Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Treatment is a therapy that many have already warmed up to. Since it is non – invasive and brings results in a relatively short period of time, it has gained its own loyal enthusiasts all over the globe. How effective is it and in what conditions is it helpful? You are going to find the answers in this article.

How does IPL work?

The procedure operates on delivering high – intensity visible light onto specific skin cells’ components – melanin (the skin’s pigment), hemoglobin (the protein which carries oxygen in the blood) or collagen (the main structural protein of the skin) (1). Because the wavelength of the applied light can easily be changed, a doctor is able to tailor the cosmetic procedures specially to the patient’s needs – namely, the melanin will be targeted in case of hyperpigmentation, hemoglobin in skin redness e.g. in eczema, rosacea or acne and collagen – in correcting superficial wrinkles. Once the health – giving light reaches the target cell, its energy is transformed into heat which breaks the excess of melanin or hemoglobin apart (2). As for collagen, the heat tightens the bonds between its particles so that it forms a firmer and tougher structure that’s less prone to breakdown and creating skin folds. Moreover, there’s one other action of the procedure – since the created light can destroy the cohesive proteins in the hair bulb, the therapy is also efficacious in hair removal.

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)

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.

Does the treatment hurt?

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?

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)

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.

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