Let’s start with, what is IPL? IPL stands for “intense pulsed light.” You may also know IPL as PhotoFacial. IPL, or PhotoFacial, is a skin rejuvenation procedure that utilizes calculated pulses of light to treat various skin conditions. Unlike lasers, IPL uses multiple wavelengths of light with specialized filters to deliver just the right energy to treat specific skin conditions, like brown spots, sun damage, rosacea, and blood vessels.
This blog post will give you an idea of how IPL works and what to expect before, during, and after your IPL PhotoFacial treatments.
How IPL Works
When treating benign pigmented areas, the melanin absorbs the pulses of light emitted by the IPL device, damaging the tissue and causing the pigmented areas to darken and eventually flake off. The treatment works similarly with vessels: the blood within the vessel absorbs the light, causing damage to the walls of the vessels. The vessels then collapse and get reabsorbed by the body. In both instances, the IPL treatment pushes the body to begin the process of getting rid of the damaged tissue and/or vessels, leaving your skin free of those unwanted dark spots and red vessels.
Over the next several days and up to a week post-IPL, you will notice the brown spots darken in color and eventually flake off. Your vessels should show immediate improvement with continued results over the next few weeks.
IPL PhotoFacial Benefits
IPL PhotoFacials are perfect for skin conditions like uneven pigmentation due to sun damage and age spots, rosacea, uneven skin texture, large pore size, facial vessels, and problems with skin tone and laxity. Benefits of an IPL PhotoFacial include:
- Firmer, tighter skin
- Brighter, more even tone (reducing brown spot & sun damage)
- Reduced redness
- Improved texture
- Reduced pore size
Pre-IPL PhotoFacial Treatment
Though no prep is usually necessary for an IPL PhotoFacial treatment, at WIFH, we do ask that you discontinue your tretinoin or retinol products 3-days in advance of your treatment. You should also avoid sun exposure prior to your IPL treatments, since being at your natural skin color will help us get a true reading of your melanin levels.
Also, keep in mind that you should make sure to schedule a visit with your dermatologist prior to getting an IPL PhotoFacial to make sure all your dark spots are benign.
During IPL PhotoFacial Treatment
Prior to beginning your IPL treatment protective eye shields will be placed over your eyes. At WIFH, we use a skintel device to measure the melanin in your skin to determine the appropriate setting for your skin.
We will then apply a thin lubricant called lux lotion to the skin. This acts both as a protectant as well as a conductor for the light energy.
With each pulse you will feel warmth. Those with a lot of sun damage may feel a mild snap along with the warmth (similar to a rubber band snapping the skin). Numbing the area is not necessary as the sensation is very mild. All of our patients have been able to tolerate this treatment very well. You may also notice a flash of light with each pulse, even though your eyes are covered. Sessions take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes depending on your treatment area and skin condition you would like to treat.
Just after the treatment is complete, your skin will feel warm, and it could look at little flushed.
Immediately After IPL PhotoFacial Treatment
Ice the skin 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 elevate your head and 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.
You absolutely MUST use sunscreen of SPF 45 or greater and avoid sun exposure after your IPL treatment. You should be avoiding sun exposure and wearing sunscreen to keep your skin healthy anyway (wink, wink).
IPL PhotoFacial Treatment Results
For the best results from your IPL treatment, we usually recommend 3 or more treatments scheduled 4 weeks apart, but some patients–especially those treating redness from rosacea – may require more treatments for the best results.
Your dark spots should darken over the next few days post-treatment and flake off after several days, but it could take up to two weeks in some cases (this is really dependent on the area being treated). If you have treated vessels, you may notice them appear gray or blanched, but they should fully or partially fade two weeks after your treatment.
Once you start seeing results, you will notice a marked improvement in your skin and will feel and look years younger! Enjoy the results and keep taking care of your skin with high quality skincare products, hydration, sleep, and sunscreen.
At WIFH, we always offer a free consultation to help you decide if IPL PhotoFacial is right for you and to answer any questions you may have!