If you’ve ever known the never-ending hassle of having to shave your legs every time you want to go out to dinner, go to a party, the beach, on a date, basically anywhere fun, then you’ve probably considered a more permanent form of hair removal at least once or twice.
The good news is, your dreams of hairlessness can become a reality and there are multiple ways to get it done! IPL and laser are two of the most popular forms of semi-permanent, long-term hair removal options and we’ve done the research to help you decide which is the better option for you.
What is IPL?
IPL, or Intense Pulsed Light, uses a wide spectrum of pulsed light wavelengths (colours), similar to a light bulb. The light that IPL emits is intense enough, as the name suggests, to enter the hair follicle and cause enough damage that it stops the growth of your hair. It can cover a larger area due to it having a wider spectrum of aim and can generally reduce hair growth almost completely within 6-12 months, depending on skin tone and hair properties. IPL works best on individuals with paler skin and darker hair as the melanin in the hair will absorb the wide-spectrum light easier.
What is laser?
Laser is similar to IPL in that it uses light energy to damage the hair and stop growth, however, laser is a lot more concentrated than IPL. This means that instead of treating a larger area, the monochromatic wavelength (one colour) targets individual hair follicles so it’s less likely to be absorbed by or damage any of the surrounding skin. Due to this, lasers can be adjusted to be used effectively and safely on almost all skin and hair colour combinations.
Another great feature of laser hair removal is that the actual light waves in the laser itself are all parallel to each other, meaning they’re aligned so that nearly 100% of the light emitted is effective during hair removal. This alignment of the light waves allows for deeper penetration into the hair follicle resulting in a longer-lasting and more effective laser treatment in a shorter amount of time than IPL treatments may take.
Choosing the best hair removal system for you
When it comes to choosing the best hair removal option, a few factors need to be considered:
- Hair and skin tone – IPL works best on those with fair skin and dark hair, while laser works on most skin and hair colour combinations due to its more targeted light. Additionally, IPL works best on less coarse hair and laser will work effectively on almost any hair thickness.
- Budget – Due to its effectiveness and intensity, laser is going to be the more expensive option, even with at-home handsets. IPL will be the more budget-friendly option here, with good quality handsets ranging from as low as $200.
- Time – IPL will take a little longer to yield the same results as laser hair removal because it’s not as targeted as laser is. Generally, it will take 10+ sessions of IPL to see semi-permanent hair removal whereas laser takes around 6-10 sessions for the same results. On the other hand, IPL can target a larger area at one time than laser so the sessions themselves will be shorter with IPL hair removal.
- Pain – Laser hair removal is more likely to be more painful as it’s more intense, it feels like a tiny, hot rubber band being snapped against your skin each time the laser is emitted. Some individuals say it doesn’t hurt at all, but it also depends on what intensity the laser is set on, so if you’ve got a low pain threshold then IPL might be the better option for you. Both IPL and laser will cause skin irritation, usually bumps, redness and itchiness, but these symptoms shouldn’t last longer than a day.
What do we recommend?
Due to its effectiveness and targeted treatment, we’d recommend laser treatments over IPL. There’s a wider range of hair and skin types and colours that laser can safely treat without the risk of burns. Whilst it’s a more expensive and sometimes painful option, it’s effectiveness means that it will take less time and less sessions for you to see almost permanent hair reduction. If you can get your hands on one, we’d recommend getting a good quality laser handset to use at home as this will be the most cost-effective and convenient way to do it.
Can I do laser and IPL at home?
Yes! There’s a huge range of handsets on the market right now that are safe enough for use at home. Wherever you buy your handset from, make sure it’s a reputable store and please try not to go for the cheapest option. Keep in mind that this handset will emit intense light and heat into your delicate skin, so you want the quality to be as good as possible.
Laser treatments at home
Laser treatments in a professional laser clinic can be expensive depending on where you go and the size of the area you’re wanting to treat. It will generally take around 6-10 sessions for you to start seeing results, and by that time you could have spent upwards of $1000, so it’s worth it to splash out on a great quality handset. Laser devices will generally set you back around $400-$600. Here’s a great example of one of the top laser devices on the market right now:
Tria Beauty Hair Removal Laser At-Home Device
This laser device was cleared by the FDA and has been clinically proven for safe use on the face and body. Each full charge lasts up to 30 minutes so you can get a full session out of each. It’s recommended that you use it once a week for 3 months for permanent results. You can use this handset on fair to medium skin tones and it comes in 3 great colours; fuschia, turquoise and green. We’d recommend this laser handset to anyone wanting to treat smaller areas like their bikini, underarms and face. Due to its smaller targeted head, it might take a longer time to treat larger areas like your legs but the results are worth it if you put the time in.
- Price of handset is less than the cost of laser sessions at a clinic for same results
- FDA approved
- Comes in 3 different colours
- Results in 3 months
- 2 year warranty
- Safe for use on face and body
- Only needs to be used once a week for best results
- Full charge lasts 30 minutes so might not be enough time for larger areas such as legs
- Small treatment head
- Cannot be used on darker skin tones
IPL treatments at home
When choosing a laser hair removal handset, the market is going to be dominated by IPL handsets so be careful that you’re buying the right thing. However, if you’re after an IPL handset, your job is going to be very easy – the market is flooded with IPL handsets so you’re absolutely spoilt for choice! Here’s a few different options:
- Best for those on a budget – Feeke IPL Permanent Hair Removal Device
- Best mid-range budget option – Braun Silk-Expert Pro 3 PL3132
- Best high-end budget option – Philips Lumea Prestige IPL Hair Removal Device
Things to be aware of when using hair removal devices at home
Whilst purchasing and using your own laser or IPL devices at home is a convenient, budget-friendly option, you do still need to be careful and make sure you’re aware of the risk factors and how to avoid any mishaps.
- Don’t use on any pigmented areas of your body. This includes tattoos, moles and birthmarks. If you do, you’ll run the risk of the device burning the area as it will be attracted to the high amount of pigment.
- Don’t use near your eyes. If you do have to use them on your face be sure to get good quality safety glasses that block out the laser’s rays.
- Don’t use on any parts of your body you can’t see. If you can’t see what you’re doing and where the laser will be zapping, then it’s not safe to use it on that part of your body.
- Pay close attention to the user manual. Be sure to read the user manual thoroughly before attempting the treatment on yourself, paying extra attention to the tones of skin and hair it will work on. If you have darker skin it’s best to steer clear of at-home laser and IPL devices as they may not work correctly.
- Do a patch test. Before using the device on a large area, try using it on a small patch of skin like the crook of your elbow and leave it for 24 hours to observe if you have a negative reaction to it. If not, you should be all good to go.
Tossing up between laser and IPL for your hair removal journey? If you’re after an effective, at-home treatment we’d recommend a good quality laser device. However, if you’re after something a bit cheaper and happy to put in a little extra time and effort then IPL is for you. Whether you have these procedures done by a professional or at home, you’ll be able to get the smooth, hairless skin of your wildest dreams within a few short months.