Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatment is a non-surgical, non-invasive procedure that targets age spots, fine lines, wrinkles, and unwanted body hair via light therapy in order to improve the appearance of the skin. It can also be used to treat skin that has been sun-damaged as a result of continuous exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
IPL works by targeting high-intensity pulses of light to your skin with the help of a special device. When these light pulses reach your skin, the cells in that area heat up and get destroyed, thereby eliminating the condition being treated. These pulses are typically of varying wavelengths to enable the treatment of various conditions simultaneously.
The main goal of IPL is to improve the appearance of your skin by treating:
As with all cosmetic procedures, it is highly recommended that you consult with your doctor first to determine whether you are a suitable candidate for this treatment.
IPL treatment is typically composed of the following steps:
1. The areas of your skin that are being treated will first be thoroughly cleaned, after which a cooling gel will be applied. You will also be asked to wear dark glasses for eye protection.
2. Pulses of light from an IPL device will then be applied to your skin, which may take about 30 minutes up to an hour to complete, depending on the size and location of the treatment areas.
3. You may then need to schedule up to six treatment sessions to achieve your desired results.
Intense Pulsed Light Treatment vs. Pulsed Dye Laser Treatment
The Pulsed Dye Laser (PDL) treatment is quite similar to IPL in that both procedures make use of light to eliminate damaged skin cells. However, unlike IPL, PDL makes use of a laser that emits light of only a single wavelength, which means that just one skin condition can be treated at any one time. Nonetheless, the light produced by the PDL laser is more powerful than that emitted by the IPL device, making it much more effective at addressing skin conditions with reduced treatment sessions.
Like IPL, treatment with PDL is quick, with most sessions taking under an hour to complete, and requires minimal to no downtime for recovery.
Other types of popular laser skin treatments include:
The Fraxel laser is known for being extremely effective at treating wrinkles, pigmented skin, as well as damaged skin. It works by delivering laser energy to the deepest layers of the skin and encourages the production of collagen and cell growth to repair damaged tissue. After treatment is completed, you will need to sport what looks like a sunburn for a while, which means downtime for recovery is required; however, you will notice a much more rejuvenated and livelier glow to your skin in a few days’ time, making the downtime worth the wait.
Dermal Optical Thermolysis (DOT) therapy is great for treating stubborn acne scars and involves making tiny dots in the skin in a distinct pattern, leaving the skin around these perforations untouched. This encourages collagen growth and enables the skin to undergo healing at a rapid rate in comparison to other laser treatments. DOT therapy requires minimal downtime for recovery and patients can typically expect to return to normal activities five to seven days post-treatment.
High frequency laser treatments are effective at treating scars left behind by acne. It works by applying a high frequency tempered glass electrode to the skin, setting into motion a reaction that allows the treatment areas to be infused with purifying oxygen to effectively eliminate bacteria and deep inflammation. High frequency laser treatments also encourage collagen and elastin production, pore shrinkage, exfoliation, and lymphatic drainage. The downtime for recovery with these treatments is usually minimal to none.
Your doctor will provide you with all the necessary instructions you need to follow prior to treatment with IPL. In general, it is highly recommended that you:
As treatment with IPL requires minimal to no downtime for recovery, you can resume normal activities almost immediately post-treatment.
Any aftercare instructions will be provided by your doctor; however, you will typically be advised to:
We understand you may want to change your plans due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and its health implications.
Side effects after IPL treatment are usually temporary and will gradually subside over time but may include:
These can be avoided so long as you choose a well-experienced and qualified medical professional to perform the treatment. If any of these side effects seem to be persisting, please contact your doctor immediately and seek medical attention.
Who is a good candidate for IPL treatment?
The best candidates for IPL treatment are individuals who:
Is IPL treatment painful?
While the pulses from the IPL device may produce a stinging sensation on your skin, many patients have likened it to being lightly flicked with a rubber band. However, the light pulses will usually be emitted in rapid succession, so you will barely feel any sting during the treatment.
How many treatment sessions will I need to attend after the initial session is completed?
Depending on the skin condition that is being treated and the location of the treatment area(s), you may need to schedule between three to six treatment sessions spaced about four weeks apart for the best results. Up to twelve sessions may be needed for body hair removal.
How long will the results last?
The results from IPL are typically expected to last up to a year but can last for longer so long as you properly care for your skin and ensure it is always protected from the sun. Your results can also be further prolonged with regular maintenance sessions.
What are other alternatives to IPL?
Other alternatives to IPL include: