with light skin and dark hair.
Since laser and IPL treatments are so similar to each other, which one is better? Which one is less painful or which one is more effective in terms of hair removal? The winner, considering both parameters together, is laser hair removal treatment. Laser uses only a specific wavelength of light (the one that is required by the hairs) and targets the follicles. On the contrary, IPL uses a range of wavelengths which leads to heating up the skin and can be more painful. Laser also combines cooling which minimises the heat build up on the skin. Also, IPL is limited to just fair skin and dark hair types while laser can be used for medium to dark skin tones as well. Both treatments, however, remain unable to remove light hair (shades of blond and red) and are only suitable for dark haired people.