IPL ( Intense Pulse Light )

So many people I’ve spoken to say that they’ve had ‘Laser’ therapy for the treatment of their unwanted hair but, after several lengthy questions under a strong light whilst water drips on their forehead, it’s turned out that they’ve had IPL treatment and not Laser. So it seems then that there’s a lot of confusion out there, which is ok, but when they’ve complained to me because the ‘Laser’ treatments haven’t worked it worries me because they’re giving Laser a bad rap when it’s actually the IPL treatment they’ve had hasn’t worked to their expectations NOT Laser.

When I was looking around to decide which device to go with and one that would best suit, and benefit, the needs of my clients it was understanding the two technologies that in some ways I felt confused with …… IPL or Laser ? Be buggered if I knew at the time so here is a somewhat basic understanding of what IPL is …..

IPL (Intense Pulse Light)

IPL stands for Intense Pulse Light or otherwise known as photorejuvenation or photofacial Laser, which could explain why some people do refer to them as a ‘laser’ although technically aren’t a Laser because it doesn’t use a single wavelength of light as do conventional lasers. As the name suggests, a pulse of light ‘flashes’ from the flash lamp which appears very similar to that of a camera flash going off. The flash of light that it shoots off has a wide range of wavelengths from between 500 to 1500 nanometres (nm) depending on the machine and filter used.

The first picture is the spectrum of colours in light and how they are applied with regard to the various procedures. The 2nd picture shows how deep the light penetrates in to the skin to achieve the results.


Not only are IPL devices a LOT cheaper than a medical grade LASER to purchase, but because of the large range in wavelength that’s produced by the pulse of light, IPL is a multitasker and can address a number of skin issues making them a very useful device for a skin clinic, beauty clinic or health spa etc. Coloured filters are used keeping only those wavelengths required for the specific skin concern being addressed. Simply by changing the filters and settings on an IPL device you can vary the treatments offered and are therefore more valuable to a business that offers various skin treatments other than hair removal.

  • Hair reduction being the obvious one here.
  • What they call Photo rejuvenation for fine lines and wrinkles, collagen boosters ( why look like you’re 90yrs old when you can look like you’re 21…. You just won’t be as active in case you move one to many muscles and you shatter ! ).
  • Pigmentation treatments where sun damage, age spots or freckles are treated (all those self-conscious years on the beach getting a tan)
  • Vascular treatments for spider veins and rosacea.
  • IPL can’t be used to remove tattoos and should not be used on them or within 1.5 cm from it because of the scattering nature of the IPL flash.
  • You can still get burns from IPL
  • Is a very effective in treating acne scaring and post-operative scaring
  • Improves the appearance of red and brown skin discolorations
  • Tightens and refines the appearance of the skin.

To give you a rough idea of the filters and how they are used in an IPL device. Naturally there are many different types and variations in the land of IPL, this is just to give you a visual.


Characteristics of IPL :

  • Noncoherent : in that they can loose their strength when fired
  • Broad spectrum : as mentioned above, IPL uses different wave lengths between 400nm - 1200nm
  • Non collimated : the light is scattered, like a flash from a camera flash

Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and run the risk of getting a whole lot of hate mail but …. IPL devices won’t be as effective as Laser ones simply because of the wavelength range of the IPL, 500 – 1500nm and although the spectrum of light emitted can be adjusted using filters, it’s still too broad and doesn’t offer the precision of Laser.

When used for hair removal the same process is involved as with laser, light energy is absorbed by the pigment (melanin) in the follicle, the light energy is converted to heat causing the damage to the follicle, and hopefully destroying that pesky bastard forever, gone, forgotten, never to return …. Or so you HOPE !

Link to the differences between IPL and LASER: follow this link.

I’m in the business of hair removal, with clipping and waxing I achieve great results but it seemed a natural progression then, to get a more permanent result for my clients I would need to invest in the latest technology. As I’m not piss farting around with all the other skin treatments out there for people and their veins, spots, itchy bits and nits etc…. so one of the main reasons I didn’t go down the path of getting an IPL device was simple because I didn’t need a machine that is great at multitasking with all the bells and whistles so if I’m not going to blow them, why bother getting them ?

As with Lasers, there are also several different type of IPL devices out there just to confuse us even more ! They’re not all the same differing in power, spot size, wavelength, speed, contact cooling, pulse width and it goes on and on.

  • IPL or PL : Intense Pulse Light or Pulse Light …. Surely by god you know what we’re talking about when I mention IPL !!!
  • SPL : ‘Square Pulse Light’
  • VPL : ‘Variable Pulse Light’
  • SLPL : ‘Super Long Pulse Light’
  • I2PL, UPL, VPL, SPL, SPFT, SIPL, PTF, CPL AFT, E-Light, ELOS, M-Light just to name a few

Ok, I’m done with this topic, I’m more excited about laser than IPL and I also need another to get another coffee !

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Site Last Updated: 21/08/2018