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IPL Aftercare Advice from PhotoFacial Professionals

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Published on May 3, 2019 By: WIFH Staff

Intense pulsed light therapy, or PhotoFacial, is a great treatment to help with uneven pigmentation due to sun damage or benign brown spots, redness due to rosacea, uneven texture, large pores, facial vessels, skin tone and laxity. However, in order for your IPL PhotoFacial to yield the best possible results for your skin, you’ll need to make sure you follow important aftercare recommendations. Here are the tips from experienced IPL/PhotoFacial professionals about how to take care of your skin after your IPL treatment:

Immediately After Treatment

  • Ice immediately after your treatment for approximately 30 minutes. After that you will need to ice 10 to 15 mins of every hour for the first 3 hours.
  • The night of your treatment, professionals recommend sleeping with an extra pillow under your head to prevent swelling.
  • You can begin washing your face the evening of your treatment. Wash the treated area with a gentle cleanser and warm water (not hot water) twice a day, and pat dry. At WIFH we recommend the Obagi Nu-Derm Gentle Cleanser.
  • Make sure you only apply make up after all the redness has subsided from your treatment.
  • Keep in mind that having a mild sunburn sensation is normal for the first couple of hours after treatment, but some people report having this feeling for as long as a couple of days post treatment.


  • DO hydrate!

Use a moisturizer twice a day to keep the treated area well hydrated, do not allow it to become dry. And use an SPF.

Your skin can feel drier than usual following treatment, and it’s not uncommon to have some redness/irritation afterward. Keeping your skin well hydrated will help to prevent any itching caused by dryness. While many think that hydrating the skin will prolong the shedding process, that is not the case. You want to keep the skin as hydrated as possible, since the more hydrated the skin the quicker the skin will heal, and thus purging the dark spots.  Though this advice might sound counterintuitive, trust the professionals that hydrating your skin will help the process move much faster.


  • DON’T exfoliate too soon.

Avoid exfoliation for one week post-IPL (which includes scrubs, acids, retinols/vitamin A, and powered cleansing brushes). IPL causes the brown spots/sun damage to darken, and they will become crusty and flake off on their own. If you pick or exfoliate these darkened areas before they are ready to come off, you run the risk of hypopigmentation. The darkened areas on the face will typically shed in about seven to ten days, but the body does take much longer to purge these dark spots–as long as four to six weeks.

  • DON’T scratch or pick the darkened areas

This is always tempting, but you risk hypopigmentation if you try to pick at the darkened areas too soon.

  • DON’T take super hot showers or baths for 48-hours after treatment.
  • DON’T expose yourself to the sun without protection for at least 4-6 weeks, although we would recommend trying to stay protected in the sun all the time, since you have just spent the money to have your brown spots removed.

After Brown Spots Have Shed

  • Once all of the brown spots have shed, you can resume your normal skincare regimen, but we would recommend adding a medical grade Vitamin C serum to your regimen in the morning.

Our Vitamin C recommendations: Skinceutical-CE Ferulic; Obagi C Clarifying Serum or iS Clincal Pro Heal Serum. However, which vitamin C product you should use will depend on your skin type, so make sure to consult your IPL professional pre- or post-treatment.

  • Example of a great morning skincare routine:

Cleanse and then use your preferred Vitamin C product in the morning followed by a moisturizer such as SkinCeuticals Metacell Renewal. Vitamin C will further help to lighten pigmentation and tightened the skin. Follow the vitamin c with a good moisturizer and SPF.

  • Example of a great nighttime skincare routine:

Cleanse, use a tretinoin or retinol product (Obagi tretinoin .05 or .1% or Karin Herzog Vita-a-Kombi oil) and moisturize if your skin is dry.

  • Always use an SPF of at least 30 every day and reapply as needed. The professionals recommend Elta MD Clear SPF 45, which helps to diminish redness and discoloration. To further protect your investment, at WIFH we recommend reapplying sunscreen throughout the day. The good news is you don’t have to smear a cream over your make-up in order to reapply your sunscreen. We recommend using ColorScience Total Protection brush-on shield SPF 50. So instead of using powder to touch up your make up, use this tinted dust-on sunscreen. It’s a two-in-one and comes in several shades.

IPL for Rosacea

  • When getting IPL for rosacea, expect the skin to be very red immediately after your IPL treatment. The redness caused from your IPL treatment will subside in about 24-hours, but for some it can last a little longer.
  • It imperative to ice as instructed to help prevent swelling. Icing immediately after treatment is the only way to prevent swelling. Once your treated area swells, it will remain swollen, and you will have to wait for it to dissipate on its own.
  • You don’t want to do anything that will raise your core body temperature, so no exercise, hot tubs, saunas, hot yoga, etc. until all of the redness had subsided (at most a few days).
IPL for Rosacea & Facial Redness
IPL for Rosacea & Facial Redness
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When to Contact IPL Practitioner

  • If you develop one or more blisters or scabs.
  • If you have excessive swelling or discomfort.
  • When you need another treatment.

The number of treatments necessary to get the best results will depend on what you are using IPL to treat, but make sure to schedule your next treatment within the time frame recommended by your IPL practitioner.

As long as you follow specific aftercare recommendations, you will see great results from your IPL PhotoFacial! Remember to hydrate, avoid exfoliation and sun exposure, and use high-quality products to get the most from your treatments.

Sarah Richardson, LME

Sarah Richardson is WIFH’s Lead Medical Aesthetician and manages the skincare side of our practice. She is also an Assistant Cosmetic Laser Practitioner licensed by the Georgia Medical Composite Board. With over 16 years of skin care experience, Sarah specializes in creating customized treatment plans to address our patients’ individualized needs. Through a combination of clinical facials and aesthetic procedures, as well as scientifically effective skin care products, Sarah helps patients achieve a healthy, radiant, and glowing complexion. She is truly passionate about what she does and loves to educate others who are looking to improve their skin’s health.