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Home » Cosmetic Procedures » Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Treatment: Efficacy, Costs & Side Effects

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Treatment: Efficacy, Costs & Side Effects

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Therapy, also known as a photofacial or photorejuvenation, is a sophisticated cosmetic technique that utilizes high-intensity pulses of visible light to enhance the complexion. This innovative technology is widely used to treat a diverse range of skin disorders, including sun damage, hyperpigmentation, age spots, rosacea, and broken blood vessels. In addition, it can be employed to improve the texture and tone of the skin, while minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Typically, IPL therapy is executed by a highly skilled medical professional, such as a dermatologist or aesthetician, in a specialized medical office or clinic. The treatment lasts between 30 to 45 minutes, beginning with the cleansing of the treatment area, followed by topical anesthesia application to minimize discomfort. Subsequently, the IPL device is delicately placed on the skin, and a series of pulses of light are meticulously delivered to the targeted area. The number of pulses and the intensity of the light are subject to the specific skin condition being treated, as well as the unique needs of the patient.

IPL therapy is a cutting-edge cosmetic procedure that leverages the power of light technology to enhance the complexion, reduce signs of aging, and restore a youthful appearance to the skin. This highly effective treatment is performed by a skilled medical practitioner in a specialized facility and can be tailored to the unique needs of each individual patient.

How does IPL work?

IPL treatment functions through the emission of high-energy light pulses that are absorbed by the skin’s pigment. The light energy is then converted into heat energy, which results in the destruction of targeted cells and the stimulation of collagen production. Collagen, a protein that helps to maintain the skin’s youthful and smooth appearance, is then produced as a replacement for the damaged cells (1). This process leads to a significant improvement in the skin’s texture and tone. The light used in IPL treatment can target specific areas of the skin, such as blood vessels, pigmented cells, or hair follicles, and destroy them with heat.

The IPL cosmetic procedure works by utilizing high-intensity visible light to target specific components of skin cells, namely melanin, hemoglobin, or collagen. This can be achieved by adjusting the wavelength of the light used to cater to the individual patient’s needs. For instance, melanin is targeted in cases of hyperpigmentation, hemoglobin in conditions that cause skin redness, such as eczema, rosacea, or acne, and collagen in the correction of superficial wrinkles. Once the light energy reaches the targeted cell, it is converted into heat, breaking apart excess melanin or hemoglobin, and tightening the bonds between collagen particles. This results in the formation of a firmer and more resilient structure that is less prone to breakdowns and the development of skin folds. Additionally, IPL treatment is also effective in hair removal, as the light can destroy the cohesive proteins in the hair bulb.

Is it a laser treatment?

Many people are convinced that IPL is a form of typical laser treatment. However, it is not. While both procedures are based on similar mechanisms, they differ from each other in two crucial aspects: wavelength and skin ablation (3). In Intense Pulse Light Treatment there are multiple wavelengths used (that’s also why it can target such a wide array of various conditions); at the same time lasers operate on a single wavelength. When it comes to the degree of skin ablation (the damage of the surface of the skin), IPL is 100% non – ablative (it affects only the deeper layers of the skin) while a laser treatment can be ablative or non – ablative, depending on its kind.(4) Read here to learn the difference between IP and laser skin resurfacing.

In what conditions are IPL effective?

As already mentioned, indications for Intense Pulse Light Treatment are numerous. Because the therapy addresses light – absorbing pigment particles, it proves to be useful in alleviating skin redness (erythema), broken blood vessels, rosacea as well as hyperpigmentation due to various different reasons like inflammation, sun damage, aging or birthmarks.(5) Owing to the fact that it stabilizes the skin’s natural collagen, it is extremely effective in correcting facial wrinkles, folds and lines.

When to expect the effects?

The first effects should be seen even after the first session however it is strongly advised to undertake at least 3 sessions of the therapy to enjoy fuller results. Mostly, a whole series of 3 – 5 treatments is prescribed.

How often can IPL be repeated?

Intense Pulse Light requires very little downtime and therefore can be repeated once a month. Contact a dermatologist first though for a personalized routine.

Cost of IPL: IPL prices can vary from location to location. Learn about the cost of IPL near your location.

Does the treatment hurt?

IAfter the treatment, the skin may be red and swollen, and may feel like it has been sunburned. These side effects are generally mild and should resolve within a few days. It is important to protect the treated skin from the sun by wearing sunscreen and covering up with clothing or a hat until the skin has fully healed.

i\In most cases, no, the treatment does not hurt, although it really depends on one’s personal pain threshold and sensitivity. Often the feeling during the procedure is described as being snapped with a rubber band on the skin.

Are there any side effects of IPL and is it safe?

Any medical procedure entails its own side effects, nonetheless it does not mean that they will happen. In fact, they are rare.(6)

  • Immediately after the treatment, minor redness and/or swelling may be noticed. It should naturally subside within 24 – 48 hours or eventually up to 4 days in more aggressive treatments.
  • Skin dryness or flaking around the treated area might be experienced however the moisture should be regained within maximally a week.
  • The not so common side effects of IPL include hypo – or hyperpigmentation, burns, pain, itching or skin infection. (7)
  • IPL treatment is generally considered safe and effective, but it is not suitable for everyone. People with dark skin tones or those who have recently used tanning beds may be more likely to experience side effects, such as changes in skin color or scarring. It is important to discuss any potential risks and concerns with a healthcare provider before undergoing IPL treatment.

Are any medications contraindicated before the procedure?

It is advised not to take the following drugs before IPL:

  • Accutane/Retin – A and other forms of tretinoin; they deprive the skin of its natural protective barrier and make the skin more susceptible.
  • Anticoagulants; it doesn’t pose a direct risk nevertheless it can increase the probability of bruising.

How to take care of the skin after IPL?

Intense Pulse Light treatment makes the skin more susceptible to sun damage and associated skin darkening. It is crucial to use a high SPF and broad-spectrum sunscreen as well as to moisturize the skin adequately.

IPL treatment is not a one-time solution, and multiple treatments may be needed to achieve the desired results. The number of treatments needed will depend on the specific skin condition being treated and the patient’s individual goals. Some people may see improvement after just one treatment, while others may need several treatments spaced several weeks apart to achieve their desired results.

Overall, IPL treatment is a safe and effective way to improve the appearance of the skin and treat a variety of skin conditions. It is important to discuss any concerns or questions about the procedure with a healthcare provider to determine if it is the right choice for you