Laser hair removal on a woman's face in Ponsky Facial Plastic Surgery office.

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) vs. Laser Therapy: Which is right for you?

If you are considering laser therapy to improve your skin appearance, you may be wondering what the difference is between intense pulsed light therapy (IPL) and regular laser skin resurfacing therapy. IPL and laser therapy are both non-invasive procedures that can help improve the appearance of your skin. However, there are some key differences between the two treatments.

What is Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Therapy?

Intense pulsed light therapy uses a broad spectrum of light to target specific areas of the skin. This type of light is absorbed by melanin, which is present in dark spots, age spots, and other blemishes. The heat from the light destroys the melanin, causing the blemish to fade or disappear. IPL can also stimulate collagen production, which can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

What is Regular Laser Therapy?

Regular laser therapy uses a single wavelength of light to target specific areas of the skin. This type of light is absorbed by water, which is present in all cells including cancer cells. The heat from the laser destroys the water in cells, causing them to shrink or disappear. Like IPL, regular laser therapy can also stimulate collagen production.

intense pulsed light therapy

What are the differences?

One of the key differences between IPL and laser therapy is the type of light that is used. IPL uses a broad spectrum of visible light, while laser therapy uses a single wavelength of light. This difference in light means that IPL can target a wider range of skin concerns than laser therapy. Additionally, because IPL uses multiple wavelengths of light, it can be less effective at targeting specific skin concerns than laser therapy. 

Another key difference between the two therapies is the size of the light pulses. The pulses used in IPL are much longer than those used in laser therapy. This difference in pulse size means that IPL can reach deeper into the skin than laser therapy.

Laser Hair Removal

IPL therapy uses a broad-spectrum light that is absorbed by the pigment in the hair shaft. This light energy is then converted to heat, which damages the follicle and prevents future hair growth. IPL therapy is typically more effective on lighter skin tones and does not work as well on very dark or tanned skin.

Regular laser hair removal uses a concentrated beam of light that targets the melanin in the hair shaft. The heat from the laser destroys the follicle and prevents future hair growth. Laser therapy works well on all skin types but is most effective on people with dark hair and light skin.

Which treatment is best for me?

Intense Pulsed Light is best for treating:

Dark spots, age spots, sun damage, freckles, rosacea, spider veins, and redness.

Regular laser therapy is best for treating:

Acne scars, fine lines and wrinkles, stretch marks, keratosis pilaris ,and psoriasis.


Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and laser therapy are both non-invasive procedures that can help improve the appearance of your skin. Ultimately, the decision about which treatment is right for you will come down to your specific skin care needs and goals. If you’re not sure which treatment is right for you, schedule a consultation at Ponsky Facial Plastic Surgery in Beachwood, Ohio to talk with Dr. Diana Ponsky!

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