Difference Between Laser And IPL

We elaborated upon the major differences between Q-Switch Lasers and Pico Lasers in a recent article. (Read our article on Q- Switch Lasers Vs Pico Lasers)

In today's article, we will help educate you further about the various differences between lasers and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL), especially for skin resurfacing treatment.

The development and use of lasers and light for cosmetic procedures based on selective photothermolysis have increased exponentially over the past few decades.

About Lasers

Laser (L-A-S-E-R) stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. A laser is a single-wavelength (one color of light) source of high-energy light that transmits that light onto a minimal area to get the desired results.

Lasers help to improve the overall appearance of lentigines and rhytids, eliminate photoaging, soften scarring due to acne and other causes, and treat dyspigmentation.

There are two basic lasers used for cosmetic purposes - ablative and non-ablative in fractionated and unfractionated forms. Fractionating the laser beam makes the treatment safer with less downtime and complications.

CO2 Lasers and Erbium (Er:YAG) Lasers are ablative Lasers used to treat scars, wrinkles, and other skin conditions. They promote collagen remodeling, making them popular options for treating fine lines, wrinkles, skin laxity, and age spots. Both of these Lasers can be fractionated, and hence they are available in both surgical and fractional modes. Ablative Lasers require 2-3 weeks of the healing process, depending on the intensity of the treatment.

Non-ablative Lasers include Nd:YAG and Erbium Glass Lasers. These gentler non-ablative lasers allow for quicker healing and often require no downtime, and with the advancement of science and technology in today's time, there are several varieties of Q-Switch Lasers now available in the market – ranging from Ruby (694 nm), Alexandrite (755 nm), or Nd:YAG with dual-frequency (532 nm and 1064 nm).

The Q-switched Nd:YAG Laser has two wavelengths – a longer wavelength of 1064 nm and a shorter wavelength of 532 nm. The longer wavelength of 1064 nm helps treat dermal lesions due to its deeper penetration and poor absorption in epidermal melanin, while the 532 nm wavelength is ideal for epidermal pigmented lesions such as freckles & lentiges.

The Nd:YAG Laser beam specifically targets melanosomes in melanocytes, keratinocytes, and melanophages, at the epidermal and dermal depths. The Laser's ultra-short pulse width (in nanoseconds) and adjustable spot size are key factors that effectively target pigment cells. Depth of penetration and selectivity are functions of the wavelength of a Laser.

The principal Laser-skin interaction observed in dermal melanocytosis by Q-switched Nd:YAG Laser treatment is based on photothermal and photomechanical interactions induced by selective photothermolysis. One must be careful as the 1,064 nm Q-switched Nd:YAG Laser can cause the dermal and epidermal melanosomes to rupture and destroy dermal melanophages.

About intense pulse light therapy (IPL)

Intense pulse light therapy (IPL), also known as photorejuvenation or the photo facial, is a non-ablative (fractional) laser procedure that effectively eliminates hyperpigmentation spots and acne. Blemishes are treated with powerful flashes of light in short polychromatic blasts during this process. The energy created by the light penetrates the dermal layers below the epidermis layer and begins to address the melanin that is causing the spots. The heat penetrates and attacks the pigment particles, breaking and destroying their bonds. The particles then rise to the surface and form as scabs, only to slough off or are carried in the lymph and eliminated naturally by the body within a few weeks. Intense pulse light therapy (IPL) stimulates new dermal collagen and elastin development and deposition. It helps reorganize structural scaffold proteins and dermal connective tissue and regenerate new keratinocytes. Thus, this reduces hyperpigmentation or any other blemishes.

IPL-based technology is generally considered a safe procedure as potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation is typically filtered by blocking wavelengths below 500 nm.

Laser Vs. Intense pulse light therapy (IPL)

  Laser and Intense pulse light therapy (IPL) varies in terms of-  

  • Treatment time

Because the beam of light used in laser treatments is very concentrated, laser devices have a tiny treatment window. Because of the broader flash of light used in IPL, these devices feature a bigger treatment window and can cover a much larger area at once, meaning a much faster treatment time than the laser.

  • Pain rating

The patients often report the single, more pointed beam of light used during laser treatment to be slightly more painful than IPL treatment.

  • Safety

Laser light is powerful and can even be dangerous. The bonus of IPL treatment is that it is much safer to use as the light is less concentrated and can be used risk-free for long-lasting results.

Both laser and IPL treatments are similar in application and treat many of the same conditions. However, laser treatments focus only one wavelength of light on the problem area meaning laser light is monochromatic, non-divergent, and targets specific concerns. IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) releases several lights, allowing it to treat a larger area faster and address several conditions simultaneously. Though IPL is often confused with laser treatment, it does not utilize a laser but a broad-spectrum visible light. Laser treatments can be either ablative or non-ablative; because IPL focuses on the second and underlying layers of skin, leaving the first intact and non-ablative. While laser treatments "resurface" the skin, IPL "rejuvenates."

About IIWAM training in laser and IPL

It is prudent that all Aesthetic practitioners undergo proper training in Aesthetic Medicine. The practitioner must balance between benefits & risks of the Aesthetic procedure and steps to mitigate complications if it occurs. At IIWAM, we call it understanding the procedure, the product, and the patient, and our trainers pay utmost attention to teaching the following subjects of laser and IPL treatments under our best online international cosmetology training program.

  • What are the principles of selective photothermolysis?

  • What is laser-tissue interaction?

  • What are the principles of laser and IPL?

  • What are the principles of IPL?

  • How does a laser work?

  • How does IPL work?

  • What are laser complications?

  • What are IPL complications?

  • How to treat laser complications?

  • How to treat IPL complications?

Apply for the best online aesthetic courses from IIWAM today.  


International Institute of Wellness & Aesthetic Medicine (IIWAM), formerly known as Aesthetic Academy Asia (http://aestheticacademy.asia), is a One-Stop Centre of Excellence for Aesthetic Education along with Aesthetic Medical & Wellness Procedures. IIWAM provides Aesthetic Education for Medical Doctors, Dentists, Nurses, Aestheticians & Spa Owners, which is backed by a comprehensive online learning platform and a virtual library (https://www.iiwam.ac/library).

IIWAM Education Centre (https://www.iiwam.ac/education) provides International Aesthetic Certification programs and Advanced Online Aesthetic Courses for Doctors, Dentists, Nurses, Aestheticians, and Spa Owners in the field of Aesthetic Medicine. Our Institute is based in Malaysia and has international students from the Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, and other countries. With our insignia of "Be Certified, Be Recognized", we develop knowledgeable, skilled, and confident Aesthetic practitioners of international repute. Our Aesthetic training focuses on teaching the principles of Aesthetic procedures before venturing into Aesthetic clinical skills. IIWAM training Programs are a combination of Onsite Training, LIVE Online Webinars, and Online Learning. IIWAM is the first Institute in the World to have its Programs assured by City & Guilds of London and certified by European International University. IIWAM is also a registered CPD Training provider with CPD Standards Office in the UK and by CPD Malaysian Medical Association.

In addition, IIWAM Aesthetic & Wellness Centre (https://www.iiwam.ac/wellness) provides scientifically based and clinically proven Aesthetic & Wellness procedures, that are safe, effective & affordable. With an insignia of "For All Your Aesthetic Needs", your treatment programs are customized to suit your needs by our Board-Certified Doctors & Surgeons.

Visit https://www.iiwam.ac for more details.