Consumers often mistake LASERS and IPLs (Intense Pulsed Light) for the same technology. They don’t understand that getting an IPL treatment is not the same as getting a laser treatment. Although both lasers and IPL use light to affect changes to the skin, their differences are significant and important to understand.
The most important distinction between a laser and an IPL is that a laser uses ONE wavelength of light to treat one specific condition and an IPL has many wavelengths and is used for many conditions. Because a laser uses only one wavelength of light, the practitioner is able to target just one specific piece of the skin tissue (for example only the spider vein or only the hair follicle). This one wavelength methodology for lasers allows for a very precise, powerful, and effective treatment of a specific skin condition such as sun spots, facial redness, skin resurfacing for fine lines and wrinkles, tattoos, and permanent hair reduction.
On the other hand, IPLs (Intense Pulsed Light) do not have one specific wavelength. Because an IPL has multiple wavelengths, IPLs can be used to treat a variety of skin conditions without actually specializing in any specific one. Although IPLs may sometimes produce quick results, the outcomes are not considered as long-term or as permanent as those of Class IV medical lasers. Why is this the case? IPLs cannot generate enough energy to destroy skin cells the same way lasers can. IPLs rely on filters to filter out wavelengths of light in an attempt to target a specific segment of the skin. By filtering the light, the IPL loses power necessary to create long term or permanent destruction of problematic tissue such as spider veins, hair and sun damage. We believe that the defining factor between lasers and IPL for the treatment of cosmetic skin conditions is that the energy level attainable for a Class IV medical laser is much higher than an IPL and for this reason, the results we see are more complete, more permanent and are attained in fewer treatments. Using lasers, we believe, ultimately leads to better outcomes and lower costs in the long run than using IPLs. At Celibre, we utilize a variety of class IV medical lasers instead of IPL treatments in order to render the best long-term outcomes for a variety of cosmetic conditions as well as utilizing lasers that are safe and effective for all skin types.
Above is a perfect example of the relative differences in capabilities for an IPL and a Class IV laser. The cafe-au-lait birthmark was removed with a Medlite C6 Q-switched laser. This is a very powerful laser and q-switched lasers are the only type of light device capable of removing a birthmark like this. IPL treatments because of their lack of power, will only make this lesion worse.