Chances are you’ve heard that laser hair removal can be a miracle worker when it comes to getting rid of hair. What most of us haven’t heard is that there’s not just one type of laser – there are five. And some of them go by the kind of scientific names that can challenge our attention spans. So, in simple terms, here’s what they are, what they do, and how to pick the right one for you.
1 IPL: best for pale skin and light hair
Technically speaking, IPL (or intense pulsed light therapy) isn't a laser. But it's one of the most popular light-based hair removal types, so it would be rude not to mention it. While lasers send out a single beam of light, IPL sends out a whole spectrum. As it's less powerful than a laser, it can be less effective, which is why it's best for fair hair. It's also often a bit cheaper if you're on a budget.
2 Alexandrite: best for olive skin
Alexandrite has a slightly shorter wavelength than Nd:YAG. It's also got a fast repetition rate and bigger spot size, so it's perfect for targeting large patches of unwanted hair – like on your legs.
3 Nd:YAG: best for dark skin
No, the cat didn't just run across our keyboard – Nd:YAG is a hair-busting laser for darker complexions. (See, this is what we meant earlier about the scientific names.) It has longer infrared wavelengths that ignore the melanin in your skin and go straight for the hair follicles instead.
4 Diode: best for most skin tones
The new kid on the block, diode works on a range of wavelengths. Your technician will set it to the perfect wavelength for your hair and skin. That said, it works best if you've got a pale-to-medium skin tone.
5 Ruby: best for fair skin
Finally, a word we all know. Ruby was the first laser designed for hair removal. It's got a high rate of melanin absorption, so it works on fair and thin hair too. The paler you are, the better, as it can cause discolouration on darker skin. You'll usually get a patch test 24 hours before your appointment, so you'll know you've chosen the right laser before you go ahead and zap away. L8R, body hair.