Laser Hair Removal, Electrolysis, IPL: What’s The Difference?

Laser Hair Removal

This may be the year that you finally get tired of looking at your incessant razor burn, ingrown hairs, and skin discoloration. Maybe you realize that frequent waxing is both annoying and inconvenient. Or that threading and tweezing are no longer providing the results you need as you find yourself having to do them more and more frequently.

Though laser hair removal, electrolysis, and IPL are often used interchangeably to describe effective permanent hair reduction through a technology-based method, the reality is that these modality’s results are quite different.

What is Electrolysis?

Electrolysis is a technology that involves the insertion of a needle directly into the hair follicle, which is followed by the induction of an electrical current that serves to destroy the follicle. Under the electrolysis umbrella, there are two different methods for treating the hair follicle.

Galvanic electrolysis actually creates a chemical reaction through the electrical current, while thermolysis uses high-frequency currents that are hot enough to burn the follicle so it’s permanently disabled.


  • Electrolysis is a permanent method of hair removal.


  • One of the most expensive options
  • Can require years of sessions to get the full effect as hair follicles are treated on a one by one basis
  • Effectiveness and discomfort level will depend on the skill of the practitioner but either way, there will be associated pain
  • Treatments can last up to an hour for small areas and are quite painful
  • Temporary redness and irritation

What is Intense Pulse Light (IPL)?

In some laser hair removal facilities, IPL is considered interchangeable with laser hair removal. However, IPL is not the same as a high-quality laser and carries more significant risks with it.

IPL is a non-collimated, multi-light spectrum technology that has light travel in a much more shallow and dangerously dispersing manner. It is a less precise form of hair removal and not always effective at treating all skin and hair types. It can be quite dangerous for darker skin tones. It carries a higher risk of skin damage, burning and of photosensitivity, and is rarely worth the risk, especially when there are safer, more precise options available like true laser hair removal.


  • A great technology for Rosacea, veins, and pigmentation


  • Painful and carries a much higher risk of injury, including scarring and burning.
  • Darker skin tones can not and should not be treated with this technology
  • Not as effective as laser hair removal for permanent reduction of hair


What is Laser Hair Removal?

Laser hair removal is a single collimated beam of light that targets multiple hairs at once to destroy their roots so that those particular hairs follicles no longer regrow.

Laser treatments usually require 6 sessions, spaced approximately 6 weeks apart for the best results, as hair grows at different rates and each hair needs to be at a specific point in the growth cycle. Sessions, depending upon area size, may only take a few minutes.

This method of hair removal is not without discomfort, but thanks to advances in laser technology, it hurts much less than it did when the first types of technology came onto the market. Practitioners can also work cooling and pain relief methods right into the treatment itself, like cold air, my favorite method to numb the skin without reducing the effectiveness of the treatments.


  • Sessions are generally quick
  • Significant diminishing of hair growth
  • Can be used on almost any body part, including the face, legs or bikini line
  • Little downtime
  • Targets many hair follicles at once
  • Discomfort is minimal and non-lingering


  • Some people find the upfront cost a little daunting, especially if they’re used to paying only for razors or a single wax session. This does have to be weighed against the ongoing cost of monthly wax treatments.
  • Not effective for blond, white or grey hair.
  • Takes two weeks to three weeks for the initial hair to shed.

I have provided quality laser treatments in Murray Hill, Manhattan, and the greater New York City area for years, and my goals are to always educate my clients first, help them determine the right aesthetic option for their needs, and ensure that they are comfortable with their hair removal choice. Ask your esthetician to guide you toward the best option for your skin, and I promise the results will be more than you ever hoped for.


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