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Let’s face it — we’ve all dreamt of having silky smooth skin without the hassle of shaving or pain of waxing. Not only is stubborn hair growth frustrating, but it’s also time-consuming and costly — think about all the extra time you’ve spent in the bathroom and money invested on endless hair removal kits!

For years, Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) has been marketed as the holy grail of hair removal in Singapore. While IPL does have its perks, some experts claim that IPL might not be as effective as we think in providing long-lasting hair removal. In addition, IPL is known to only be safe for lighter skin types, so that’s a huge demographic it’s excluding.

So what’s the other alternative?

Enter laser hair removal, the latest hair removal treatment in vogue that’s clinically proven as the most effective hair removal treatment for nearly all skin types. Although both IPL and laser hair removal work similarly, they are in fact actually two entirely separate technologies.

It’s easy to get confused between the two, but we’re here to help you decide which method is best for you.

What’s the difference between IPL and a hair removal laser system? Does one really bring more advantages than the other?

Unpacking what IPL really is

A common misconception about IPL treatments is that they’re the same as lasers. Rather, IPL is a broadband pulsed light source that uses a broad spectrum of visible light wavelengths. This light energy is absorbed by the melanin in hair, resulting in a process known as selective photothermolysis (or thermal injury) to the follicles of active growing hair. As hair is destroyed, the follicles are also destroyed and thus incapable of producing future hair growth.

Unlike lasers, IPL cannot be focused on a concentrated area — meaning there is less control in application due to the broad light span. However, this broad wavelength output also means that treatment times may be quicker and eventually possibly cheaper as well.

What results can I expect with IPL?

The efficacy of IPL is largely dependent on factors like hair colour and size. In general, coarse and dark hair absorbs more energy and respond better to IPL than light and fine hair due to the abundance of melanin available. In fact, lighter colour hair (i.e. blonde and white hair) do not respond to IPL since they do not contain enough or any melanin.

As briefly mentioned earlier, darker skin types are advised to avoid IPL as well due to the potential damage it may cause. Think about it this way — dark colours naturally absorb more light because of heat energy. Due to the way IPL works, imagine the burns or side effects IPL can carry for darker skin tones!

So in effect, IPL only works for lighter skin types with darker hair colours.

What about laser hair removal then?

Laser hair removal treatments use light energy from laser machines to permanently destroy or damage hair follicles. These concentrated light beams are monochromatic coherent light sources that penetrate small areas around the body (usually on the legs, back, underarms or face) to cause hair growth to slow significantly or in many cases, stop altogether. The goal of laser hair removal is not simply hair removal, but also to prevent hair from growing back.

Laser hair removal is also a safer alternative. Unlike IPL which cannot be focused on a concentrated area, lasers can emit one single wavelength of light to a target area by a process known as photothermolysis. The light is absorbed by the pigment in the hair, causing hair to be eliminated without harming the skin or follicle. Generally, lasers cause very precise tissue destruction of the lemon and leave surrounding tissues undamaged. This specific nature also means that darker skin tones can be treated by laser hair removal safely as less skin is exposed to light energy.

Currently, there are three laser technologies available used for hair removal. They include:

Alexandrite Laser (755nm) – For fair to mid toned skin with medium to coarse dark hair.
ND:YAG Laser (1064nm) – For darker skin types with coarse hair.
Diode Laser (800-810nm) – For fair to mid toned skin and dark fine hair.

The efficacy of each laser varies between individuals, but a study conducted among 75 clients on 805 laser treatments proved the Alexandrite Laser to be the most efficacious at 65.6%.

As mentioned, laser machines are safe for use on darker skin types too. This is because different laser machines use different light colours to target separate types of skin and hairs.

What results can I expect with laser hair removal?

According to the FDA, laser hair removal effectively reduces hair by about 70%. In most cases, individuals will notice a visible reduction just after the first session. While the hair may not be removed forever, hair that grows back is usually much finer and less noticeable.

With every treatment, hair follicles are destroyed. Less blood flows to the follicle, thus discouraging hair growth. Hair that does grow back will gradually become weaker and thinner too.

Generally, around six to ten hair removal treatments staggered every four to eight weeks are required to see results.

A recent study that compared IPL vs. laser with subjects across four skin types (aged 18-55 years) revealed that the statistical difference between both treatments is only 5% (with laser being higher). While this difference may be extremely small, when speaking long term, laser hair removal proves to be more cost-effective and thus a lot more desirable for most clients.

IPL Lasers
Covers a wider range of treatment area; less focused on target area Able to focus on target area with precision; does not expose other areas to unnecessary light radiation
Produces a wide wavelength of light Produces a specific type of light consisting of one wavelength
Requires 10-15 sessions Requires 6-10 sessions
More affordable More costly
Slight discomfort; less pain than lasers Often reported by clients to be more painful than IPL
Effective only for fair skin Effective for all skin types

So at the end of the day, which treatment is best for me?

This will highly depend on your goals. While IPL can technically give the same standard of results as lasers, it depends on factors like how much time you’re willing to spend, whether your hair situation requires a more aggressive approach and how fast you want to see results.

As always, you should communicate your needs, concerns and areas you want to focus on to a specialist, and read testimonials written by clients who have tried both methods!

Let Team Supersmooth show you how we perform hair removal.

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