IPL vs Nd:YAG Laser Hair Removal for Darker Skin Types
Both IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) and Nd:YAG laser hair removal treatments have been deemed safe for use on all types of skin, ranging from I-VI on the Fitzpatrick scale. Our aim with this article is to find out if one treatment type is better than the other on darker skin types in terms of efficacy of hair reduction and safety, based on different clinical studies listed below.
What are the differences between both treatment types?
The Nd:YAG is the newest laser currently in use for the purpose of hair removal. Operating with a wavelength of 1064 nm, it penetrates deeper than any other laser to avoid damaging the epidermis and targets the hair follicle directly. This deeper penetration allows for a safer use on darker skin types as it is not deterred by darker pigmentation.
IPL operates differently to laser as it sends out multiple rays of light at different wavelengths at the same time. This allows for a faster coverage of the area treated, but a less targeted approach than a laser. While the Nd:YAG targets the area beneath the epidermis, IPL targets above and below in a fragmented approach.
Clinical Study Findings
We have reviewed two separate clinical studies comparing the results of IPL and Nd:YAG treatments on subjects with skin types ranging from IV to VI on the Fitzpatrick scale.
Hair Color (darkest)
White or very pale
Blue, grey, green
Always burns, never tans
Pale white with beige tint
Chestnut or dark blond
Always burns, sometimes tans
Beige to light brown (olive)
Sometimes burns, always tans
Light to moderate brown
Rarely Burns, always tans
Medium to Dark Brown
Rarely burns, tans more than average
Dark brown to black
Both studies revealed a similar result in efficacy in hair reduction. While there are currently no long-term studies available for the Nd:YAG laser, we can provide clear results for both treatments at the 6 month post-treatment level.
Study no 1.
Long-pulsed Nd:YAG laser vs. intense pulsed light for hair removal in dark skin: a randomized controlled trial.
- In order to determine which medium provides a higher efficacy and safety level in hair removal and reduction on subjects with skin types ranging from IV to VI on the Fitzpatrick scale, 50 women were selected to receive treatment on their armpits.
- One side was treated with the laser and the other side with IPL. The subjects received five sessions at 4-6 week intervals and hair density was recorded at the beginning of the study and 6 months after the last treatment session. Side effects, pain tolerance and satisfaction levels were also recorded at the end of the study.
- All women received axillary hair removal treatment (underarm hair removal)
- Hair counts and evaluations were taken 6 months after the final treatment
Out of the 50 initial participants, 39 completed the study. Six months after the last treatment session a hair reduction of 79.4% was recorded for the areas treated with the Nd:YAG laser and 54.4% for the areas treated with IPL. There were only temporary side effects recorded for both types of treatment, although there was more skin inflammation with the Nd:YAG laser.
Subjects also recorded more pain with the laser treatment than the IPL treatment but 74% of the participants recorded a preference for the Nd:YAG laser treatments due to the end results.
Study no 2.
Comparative study on a single treatment response to long pulse Nd:YAG lasers and intense pulse light therapy for hair removal on skin type IV to VI--is longer wavelengths lasers preferred over shorter wavelengths lights for assisted hair removal.
- In order to determine the safety and effectiveness of the Nd:YAG laser compared to IPL treatments on patients with darker skin types ranging from IV to VI on the Fitzpatrick scale, 11 subjects underwent a onetime treatment with both methods.
- Areas treated were the upper lips, chin, jaw, armpits and legs. One half of the body was treated with longer wavelength of the Nd:YAG laser (1064 nm) and the other half was treated with a shorter wavelength IPL system. All patients received topical anesthetic to the treatment areas prior to treatment.
The 11 subjects described the Nd:YAG treatment as more intense and painful than the IPL treatment, but that both were tolerable. Six weeks after the treatment a reduction in hair regrowth was recorded for both types of treatment, but higher on the Nd:YAG side (73% compared to 64% on the IPL side).
No side effects were observed on the Nd:YAG side, but some of the subjects experienced pigmentation changes on the IPL side. 3 of the subjects experienced blistering followed by post-inflammatory pigmentation on the IPL side. The final results of the study determine that while both treatment types are safe for darker skin types, the efficacy and safety of the Nd:YAG is higher than those of IPL treatments.
While both Nd:YAG laser treatments and IPL treatments have been proven to be safe for use on all skin types, based on different clinical study results, the Nd:YAG laser is a clear leader in terms of efficacy in hair regrowth reduction and safety on darker skins.
Although long-term results are not yet available for the Nd:YAG laser on any skin types, the results yielded from different studies provide us with the conclusion that the laser type is more effective as well as safer on darker skins.
- Long-pulsed Nd:YAG laser vs. intense pulsed light for hair removal in dark skin: a randomized controlled trial.
- Comparative study on a single treatment response to long pulse Nd:YAG lasers and intense pulse light therapy for hair removal on skin type IV to VI--is longer wavelengths lasers preferred over shorter wavelengths lights for assisted hair removal.