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Lasers vs IPL

1. Lasers achieve higher peak energies than IPL devices do. A glaring example of why lasers are superior to IPL devices for dermatology treatments is the fact that an IPL cannot remove a tattoo or a birthmark. The stubborn ink in tattoos and the deep seated melanin in birthmarks can only be removed by high powered q-switched lasers that pulse light in increments of billionths of a second. Because IPL treatments do not generate the same power, they are useless to treat these conditions.

2. Lasers can affect permanent changes in conditions such as sun damage. IPL treatments are very good at blanching freckles, age or sun spots created by prolonged exposure to the sun. Where they fall short is permanently removing these spots. Because IPL devices do not achieve the same peak power that laser treatments do, (q-switched) lasers are able to permanently remove sun spots and freckles whereas IPL cannot.

3. Lasers are very specific to the conditions they treat, whereas IPL machines are generalists. We like to describe an IPL as the “printer/fax/copier/scanner” of the laser world. While it is marketed as a solution for many different types of conditions (sun spots, wrinkles and redness to name a few), it is not specifically designed to treat any of these conditions. A laser, in contrast, is usually FDA approved for one condition or several related conditions. The pulsed dye laser is an example and is approved for the treatment of vascular lesions such as port wine (red) birth marks and Rosacea. The fact that lasers are specific to a small group of related conditions means that they are more specialized.

4. Lasers are safer for dark skin types. IPL machines, because they do not use one specific type of light are riskier to use with darker skin types. The incidence of blisters or burns in type V skin (African American) is higher with IPL devices than other lasers like the Nd:Yg laser designed specifically for darker skin types.

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