What Is Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)?

Intense pulsed light therapy (IPL), also called a photofacial, is a treatment that penetrates deep into the skin to improve the appearance of sun damage, fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, and other skin concerns.

IPL is an effective way to improve the look and feel of your skin without undergoing invasive surgeries. Let’s dive deeper into this popular treatment to see how IPL can benefit you.

What Is Intense Pulsed Light?

Intense pulsed light, in essence, means short pulses of very bright light. IPL treatments are often used to improve the appearance of sun-damaged skin, age spots, fine lines, and wrinkles. IPL can also be used to treat other skin concerns, such as rosacea and spider veins. 

During an IPL treatment, the skin’s pigment, or melanin, absorbs the light and breaks apart, correcting skin blemishes on the skin’s surface. The wavelengths of light deep into the second layer of your skin called the dermis, but it does this without harming the epidermis, or top skin layer.

As the skin heats up under the intensity of the light, it starts to shed unwanted cells, creating smoother, younger-looking skin. The light energy also helps to stimulate the production of collagen, which can help to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. 

Why Would I Need an IPL Photofacial?

IPL PhotofacialIPL can create a more appealing appearance on mottled, sun-damaged, or wrinkled skin. Typically, an IPL photofacial is performed on the skin of your face, but you can also receive treatments on your chest, hands, and neck. 

You can use IPL to improve the appearance of:

  • Acne
  • Age spots
  • Birthmarks
  • Broken blood vessels
  • Dark spots
  • Discolored skin
  • Fine wrinkles
  • Freckles
  • Rosacea
  • Scars
  • Spider veins
  • Stretch marks
  • Unwanted hair

IPL treatment isn’t perfect for everyone, however. If you are pregnant, or have certain skin conditions, it’s not a good idea to have IPL. It also won’t work well if you:

  • Are very dark-skinned
  • Have keloid scar tissue
  • Have light sensitivity
  • Have severe scarring
  • Have tanned skin
  • Use a retinoid cream

Talk with your doctor about your health history and your goals for treatment to be sure IPL is right for you.

How Well Does IPL Work?

Your IPL treatment’s success depends on your goals. It’s possible you may need several treatments to achieve the desired effect. 

For example, if you suffer from rosacea, or skin redness, one to three IPL treatments should eliminate up to 75% of the broken blood vessels under the skin. While they may completely go away, you could also develop new ones later on.

For sun damage, IPL can lessen up to 70% of the brown spots and redness caused by dangerous UV light.

If you’re suffering from acne, IPL may help lessen the frequency of acne breakouts and speed healing. Up to six sessions may be necessary to help with existing scarring, but the results can be dramatic.

The same is true for hair removal. Around six treatments can remove up to 70% of unwanted hair but it could take as many as 12 to achieve your goals.

After your IPL treatment, your skin may look younger and smoother because the tone and pigment have evened out. Since the light doesn’t affect the surrounding tissue, the healing is fairly fast and localized to the specific treatment area.

Is IPL Safe?

IPL is quite safe in the hands of a trained professional. It has been used successfully for two decades across the United States. It’s possible that you may experience some mild side effects from the treatment, such as light blistering or bruising. However, these side effects will be minimized by entrusting your treatment to a trained IPL provider.

How Is IPL Different From a Laser Treatment?

If you’re researching skin treatments, you may be confused by the differences between laser treatment and IPL phototherapy, given that both use light energy to stimulate clearer skin.

IPL is quite different from laser treatment. A laser focuses a single light wavelength to remove age spots, sun damage, wrinkles, unwanted hair, and other types of skin blemishes. The word, “laser,” actually stands for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation

On the other hand, IPL uses a multi-spectrum wavelength of colors that is a bit gentler but just as effective.

IPL is used for: Laser treatment is used for:
Erasing brown spots Erasing broken capillaries or spider veins
Improving skin redness Smoothing fine lines and deeper wrinkles
Reducing the appearance of broken capillaries Removing unwanted hair
Shrinking large pores Reducing the appearance of stretch marks
Rejuvenating skin in a gentle, natural way Removing tattoos

Both therapies use energy to target the skin’s pigment and blood cells to stimulate specific cells. The thermal energy these treatments generate are what breaks down the redness in the blood vessel or the brown spot that forms the skin blemish. 

Once the blemish is broken down, whether by IPL or laser, it can be absorbed back into the body for smoother, clearer skin.

What’s It Like to Have an IPL Photofacial?

IPL Photofacial effectsFor two weeks before your scheduled IPL treatment, it’s recommended that you stay out of the sun and avoid tanning creams or tanning beds. Also avoid a chemical peel or waxing. 

On the day of your procedure, do not take aspirin or another drug that will stimulate bleeding. You should also avoid deodorant, makeup, perfume, or anything else that could irritate the skin.

During your treatment, your practitioner will clean the area being treated. A cooling gel will be applied to the treatment area. You will wear dark glasses to protect your eyes during the therapy, and then the light therapy treatment will be applied with a small handheld wand device.

The pulsed light may feel like a light sting on your skin, almost like the snap of a rubber band. Generally, each session of IPL therapy takes about 20 minutes or slightly longer, depending on the area being treated. Larger areas could even take as long as an hour. The number of treatments will depend on your doctor’s plan to achieve your skincare goals.

You’ll usually wait about 30 days in between treatments to be sure your skin is fully healed. There is typically little to no downtime after IPL. Your skin will look like you were out in the sun; it may be sensitive and reddened for a few hours after the treatment. That sensitivity may last a couple of days.

Schedule Your IPL Appointment at Coastal Med Spa

If you’re considering IPL, why not call us to find out more? At Coastal Med Spa, we transform faces and bodies with the highest quality care. Let us help you look and feel your best.