What is the difference between IPL and Lasers?

woman receiving laser skin treatment
Laser Hair Removal
Victorian Dermal Group
Victorian Dermal Group
March 3, 2020
minute read

Intense pulse light versus the pure light source of lasers

You would be forgiven for thinking IPL (Intense Pulsed Light therapy) is the same as other lasers. But, it’s actually quite different. In fact, every skin care laser is unique, with specific technology used to target a wide variety of skin concerns.

Pigmentation is one of the most common skin concerns. Pigmentation is caused by an increase in melanin, and melanin production increases when you spend time in the sun. It can also be influenced by hormonal changes, age, inflammation, and skin injuries.

At Victorian Dermal Group, we use a range of technologies to target pigmentation in the skin. Book an initial consultation with us to find out more about the different treatment solutions we offer.

Difference between IPL and laser for face

IPL and lasers are used for different purposes. A dermal clinician will recommend either one based on things like:

  • Your skin concern
  • The sensitivity of your skin
  • Lifestyle factors
  • Medication you may be taking which can interfere with the treatment


Lasers use a special type of light with three characteristics that identify it as the brightest, most powerful light available. Laser light is monochromatic (one colour) which means it is almost 100 per cent one pure colour. Using a pure light source like this delivers laser energy to a precise location and structure which minimises damage to surrounding tissue.

In summary:

  • It’s highly precise
  • Virtually pain-free
  • Highly effective
woman getting laser treatment


Intense pulse light (IPL) is NOT monochromatic. IPL has many different colours which subjects the skin to a wide range of light energies. The unpredictability of intense pulsed light systems can expose patients to unnecessary and ineffective wavelengths, resulting in a higher rate of complications and offer overall inferior outcomes when compared to laser light.

In summary:

  • IPL is a gentle alternative to laser energy
  • Requires less downtime as a result
  • Can treat large surface areas
laser treatment

Difference between IPL and laser for pigmentation

Lasers have a well-earned reputation of precision and power and are proven and established in cosmetic dermatology. Laser stands alone as an effective treatment for hair reduction, vascular treatments, pigmentation and non-invasive skin tightening.

As explained above, lasers can target very specific areas in the skin, effectively breaking down the pigmentation below the surface. IPL cannot be focused in such a way, and is usually recommended for other skin treatments, such as hair removal.

What's the difference between IPL and laser hair removal?

Because IPL emits multiple wavelengths of light, it affects a larger area in a more diffused way. This makes it a good option for hair removal. It’s also a more gentle treatment than laser energy, so your dermal clinician may suggest IPL as an option if you have particularly sensitive skin.

Laser is collimated, meaning it’s slow to diverge or spread out. This makes laser light very powerful as nearly 100 per cent of the light can be effective in treatments. IPL is not collimated, so it is quick to spread out making it less effective in treatments.

What does this mean? It may require more sessions to effectively remove hair. If you booked hair removal sessions via laser energy, you’d achieve effective results, sooner.

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