How Does Laser Hair Removal Work? (Laser and IPL Explained)

An Introduction to IPL and Laser Hair Removal

Both IPL and Laser Hair Removal are techniques of getting rid of unwanted body hair that you might find on places such as your legs, arms, armpits, or chin, to name a few.

What with the constant rise in price of such hair removal methods as threading or waxing, as well as the frustration and ingrown hairs that can come with a regular, manual shave, both IPL treatments and laser hair removal are great options to consider.

These particular hair removal options don’t necessarily involve any of the potentially painful or negative side effects that other common hair removal techniques might have. In fact both IPL and laser hair removal can have some significantly positive results.


What Are These Techniques?

IPL laser therapy, or “intense pulsed light”, is a specific type of skin therapy that can be used to effectively manage unwanted hair.

As noted by Healthline, this particular treatment can also be used to help treat such skin ailments as freckles, age spots, sun spots, varicose veins, and even birthmarks.

IPL therapy works to get rid of your unwanted hair that might appear in such areas as the bikini line, back, armpits, neck, face, legs, or chest.

Both IPL and laser hair removal are designed to be potentially permanent solutions to unwanted hair. These techniques include the use of a light beam that moves over the skin and focuses on specific high-pigmentation areas.

The beams of light heat these areas to such a degree that the hair follicles are destroyed, therefore inhibiting hair growth from the inside out. This makes the follicles smaller, and causes hair growth in that area to stop.

How Do These Techniques Work?


These techniques work with a specific beam of light (or a laser) that is traced over your skin. This beam of light contains specific energy that is used to heat high-pigmentation areas of the skin.

In this case, those high-pigmentation areas would be the unwanted hairs on your body. The high heat of these laser beams causes sufficient damage to the hair follicle, which then shrinks. With shrinkage, the hair follicle is no longer able to produce hair.

It should be noted that, due to the nature of the high-pigmentation process, those with dark hair and lighter skin tend to see better results with both IPL and laser treatments.

For those who have lighter hair and/or darker skin, there may need to be several treatments attended in order for you to see the results you’re looking for.

Here is a general guide to the effectiveness of IPL and laser for different hair and skin types:

laser hair removal guide

What Is Treatment At A Clinic Like?

While you may understand the process of both IPL and/or laser hair removal treatments, you may be wondering what to expect during your appointment for either treatment.

First, the specific areas you’d like to focus on will be cleaned off, and a cooling gel will be applied to your skin.

After this gel is sufficiently applied, the light pulses (with IPL) or laser beam (with laser treatment) will be brought to your skin. During this time, you’ll be wearing a special kind of darkened glasses, in order to protect your eyes.

While it may seem like this process might be painful, the lasers in both methods of treatment should not hurt you. Though you may have some discomfort, your hairs will be burning rather than your skin (though skin does have nerve endings, hair does not).

The Difference Between IPL and Laser Hair Removal

Both laser hair removal and IPL have some pretty noticeable similarities – after all, they stem from the same basic idea. However, the biggest difference that you’ll find is in the specific light that is targeted to your unwanted hair.

As addressed by The Private Clinic, this difference in light can sometimes make a difference as to the final results of your treatment.

Because of this, it’s important for you to evaluate the specific areas of your body and body hair that you’d most like to focus on when making the decision between IPL and laser hair removal treatments.

How Does Laser Hair Removal Work?


When it comes to laser hair removal, the machines used in the process emit an intense, concentrated beam of light within a single wavelength.

This single wavelength is something that is called “pure light”; in other words, it exists as a single uniform form and color.

As noted earlier, your skin color, hair color, and hair type will end up affecting the results of your procedure.

It will also impact whether or not you will have to have repeat procedures. It is likely that your practitioner will have you try a “test patch” during your skin and hair consultation, to determine the correct settings for your laser during treatment.

The machines used to create the laser beams used in laser hair removal generate quite a bit of heat – in fact, more heat than IPL machines necessarily do.

Because of this, laser hair removal can reach a little bit deeper into the hair follicle than IPL can. Additionally, because laser hair removal involves a single concentrated beam of pure light, it’s thought that it is safer for those with darker skin.

How Does IPL Hair Removal Work?

IPL therapy is another important treatment that you may be considering. Of course, it should be noted that IPL machines emit several colors and wavelengths of light, rather than the laser machine’s “pure light”.

This makes the light emitted from IPL machines more akin to a light bulb than a laser beam necessarily. As this is a much wider range of wavelengths, there will be some wavelengths that don’t penetrate as deep into the hair follicle.

Therefore depending on your skin type, skin color, hair type, and hair color, there may not be as much light absorption.

What this means in the long run is that those with darker skin or lighter hair may see less results during their first session than those with more easily targeted darker hair and lighter skin.

Cost is another factor that can separate IPL and laser hair removal. Because of the intensity and “pure light” that comes from the laser machines, laser treatments tend to be higher in price.

Of course, this isn’t simply because of the cost of the machine; this higher price also includes the efficacy rate of the treatment across different types of people, as well as the requirements an establishment might need to have to be able to treat with IPL machines rather than laser machines.

How Many Sessions Do People Usually Have?

The answer to this particular question ultimately depends on you, your needs and goals, and your body.

Because hair grows at such different rates from person to person – and, not to mention, depending on the area of the body you’re looking to target – the number of times you’ll have to go in for your IPL or laser treatment sessions can vary.

While some people may go in for a single session and be finished with their treatment, others might have specific goals for their hair removal that may have them in for two, four, six, or even more treatments.

Hair Growth Cycles

hair growth cycle

Of course, the various hair cycles going on throughout your body will be a huge factor in the number of treatments you need.

Because hair follows such cycles, your laser or IPL treatment may be more effective during certain types than others (such as growing phase 1 and 2).

As follicles shed after your first treatment, you might see a certain percentage of your hair growth has slowed.

However, there will still be follicles that haven’t quite yet entered the hair growth stage when you have this first treatment.

Because of this, you’ll want to have a second session between 4 and 6 weeks after your first session.

With time and consistent session attendance, your hair-producing follicles will drastically reduce in number.

With every session, you’ll simply be raising the number of follicles that no longer produce unwanted hair.

Many providers of both IPL and laser removal treatments say that the typical ‘average’ number of treatments that their clients see is between 4-6 or 5-7.

Again, this is highly dependent on your body and your needs. Your skin color and type, as well as hair color and type, will be factors that contribute to how many sessions you need.

Additionally, perhaps you’re the kind of person who sees faster hair growth than others – you therefore may need more sessions as your hair goes through the growth cycle faster.

What Places On The Body Will IPL and Laser Treatment Affect?

For women, laser treatments or IPL treatments can be easily done just about anywhere on the body.

From the jaw line to the bikini line, areas of unwanted hair that are not too dense are fair game when it comes to either of these treatments.

Though it’s thought that the jawline and/or facial areas is a little bit more difficult for men (as the number of hair follicles in this area is more densely packed) men too can benefit from either laser or IPL treatments on areas such as their buttocks or back.

Each area of the body that you’d like to focus on will be tested for specific skin sensitivity or needs before moving forward with the treatment.

Will Hair Grow Back After Treatment?

Though it is impossible for either laser or IPL treatment to have a 100% success rate, it’s thought that between 60% and 80% of unwanted hair can be removed through either treatment.

Again, depending on your skin type and your specific needs or goals, you may need more or fewer treatments in order to achieve these goals.

It should be noted that these treatments are more effectively thought of as hair ‘reduction’ seeing as the body includes thousands of follicles that will be in different stages of the hair growth cycle with each of your treatment visits.

Benefits of IPL and Laser Hair Removal Treatments

There are many benefits of both laser hair removal and IPL treatments. Depending on your decision to go with either one treatment or the other, you’re bound to see great results with each session you may have.


One of the first and most notable benefits of laser hair removal is predictability.

Studies have shown that most clients will see notable loss of their unwanted hair with consistent session attendance. Depending, of course, on the patient’s skin color and hair type, they are likely to see this reduction in unwanted hair after an average of 5-7 treatments.


Speed is yet another benefit of laser hair removal. Both laser and IPL treatments take just a few seconds to treat several hair follicles at once.

Because of this, small areas may be treated within just a few minutes, and the largest areas of the body – such as the legs, or the back – may not take more than an hour or so, depending on the treatment you’re getting.


Cost effectiveness is just another great benefit to both of these therapies.

Though it’s true that laser hair removal will likely be more expensive than IPL treatments, both of these therapies provide more cost effective ways for you to engage in the hair removal that you’d like to see.

You may find that the cost of both of these therapies is more upfront – however, the overall money saved with IPL and/or laser hair removal is much easier to see when compared to a lifetime of threading, waxing, or purchasing razors.

You can now even purchase laser hair removal and IPL devices at home that may save you loads more and can be as effective or even better as a visit to a clinic.

Lack of Side Effects

Another great part of both laser hair removal and IPL treatments is the sheer lack of side effects.

When going for a waxing or threading treatment, or even when manually shaving, it’s possible for you to encounter such annoyances as razor burn or ingrown hairs that may become painful.

Though it’s true that you may find some slight irritation in the affected areas after a treatment session for either IPL or laser hair removal, this irritation will likely be gone after just a few hours.

Is Laser Hair Removal Right For You?

Though both of these hair removal methods can be great for the general population, it’s not always the case that the therapies will be quite right for you.

Sink Tone

Something to consider when thinking about whether or not to schedule an IPL or laser hair removal session is skin tone.

As noted earlier, skin that is lighter will typically see more results than skin that is darker, simply because of the pigmentation method used in both laser hair removal and IPL.

Hair Type

Hair type is another factor that you’ll want to consider when planning out your potential hair removal therapies.

The color of your hair, much like the color of your skin, will absorb the light from each of these therapies differently.

Those hairs that are darker in color, such as dark brown or black, will end up absorbing more of the light – therefore, the dark hair will be more easily treatable than, say, someone who has red or blonde hair.

laser hair removal guide

Prior Health Issues

Of course, specific health concerns can also affect whether or not laser hair removal or IPL therapies are right for you.

If you suffer from or have a family history of such issues as melanoma, epilepsy, herpes, diabetes, or recent sunburns, you’ll want to discuss your medical history and your options with your doctor or a trusted medical care provider.

Remember, it’s important to think about your medical history and consult your doctor when moving forward with any body altering treatment, such as these therapies.

In Conclusion

Both IPL and laser hair removal therapies are a great way for you to think about getting rid of any unwanted body hair.

A cost-effective, low risk method of reducing body hair, both of these treatments are easily accessible and may be a great way for you to say goodbye to annoying hairs that crop up in different places around your body.

Though it’s important to be aware of the limitations to both IPL and laser hair treatments, specifically regarding skin and hair color, both of these treatments may be a great way for you to bring effective, safe hair removal techniques into your routine.

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