What is the difference between IPL and Fractional Laser?

neulook Fractional Laser ,
woman getting laser co2 treatments

Many patients come into Neu Look Med Spa and ask which laser treatment will be most beneficial to their skin.

Fractional Laser Treatment vs. IPL Treatment

Our providers always take into consideration a patient’s skin tone, age, sun damage and texture when deciding which laser to recommend. “Intense pulsed light technologies have evolved significantly since their introduction to the medical community 20 years ago. Now such devices can be used safely and effectively for the cosmetic treatment of many pigmented lesions, vascular lesions, and unwanted hair.” (The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology)   However, IPL has only minimal effects on collagen and elastin, thereby not providing the same results as ablative laser resurfacing in treating wrinkles and scars.

Patients that should use IPL

Most people are unaware that “IPL uses pulses of adjustable light wavelengths to remove skin redness associated with rosacea, broken vessels, and acne. It also reduces age spots, brown spots from sun damage, and other types of hyperpigmentation. IPL can be used for the treatment of wrinkles, but it is not as effective as fractional laser for this.”

The best candidates for IPL are patients who have a lighter skin tone, with a main concern of their redness and sun spots. On average, most patients need three sessions spaced about 2-3 weeks apart. After an IPL, you may notice a darkening of your sun damage. This will take anywhere from 5-14 days to “flake” off. Wearing sunscreen and avoiding direct sun exposure after the treatment is imperative to see the best results.

Most patients see an immediate reduction in redness and broken capillaries after an IPL treatment. It can also help with post inflammatory marks left from previous blemishes on the skin. Unfortunately, IPL is not a good treatment for darker skin tones. It can cause more discoloration and potentially burn olive/tan skin. As an alternative, our providers can offer mild chemical peels and microneedling.

Patients that should use Fractional Laser Treatment

Fraxel is the brand name for fractional laser treatments. The process uses a laser to stimulate collagen production, to smooth wrinkles, and reduce the appearance of certain types of scars.

“The laser can also break up skin pigments to remove some brown spots and other types of hyperpigmentation,” DermaNetwork.com states. The fractional laser is also recommended over IPL for those patients who have more significant wrinkles and loss of elasticity, as well as for patients who have deep and textured acne scars.

Patients will need on average 3-4 treatments depending on their skin. You can space the treatments 3-4 weeks apart. After the treatment, you will experience redness, swelling and dryness. Patients can use ice and TNS Ceramide Cream to keep them more comfortable during the healing process. Thankfully, fractional laser treatments have relatively minimal downtime and you can wear a mineral makeup the day after to conceal any redness.

Healing after either treatment

As far as discomfort with either of these treatments, IPL is not painful, whereas fractional laser patients will need to have numbing cream applied 1 hour prior to help keep them comfortable. Beauty is pain right? Set up your free consultation with one of our providers to see which treatment is appropriate for you!



Q: What is the difference between IPL and fractional laser?

A: The fundamental difference between an IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) and a fractional laser is that the IPL is NOT a laser and fractional laser is. That in and of itself will not determine which one is more appropriate for you (if any) and that is determined by your skin type and the condition you are treating.


Q: What skin conditions does fractional laser treat?

A: Textural concerns such as large pores, lines/wrinkles, loose skin, acne scars, and stretch marks.


Q: What skin concerns can IPL help to improve?

A: IPL helps to even out the tones (colors) in the skin, such as, brown spots, sun damage, broken capillaries, rosacea, and treat certain types of acne.


Q: How long has IPL been around for?

A: The first IPL device obtained U.S. FDA clearance in 1995 for treatment of lower extremity telangiectasias (broken capillaries).