Intense pulsed light therapy – aka IPL treatment – helps improve the skin’s color and texture without the need for surgery. This photofacial helps undo visible damage caused by sun exposure. IPL can also help freshen up skin with a red, brown, or splotchy appearance caused by a health condition. Many patients notice immediate results after treatment on the face, neck, hands, and chest.
Benefits of IPL
IPL treatments work to help fade lines and spots. Some patients also use this procedure to help remove unwanted hair. This type of treatment does not damage the top layer of skin, resulting in fewer side effects than other treatment options. IPL sessions are faster than other methods, allowing patients to schedule appointments without disrupting their daily routine. Additionally, recovery is speedy, with little to no downtime after the procedure.
How IPL Treatment Works
IPL treatment focuses light energy targeted at specific colors in the skin. IPL devices differ from lasers because they send out multiple wavelengths of pulsating light. As the skin heats up, the body naturally rids itself of unwanted cells. Ultimately, this type of treatment helps remove dull skin cells, improving the skin’s surface’s overall color and texture. Treatment helps even out the patient’s skin tone giving a younger appearance.
Since IPL uses light, the procedure does not hurt other tissues, making little to no recovery time needed. A board-certified dermatologist should give treatment. Some offices have skilled nurses or physician assistants experienced with IPL giving the treatments.
Why Get IPL Treatment
IPL treatments help even out skin tones. This procedure works best for patients with pale or light brown skin. Those seeking IPL treatment include those wanting to lessen the appearance of or remove acne, birthmarks, sun damage, stretch marks, liver or age spots, fine wrinkles, freckles, redness from rosacea, scars, and unwanted hair. Those with skin conditions, taking medications, or pregnant should speak with their physician first before seeking IPL treatment.
IPL treatments do not work well on those with darker skin or light hair. If unsure if IPL will work, consult a dermatologist. The skin care professional can advise if IPL treatment will work for individual patients and if not, offer alternative options to help correct areas of concern.
Difference Between IPL and Laser Treatments
IPL and laser treatments are similar. The only difference is laser treatments focus a single wavelength of light on the skin, while an IPL treatment uses several different wavelengths. The differences make IPL more scattered and less focused, covering larger surface areas. Additionally, IPL causes less damage to the top layer of skin because it penetrates the second layer of skin.
Prepare for IPL Treatment
Before scheduling treatment, the skincare specialist will examine the skin and explain what to expect. Share any concerns about current skin conditions, including inflammatory acne or eczema, which may affect healing post-treatment. The specialist will recommend what needs to be done before the treatment, including medications, activities, and skincare products to avoid for at least two weeks before the procedure.
Avoid direct sunlight and tanning beds before IPL treatments. Additionally, avoid any waxing, chemical peels, or collagen injections in the treatment area. Some medications patients are instructed to stay away from are those that increase bleeding risk, such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Skincare specialists may also recommend stopping using skincare products containing vitamin A.
IPL Treatment Procedure
Before starting treatment, the skincare specialist cleanses the treatment area. Patients wear dark glasses to protect their eyes during treatment as light pulses from the IPL device are directed to the skin. Light pulses do not hurt, but they do sting a little. Some patients compare the feeling to being snapped by a rubber band.
Depending upon the part treatment of the body, the process should take about 20 to 30 minutes. It may require three to six follow-up treatments to achieve desired results, spaced approximately one month apart. Hair removal patients may require six to 12 treatments to achieve desired results.
As with any other type of treatment, IPL costs vary depending upon the condition treated. Typically, IPL costs between $700 and $1,200. Additional fees may include pre-treatment tests, anesthesia, follow-up tests, and medication. Since IPL is considered a cosmetic procedure, most health insurance plans will not cover treatments’ costs.
Those interested in IPL treatments should request a consultation from a dermatologist. Some offices charge a small fee for the consultation, while others offer a free consultation. The consultation is a time to discuss the treatment, what to expect before, during, and after treatment, and go over all costs involved.
There is little to no downtime post-IPL treatment. Many patients can return to their daily activities immediately after treatment. The treated area may be sensitive and red for a few hours post-treatment. Many patients claim it feels like a sunburn, and some experience slight swelling. The skin will continue to be sensitive for a few days after treatment, and avoid using hot water on the area until it completely heals. A cool moist cloth may help ease stinging post-treatment.
Many patients experience mild side effects post-treatment. These side effects include mild redness or swelling around the treatment area. For most, this typically diminishes within one to two days. Some patients have experienced bruising, blistering, change in skin color, and infection. If any of these side effects occur and do not go away, consult a physician immediately to receive follow up care.
Additionally, patients receiving IPL treatments should not use makeup or lotion on treated areas for at least 24 hours, or all the swelling has gone. After this, it is recommended patients moisturize the treated area two times per day for three months. The skincare specialist will offer a post-treatment plan to follow. It is best to follow this plan to achieve long-lasting results from the IPL treatment.
IPL treatment helps target more extensive areas of skin, offering quick procedures with little to no downtown. Treatments help freshen up damaged skin by targeting discolored skin spots and wrinkles. To see if IPL is the best procedure for a specific area of concern, consult a dermatologist and schedule a consultation.