What’s the Difference between Laser & IPL?

Many of you maybe reading this and thinking, “What? Aren’t they the same thing?” There is a misconception that they are but no, they certainly aren’t. As a rule of thumb, IPL is a “light” treatment, whereas laser uses laser energy. Also, IPL targets closer to the surface of the skin, whereas laser penetrates deeper. Both have its own strengths and some that overlaps. Such as you could use both machines for hair removal.

Here are some of the differences between IPL & Laser:

1. IPL

Also known as Intensed Pulse Light. There are 2 types of IPL, one for hair removal and the other for skin rejuvenation- and this is what we’re focusing on. It helps with skin pigmentation, sun damage, thread veins, collagen and minimises the appearance of pores. In terms of lightening sunspots/ sun damage – the light from the IPL is converted into heat, the heat is then absorbed by skin discolouration/ pigmentation. The heat then breaks down the pigmentation into particles. These would then darken and eventually scab off.

2. Laser

Laser focuses on one focal point. It is considerably more precise. Because it is more in-depth, it is possibly the best treatment to reduce the appearance of fine lines and pores. Also, if you happen to have an acne scars, laser can help reduce the appearance of the scars by penetrate fibroblast in the skin which stimulates the production of collagen and elastin. IPL also does this, however not to the extend that laser does.

IPL vs Laser.png

The main difference between IPL and Laser is IPL is a bright beam of light and laser is a coloured dot as bit like a laser pointer.

IPL’s wavelength is more broad (closer to the surface of the skin) whereas lasers are very precise (more depth). IPL requires an ultrasound gel to be applied to the skin prior treatment whereas a laser doesn’t.



Excellent for reducing brown sun-damage spots

Good for reducing brown sun spots

Excellent for removing or diminishing blood vessels and red skin (rosacea) (targets towards the surface of the skin)

Minimal improvement on blood vessels (deeper tissues) 

Some improvement of fine lines and pores

Good improvement of fine lines and pores

No improvement of acne scars

Good improvement of acne scars

No downtime

Usually two to three days of swelling and one week of redness

Best when done as a series of six to eight treatments

Best when done as a series of three to six treatments depending on the indication

Gives long-lasting results, often with one or two treatments every year

Gives long-lasting results, often with treatment in two to three years

✓  No anesthetic required

Topical anesthetic required

No help with precancerous lesions

✓  FDA approved treatment for precancerous spots

Can be safely performed only on non-tanned skin

Recently tanned skin is avoided

Light energy- requires ultrasound gel 

Laser energy- doesn’t require ultrasound gel 

Targets pigment brown, blue and red

Targets water in the skin

May not be suitable for darker skin types

Suitable for all skin types

Can be used on face and body

Can be used on face and body


They can be rather expensive but you would only require to have it done once a month. Usually, in order to see a significant difference your aesthetician/ registered nurse/ dermatologist would recommend on average for a course of 6-8 treatments depending on your skin’s condition.

Some companies such as Skin Laundry provides a combination of Laser + IPL and you are encourages to do this about once every week.

At Skin Laundry’s store at Liberty, London, they are charging £60 a session. The first session is free. My only problem with this is that the setting on the laser & IPL machine is extremely low, therefore you would have to do this more often.

The upside about Skin Laundry is that there isn’t any downtime. The downside is that because the settings are so low, it doesn’t do much for the skin to induce collagen production. All it’s doing is basically giving your skin a deep cleanse, getting rid of any dirt and grime. I’ve done the treatment for about 4 times now, but haven’t noticed any difference in terms of lessening my wrinkles.

On average IPL facial in London starts about £150- £200 per session but you are only required to do this once a month. Therefore, this may actually work out cheaper than Skin Laundry although they combine both IPL & Laser treatment.



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