Lasers or IPL? What Is The Difference?
Laser Clinics Cambridge & Peterborough
These two different technologies are often misrepresented. Laser and IPL have different characteristics. It is misleading for an establishment to advertise "Laser Hair Removal with IPL" because an IPL is not a Laser. Lasers are regarded as the 'Gold Standard'. There are many cheap IPLs on the market. For this reason many IPL owners will advertise their device as a 'Laser' or 'IPL Laser'. Interestingly no Laser owner will describe a laser as being 'an IPL'.
LASER stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. The light energy produced by a Laser is all of one pure wavelength and the effects of that wavelength are well documented. A Laser therefore can be very specific.
IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) produces light of various wavelengths. Each pulse is a cocktail of wavelengths with each wavelength having a different effect on tissue. With this complexity there is a need for high quality education and training in the safe use of IPL devices. It is important that an operator understands the difference between a Laser and an IPL - otherwise they could cause injury.
Some 'Laser Clinics' do not have a laser. Lasers are normally significantly more expensive to buy than IPL so many establishments only buy or rent an IPL. Although there are a few high quality and expensive IPLs on the market there are also many cheap models that have not been subjected to any clinical trials. These very basic IPL devices tend to be used by beauty salons for economic reasons rather than for their performance. Safety, training and technical support can be an issue. They are often underpowered devices. When a device is underpowered it will not produce acceptable results. In hair removal treatment this can result in hair miniaturisation rather than removal. "My hair is getting thinner" is a common observation after treatment sessions with a low powered device. Thin hair is actually more difficult to remove than thick hair and so making your hair thin is not good. Clients are then required to have many more treatment sessions.
If you have been misled by an establishment you may wish to consider making a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority.
FDA Approval All the major manufacturers of high quality laser and IPL systems apply for the United States FDA approval, without it they are not allowed to sell their machines in the USA. This certification has become a worldwide benchmark for quality laser and IPL systems. Many of the cheap Far East laser and IPL products would not pass the test and so they do not have FDA approval. We strongly advise people to avoid treatment with Laser and IPL devices that do not have FDA approval.
Vein Removal Treatment - Ideally the energy should be focused into a small spot so as to precisely target the vessel and get enough energy into the vein to close it. Most lasers have this 'adjustable spot' capability to treat veins but IPL devices do not - IPL energy is delivered through a fixed glass block. Experience has shown that vascular lasers are more effective than IPL at treating visible veins.
The main advantage of an IPL is in its generality. The multiwavelength output is useful for non-specific applications such as removing pigmentation and treating diffuse redness on the skin. The more powerful IPLs can be used for effective hair removal but not on very dark skinned individuals because there is a risk of causing burns. For hair removal on dark skin an Nd:YAG Laser is the safest technology available*.
Treatment centres should have Laser and IPL available - an IPL alone is not enough. IPL is sometimes over-sold and presented as a 'jack-of-all-trades' device suitable for treating almost every skin condition. This does not do the customer any favours. With careful consideration of the indications for use Lasers and IPL can compliment each other. All decisions - and advertising - should be evidence based.
* this is supported by several clinical studies
BodyLaser Clinic locations
There are two BodyLaser clinics in Cambridgeshire - both clinics have laser and IPL treatment capabilities. Our Cambridge clinic is at Essex House, 71 Regent Street, close to Parker's Piece. Our Peterborough clinic is near the Peterborough Central Library - at 60 Broadway. BodyLaser Clinics are conveniently located close to the main shopping centres of Cambridge and Peterborough and within walking distance of bus and train stations.