Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments help to restore a more youthful appearance by reducing the appearance of age spots, sun-damaged skin, benign pigmented epidermal lesions (such as freckles and melasma), and vascular lesions (such as spider veins, telangiectasia, and rosacea). It’s also commonly used to reduce undesired hair growth. IPL treatments can also help to improve the appearance of pores and restore a more youthful glow to the skin.
IPL treatments are performed with a non-invasive medical device that uses pulsed light therapy. However, IPL is not a laser treatment. IPL uses a different kind of light than laser treatments, and is non-invasive and non-ablative: it does not puncture or strip off layers of skin.
Most patients find the treatments very tolerable and normally do not require anesthetic cream (although that is an option if preferred). Our IPL treatments are customized for each patient depending on skin type and the condition being treated, so we do not use template “one-size-fits-all” packages or a series of treatments that is often offered with IPL therapy. Some darker skin types and sun-tanned skin may require fractional laser therapy instead of IPL. Treatments can typically be performed at approximately four week intervals. More than one treatment is often needed for optimal results. Treatment can be performed on most areas of the body. Come visit us for a consultation and learn whether IPL therapy can benefit you.
Skin pigment affects how intense the IPL treatment needs to be in order to achieve the desired results. For a long time, this was determined by the treatment provider based on patient history and subjective visual inspection of the skin. However, a newer technology called the Skintel™ melanin reader allows providers to get a more accurate idea of how much pigment your skin contains—even pigment that may not yet be visible, such as a tan that is still developing due to recent sun exposure. Using the Skintel device helps to optimize treatment and improve safety for patients where skin pigment or suntan issues may pose challenges.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What does IPL treatment feel like? Will it hurt?
Most of our patients find the treatment tolerable and describe the sensation as a hot pinch. A coolant gel is applied to the skin to help improve the treatment and to improve patient comfort. We do have topical numbing cream available if needed, but most patients do not need it.
How many treatments will I need, and how often will I have to have this done?
Many practices recommend 4-6 treatments. However, we usually see good results with 2-3 treatments, so it is important to consider the total cost of the treatment program and your time if you are comparing options. Our IPL treatments also include GentleWaves LED treatments with each IPL and may also include some gentle liquid nitrogen at the time of IPL for keratoses. These treatments are typically performed 3-4 weeks apart to allow your skin time to recover between treatments. Some future maintenance treatments may be advised, depending on your lifestyle and your skin. Your provider will discuss your skin’s needs with you during your consultation to provide you with a personalized treatment plan.
What will I look like after the treatment, and how long before I look “normal” again?
It is typical for your skin to be red and splotchy and for you to feel like you have a sunburn for the first hour or so after treatment. If your skin requires more intensive treatment, you may have a slightly peppery look, typically for 5-7 days after treatment. Depending on your skin, you may need a bit longer for full recovery. Your provider will assess your skin’s response to treatment and your likely recovery times and will discuss this with you after your treatment.
How long until I see full results?
Most patients see significant ipmrovement as early as 2-4 weeks after their IPL treatments. Skin may continue to show some continual improvement beyond that time frame as well, though individual results vary.
How do I care for my skin after treatment?
You can typically resume wearing makeup and/or SPF immediately after treatment.
Can IPL be performed on darker (ethnic or suntanned) skin?
IPL is less effective in more heavily pigmented skin. It can cause some loss of pigment and other problems if skin is too dark or too tanned. It can be used for some ethnic skin types, but may be less effective or may require more treatments due to the use of lower energy settings in some cases. We will review these issues during your consultation. Fractional laser treatments may be recommended by your provider as a good alternative.