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How Are Laser Treatment and IPL Treatments Different?

When looking at the options for laser tattoo removal, many people confuse laser tattoo removal (Q laser) and IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) treatments because they both work by emitting a beam of light energy onto the skin. But scratch the surface and you’ll find that they are not the same, and the differences are worth considering before you decide which treatment to opt for.

True, both are used for hair removal and treating wrinkles, spots, acne scars, rosacea, and other skin conditions, and both technologies have made skin treatment healthier, less evasive, and more effective. However, contrary to popular belief, these two treatments can produce very different results, so in this post, we’ll be looking at what you need to consider when making your decision about which treatment to go for to remove your tattoo.

The Similarities between IPL and Laser Treatment

So, are there any similarities beyond them both being light treatments? The answer is yes. Let’s look at these first.

Both technologies are ‘non-ablative’ – that just means they don’t destroy all the skin along with the tattoo. In the past, the only way to get rid of a tattoo was by a doctor surgically cutting it out bit by bit, or by literally scrubbing the top layer of skin off to then get to the tattoo itself. Sounds like some kind of medieval torture, I know, and it’s also far more likely to leave scarring. So, yes, things have moved on with both IPL and laser treatments able to offer far less invasive procedures.

Both treatments are able to do this by targeting the dermis, which is the second layer of the skin, without affecting the epidermis, which is the outermost layer of the skin (you can learn more about that in my blog about how laser treatment works).

Both IPL and laser technologies emit light and change that light to heat energy. The energy shatters the pigment particles into even tinier particles, which can then be carried away by the body’s lymphatic system along with the other toxins and dead matter the body naturally rids itself of every day.

So far, so good. Now let’s take a closer look at each treatment.

What Is IPL Treatment?

Intense pulsed light therapy (IPL) uses broad-spectrum light. This makes it useful for treating a variety of skin conditions including hair removal and thread veins, but how does it fare when used to remove a tattoo?

For tattoo removal, IPL works by sending light through a prism that is put on the skin. It isn’t a laser. When this light reaches dark areas such as the tattoo pigment, it breaks it up and the lymphatic system can then clear away these smaller pigment particles.

An important consideration when choosing between treatments is that IPL works best on people with light-coloured skin and has a lower success rate on dark skin. This is because IPL targets the dark colour in the dermis and this treatment brings a greater risk of hypopigmentation (localised permanent loss of skin colour).

What Is Laser Treatment?

A Q-switched laser emits a narrower type of light, which is able to target a specific part of the tattoo and reduce the risk of overheating the surrounding skin. Lasers are different to normal light and are far more intense and much more accurate and focused.

Q-switching is a special type of laser pulse creation that produces intensely powerful, brief pulses of light energy – typically lasting just a few nanoseconds. This fast, intense pulse of energy works well for laser tattoo removal, as tattoo ink particles are extremely small (typically nanometres in diameter), and only need to be heated for a very brief period of time to warm up and explode.

This treatment also works well on professional tattoos where the pigments have been injected into the deeper layer of skin – the dermis – making them more difficult to remove in contrast to tattoos that have been self-inked and are not as deeply embedded.

So, Which Is Better?

Evidence to date shows that Q-switch laser treatment is the best way to remove a tattoo. Non-Q-switched lasers and Intense Pulsed Light therapy (IPL) can be used, but have been shown to not be as effective. There is also a higher risk of them damaging the skin around the tattoo.

So, there you have it. Both IPL and laser treatments remove tattoos by using light to shatter the pigment in the dermis. Both are the least invasive treatments and have a lower risk of scarring. However, of the two treatments, laser treatment is less likely to cause damage to the skin. IPL treatment should also be avoided on those with dark skin.

Want to Find Out More?

If you’d like to learn more about laser tattoo removal treatment and what we can offer you here at the Veloce Laser Clinic, why not book a consultation with one of our professionally trained staff. We take pride in our knowledge and expertise and want to share it with you to help you make the best decision for your tattoo removal. Call us now on 07802 620004 or follow this link to book your appointment today.