Do I Need Laser or IPL?

Here at Celibre Medical Corporation, we hear this question a lot. And each time our answer is the same: it depends. The reason is because these two are really apples and oranges. The IPL device is not a laser, so it simply can’t do what a laser does. The answer to the question really depends on what the problem is that you are wanting to treat. Let us set the facts straight by clearing up a common misconception. IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light. It is a device (not a laser) that uses many different wavelengths of broad band light. A laser, in contrast, is a device that uses one, specific wavelength of light. Laser stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Here are a few other ways these two are different:

  1. Lasers can achieve higher peak energies than an IPL device. The best real world example of this is how certain lasers (q-switched) are used to remove tattoos and birthmarks. Because the energy of the laser is much more powerful, it is able to shatter ink particles in tattoos and/or melanin or pigment cells in birthmarks. This allows the body to reabsorb them, which removes them permanently. IPLs just can’t generate the same kind of powerful energy.
  1. Following up on that last sentence, lasers can be used to permanently remove their intended target. Tattoos, birthmarks, freckles and vascular spots can all be removed forever if treated with the correct laser. IPLs, however can lessen the appearance of freckles, sun damage or blood vessels, but they just can’t generate the power to remove them permanently.
  1. Think of lasers as specialists and IPLs as generalists. We explain an IPL as a “printer/fax/copier/scanner” of the laser world. Its talked about in the treatment of a lot of different conditions (redness, wrinkles, sun spots) but it really isn’t designed to just do one, specific thing. Lasers, on the other hand, are FDA-approved to treat one condition and maybe a handful of related, similar conditions. For example, the pulsed dye laser is approved for the treatment of Rosacea (a disorder of dilated blood vessels) and port wine stains (red birthmarks comprised of blood vessels). The conditions that lasers are used to treat are much more closely related, because lasers have a much more specific target for their energy source.
  1. Lasers are safer for dark skin types. Certain wavelengths of light are perfect for those with dark skin, even the darkest, type V African American. Being specific, lasers can be used in dark skin types much more reliably than IPLs. Blistering and burning can lead to permanent scarring in people with these skin types. This is not a necessary risk! Using the right device, intended for the right skin type helps keep patients safe while delivering the results they want to see.

If you’re considering either treatment, we would love the opportunity to talk to you and help you decide which one is right for you. Please call us today to schedule a free consultation to find out more.

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