Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Treatment: Uses And What To Expect

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Treatment Uses And What To Expect

Due to natural aging, sun blemishes, redness, freckles, and other signs of patchy skin tone and texture start to appear. Intense pulsed light (IPL) is one of the most advanced forms of anti-aging, cosmetic treatments that uses light energy to remove pigmented or damaged skin cells or hair follicles. The procedure operates by delivering high–intensity visible light onto specific skin cells’ components like collagen, melanin, or hemoglobin.

What’s The Difference Between IPL And Laser Treatment?

While IPL is similar to laser treatment, a laser focuses just one wavelength of light on the skin, while IPL releases light of many different wavelengths, like a photo flash. Correspondingly, the light from IPL is more scattered and less focused than a laser. 

In addition, IPL penetrates down to the second layer of the skin (dermis) without harming the top layer (epidermis), causing less damage to the skin. Pigment cells in the skin absorb light energy, which is converted into heat. That said, the heat destroys the unwanted pigment to clear up freckles and other spots; the same goes for hair follicles that are also destroyed to prevent the hair from growing again.

Moreover, IPL can be used anywhere on the body, but it may not work well on uneven areas. However, it isn’t recommended for people who tend to get thick, raised keloid scars or have darker skin tones. Also, it is not as effective on light-colored hair as on darker hair.

How Does Intense Pulsed Light Therapy Work?

As indicated, IPL systems work on the same principles as lasers as the light energy is absorbed into target cells with color in the skin. With that in mind, the light energy is converted to heat energy, which causes damage to the specific target area. IPL systems differ from lasers because they deliver many wavelengths in each light pulse instead of just one wavelength. 

In fact, most IPL systems use filters to refine the energy output to treat certain areas. This enhances penetration without excessive energy levels and enables the targeting of specific chromophores. Moreover, IPL therapy is considered a non-ablative resurfacing technique, which targets the lower layers of skin without affecting the skin’s top layers.

Results of IPL may not be as dramatic compared to ablative resurfacing, where both dermis and epidermis are injured to create a much more noticeable overall outcome. However, the advantage of IPL therapy is its minimal downtime. Patients can have this treatment during lunch breaks and return to work immediately after the procedure.

What Are The Uses Of IPL?

Many people use IPL treatment to address a range of skin issues, including:

  • Acne scars
  • Hyperpigmentation, including age or liver spots and freckles
  • Birthmarks
  • Inflammation associated with Dry Eye Disease
  • Melasma, 
  • Rosacea
  • Scars
  • Spider veins
  • Stretch marks
  • Sun-damaged skin
  • Wrinkles

What To Expect From The IPL Treatment?

Before Treatment

Before undergoing an IPL treatment, the doctor will check if a patient is a good candidate for the treatment. The suitable candidates for IPL are anyone with minor skin issues, such as dark spots, blotchy or uneven skin tone and texture, redness, or rosacea. However, the treatment may not be good for anyone using medications or having a darker skin tone.

Two weeks before the procedure, certain activities and other products must be stopped, such as:

  • sun exposure or direct sunlight
  • tanning beds
  • waxing
  • chemical peels
  • collagen injections
  • creams or other products that contain vitamin A, such as RetinA, or glycolic acid
  • drugs that increase the bleeding risks, such as aspirin (Ecotrin) and ibuprofen (Advil)

During Treatment

During the treatment, the provider will ask the patient to wear safety goggles and apply a thin layer of lotion before performing light therapy treatment. Some people may find that it feels like an elastic band is being snapped, but using topical numbing cream is made to help with discomfort. Most people find the discomfort minimal.

After Treatment

Immediately after and for about four to six hours after the treatment, the skin may feel like a sunburn. A cold compress can help ease that discomfort. Also, the skin may appear red for one or two days, and the brown marks may become darker before they come off within a couple of weeks.

Avoid using makeup, perfumes, or deodorant on the treated area 24 hours post-procedure. The provider will also inform when the skincare routine can be resumed. 

What Is The Recovery Period?

Right after the procedure, the treated area may look red or pink, but this tends to last between 4 and 8 hours. The patient may also notice a stinging sensation 4 to 6 hours after IPL. This feeling may resemble a mild sunburn, and stinging can be eased with a moist cloth or cool pack.

Also, the most common side effect of IPL is swelling, which usually lasts several days after the procedure. During recovery, it’s advised not to put any makeup or lotion on the treated area for 24 hours post-procedure or until all the swelling has gone. Afterwhich, patients should moisturize the treated area at least twice a day for a minimum of 3 months.

How Long Does Intense Pulsed Light Last?

Most people need 3-6 treatments spaced 4-6 weeks apart for optimal results. After each treatment, a visible reduction in hair growth will be noticeable. 

Since every patient is unique, so is the required number of treatments. Once the desired results are achieved, maintenance treatments are typically needed once or twice a year to keep the hair away.

The Bottom Line 

IPL is a cosmetic skin treatment that helps reduce the signs of aging or any unwanted hair and the severity of skin hyperpigmentation, such as age spots, rosacea, birthmarks, freckles, large pores, wrinkles, and many more. Dash Medical Spa offers Intense Pulsed Light (IPL), a technology that helps penetrate deep into the skin, targeting problem areas and rejuvenating the skin. Ultimately, they are using the Visia® digital skin analysis to track the progress as part of their commitment to providing only the best possible care for every patient.


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