Intense Pulsed Light

IPL (intense pulsed light) is used in skin treatments, primarily for photofacials. A handheld device delivers light to skin to help minimize sun damage, liver spots, broken capillaries, rosacea, and birthmarks.

Is IPL right for me?

IPL might be a good choice for you if:

  • you have a light to medium skin tone
    IPL can be used for darker skin tones, but typically there are better options.
  • you can avoid direct sun for several months
    Your skin will be more sensitive after IPL, so you’ll have to stay out of the sun.
IPL Dr Stephen Channey

What's the difference between IPL and laser treatments?

Both Co2 and IPL use light to heat and destroy their targets. Unlike lasers that use a single wavelength (color) of light that can only treat one condition, IPL uses a broad spectrum. When specifically filtered, this enables it to treat several skin conditions.

The treatment uses a bright light with filters placed in front of it to censor out certain wavelengths not consumed by pigment and blood vessels. The light energy penetrates just below the skin’s surface, damaging either the melanin (skin pigment) or blood vessels.

The body’s natural skin repair mechanisms then remove the damaged tissue to produce a smoother skin appearance. It usually takes three to six treatments to see significant results and treatments can be spaced out every three to four weeks.

IPL is good for removing pigment, like age spots, and small blood vessels, such as telangiectasias. In some cases it can also help with fine lines by lifting and tightening the skin, but that’s never guaranteed.

The advantage to IPL systems is that downtime is usually very minimal – although patients may experience a slight darkening of pigment before it eventually lightens.

When comparing IPL and laser treatments, visualize the difference in light from a flashlight compared to a small laser pointer, like your cat might chase. While IPL delivers broad-spectrum visible light (at many wavelengths), like a flashlight, a laser delivers one focused wavelength, like a laser pointer. This means IPL is able to target a large section of hair, unlike a laser which only targets a single hair.

Light from IPL is more scattered, so it is able to reach the second layer of your skin without damaging the top layer, which can occur during laser treatment.

Can IPL be used for darker skin tones?

IPL may work for darker skin tones, butDr Channey will help you decide if IPL is safe for your skin type.

What happens during IPL?

The device will be held and moved against your skin and the intense pulsed light is pulsed at the trigger of a button. You might feel a sting, like the snap of a rubber band.

What is IPL recovery like?

You may be able to return to work right away without any noticeable reactions, but IPL recovery time depends on how aggressive your treatment was. You may want to expect temporary discoloration or redness for a few days.

Short-term side effects are reddening of the skin, temporary bruising, and edema [swelling].  Rare reactions such as scabbing and blistering are possible but not very common. Protecting the skin by applying sunscreen daily is very important after IPL and will prevent future sun damage.

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