What is the difference between photoepilation and laser hair removal?

If we analyse the term “photoepilation”, a word coined just a few years ago, we learn that it means.

Hair removal by means of light, which could refer to two types of existing treatments:

  • Intense pulsed light (IPL).
  • Laser (Light Amplified by Stimulated Emission of Radiation).

In practice, this term has ended up being associated with hair removal performed using “intense pulsed light” which are different to laser systems.

It thus becomes necessary to clarify the differences these two systems.

Laser (Light Amplified by Stimulated Emission of Radiation)

A laser system emits a pure light of one single colour in which all photons that integrate the light travel at the same wave length (for Alexandrite lasers: 755 nm, for diode lasers: 800 nm) and move in a straight line. Because the light is pure it is absorbed more accurately by a certain colour.

Intense pulsed light (IPL)

Intense pulsed light systems (IPL) emit a mixed light, composed by many types of photons that travel at different wave lengths in a range that goes from 590 nm to 1200 nm. Moreover, the behaviour of light could be described as that of a light bulb that moves in all directions. The system controls the passage of just one given type of light, depending on the filter that is placed at the exit point of such light.

IPL hair removal scene

IPL hair removal scene

What are the advantages and disadvantages of each of these techniques?


The features of laser systems make them very accurate tools for certain utilities, with the capacity to protect surrounding tissues and affect only the element or target for which the systems has been designed.

These tools have been optimised for certain utilities. However, it is in this same accuracy and precision where their limitation lies. In other words, lasers are specifically designed for specific treatments. Consequently, in order to be able to treat a wide range of indications, it is necessary to have a wide variety of systems.

Intense pulsed light (IPL or photoepilation systems)

Intense pulsed light systems have less precision but present great versatility thanks to the large amount of different types of light they can emit. In many cases, treatment with IPL can be more effective than with laser, especially if hair colour or skin colour are not the ideal for photoepilation lasers.

Their main advantage is the versatility and because of this we can treat a wider range of skin and hair types. Their main disadvantage is they are extremely technique-dependent, have somewhat less precision as opposed to lasers, and can irritate the skin more intensely.

In practise, both technologies are of great utility. At Instituo Médico Láser we offer a wide laser and IPL platform, and select one or both systems to suit the needs of each particular patient, according to:

  • Hair colour.
  • Skin colour.
  • Hair thickness.
  • Hair depth.
  • Anatomical location.
  • Hormone phase.

The most effective technology is that which best adapts to each case, with a different system.

Would you like more information about laser hair removal? Contact Instituto Medico Laser now.

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