Intense pulsed light (IPL):
IPL devices are very close to what they are named: a very intense flash of light. This is very much like the flash cubes of old cameras
Basically, they consist of a fairly high voltage power supply scheme that provides energy to the flash lamps.


Laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation):
A laser basically consists of a special material put into a cavity with two mirrors on each end. Heating the special material in that cavity will produce a single wavelength laser beam. All the waves have the same frequency and phase. The choice of cavity material determines the output wavelength.




Every laser wavelength has its own characteristic features, such as how deep it will penetrate, or what tissue or colors will absorb it. These features determine its uses in the medical or cosmetic field.




“Alexandrite” wavelength (755nm):

The gold standard that is used for melanin absorption by the hair to destroy its follicle in individuals with light skin (Melanin is the ingredient which makes the hair black in color, and it causes our skin to get dark with sun tanning). “Alexandrite” makes dark spots on the skin (known as sun/age spots) vanish right in front of your eyes, since they absorb the energy from the laser light.


This was among the earliest wavelengths employed for laser hair removal because it provides an excellent wavelength for treatment of lighter skin types. With over eight years of clinical experience, the “alexandrite” laser remains the standard for hair removal in lighter skin types (Type I, II, and III). Because it has an increased selectivity to Melanin, it cannot be used on darker skin or tanned skin, since it may be absorbed by the skin’s melanin and may induce burns. These individuals need a totally different type of laser wavelength such as the “Nd:YAG” 1064 nm.


“Nd:YAG” (1064nm):
This is the safest hair removal wavelength for people with darker skin types. This gold standard wavelength also works to clot the blood in the spider veins. It increases deep tissue heat to stimulate collagen and improve the skin tone too.


Wavelength 1440nm:
A 1440nm wavelength is absorbed by fat tissue 40 folds more than any other wavelength and is the gold standard for cosmetic uses such as laser liposuction.


Co2 Laser (10600nm):

The Co2 laser is absorbed only by the skin’s superficial tissue with no deep penetration, and therefore it is the gold standard micro-ablative method for scar removal and skin rejuvenation.



IPL delivers between hundreds to thousands of colors of light at a time and does not output a single wavelength. The penetration depths of those lights and the selectivity to their targets are not controlled, which is why their clinical effects are not predictable.


Since there is no specificity or tissue selectivity, unpleasant side effects (similar to the results of an “Alexandrite” laser burn in darker skin individuals) can happen in people with darker or tanned skin.


Click here to see an example


IPL; Broadband - Infrared Laser
IPL (left); Laser (right)


IPL devices deliver low power to each wavelength in their spectrum. As a result, we see many patients who have failed hair removal from IPL and have had significant re-growth causing them to seek laser hair removal.



Published Clinical Trial


A Randomized, Split-Face Comparison of Facial Hair Removal with the Alexandrite Laser and Intense Pulsed Light System.

Lasers in Surgery and Medicine 39:767–772 (2007)


The following is a published study comparing the efficacy of a 3 milliseconds pulse duration alexandrite laser with the Lumina IPL system in 38 women with PCOS “Poly cystic ovary syndrome.”


Results: After six treatments, alexandrite laser treatment resulted in longer median hair-free intervals when compared to IPL (7 weeks vs. 2 weeks; P<0.001). Decrease in hair counts was significantly larger on the Alexandrite side compared to the IPL side at 1, 3 and 6 months. Patient satisfaction scores, using linear analogue scales, at 1, 3 and 6 months were significantly higher for the alexandrite laser than the IPL.


Conclusions: In this study, there was a marked difference between the two systems used. The alexandrite laser outperformed the IPL system. The alexandrite laser resulted in significantly longer hair-free intervals, a larger reduction in hair counts and greater patient satisfaction than the IPL and appeared to be more effective in this patient group. It is clear from the results in this study that the GentleLase alexandrite laser is more effective at reducing facial hirsutism in women with PCOS “Poly cystic ovary syndrome” than the Lumina IPL. It is probable that this is due to the specific wavelength, short pulse duration and single pulse delivery of the GentleLase alexandrite laser, resulting in more follicular destruction than the IPL.




“Aesthetic Trends magazine”. Contributing Editor David M. Cauger; Independent analyst and President of Boston Aesthetics, LLC.


Split Study, Laser vs. IPL. Lasers Surg. Med. 39:767–772, 2007. _ 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.


Optimized Hair Removal by Alexandrite AND YAG lasers.


Nd:YAG Laser-Assisted Hair Removal in All Skin Types.