Photorejuvenation or Intense Pulsed Light Therapy
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatment
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) is a non-ablative resurfacing treatment where a broad spectrum of light is emitted directly into the affected skin to treat rosacea, hyper-pigmentation, acne, and rejuvenate the skin. It can safely and effectively reduce dilated blood vessels, persistent redness or flushing, brown spots or sun-damage, and acne. Patients are often amazed that IPL offers such impressive results with little to no downtime. A patient can often have the procedure done and return to work immediately afterwards.
How it works
IPL systems work on the same principles as lasers in that light energy is absorbed into particular target cells. The light energy is converted to heat energy, which causes damage to the specific target area. IPL systems, however, are different to lasers in that they deliver many wavelengths (or colors) in each pulse of light instead of just one wavelength.
The operator selects the settings and specific wavelength based on the skin type and condition being treated. A cool gel is then applied to the skin and both the patient and the operator wear protective eye goggles. The smooth, glass surface of the IPL treatment head is applied to the skin, delivering precise pulses of light to the area being treated. Each pulse of the IPL feels like having a rubber band snapped against the face, for a fraction of a second, and then the tip will cool the area down. On a pain scale of 1 to 10, 10 being unbearable pain, you should feel the “snap” at a pain level of a 4 or 5 maximum. It is generally described as tolerable discomfort. The skin will be slightly red after the treatment. Treatment sessions usually last about 20 to 30 minutes.
What should I expect after treatment?
After treatment, hyper-pigmentation and sun spots will get darker for about 3-4 days, and may even crust. It is important that you do not pick at your skin and DO NOT pick at any crust. Allow the crust to form and fall off on its own. The spots will get darker, may or may not crust, and then eventually start to lighten. Blood vessels will get darker, even purplish, and slowly dissipate and get re-absorbed by the body. Most results will be noticed within 2-3 weeks after treatment, but skin may continue to improve for months after the treatment.
How many treatments will I need?
A course of 4-6 sessions every 3-6 weeks may be needed to achieve desired results. IPL is not effective for everyone. However, most patients notice a marked reduction in dilated blood vessels and brown pigmentation after only one or two treatments.
Are there any side effects?
Side effects are minor and include:
- Pain during treatment (reduced by contact cooling and if necessary, topical anesthetic)
- Skin turning pink and a little sore immediately after the procedure.
- Sensation of mild sunburn (redness, peeling, swelling) that may last a few days after treatment.
- Rarely, skin pigment may absorb too much light energy and blistering can occur.
- Sometimes the pigment cells (melanocytes) can be damaged leaving darker or paler patches of skin. White patches or scars are rarely permanent.
- Hair loss may occur if treated over hair growth.
- Bruising affects up to 10% of patients
Pre and Post Treatment Considerations
- Avoid any sun exposure in the days and weeks before and after treatment.
- Sun bathing should be avoided for the month after treatment.
- Use sunscreen daily with an SPF of 25-30 and re-apply every two hours, especially when outdoors.
- Avoid excessive heat or any activity that will heat up the tissue, such as strenuous exercise, sauna, etc for 2 days post treatment.
- Use gentle, non irritating cleanser and moisturizer for the first week after treatment and avoid any scrubs, acids, retinoids, and other irritants until skin has healed.
- A course of 3-6 sessions every 3-6 weeks may be needed to achieve desired results.
- Most patients can return to work immediately after treatment.
Why is sun avoidance so important?
Sun exposure can dramatically cause or worsen both rosacea, melasma, and hyper-pigmentation. IPL treatment success depends on several factors —skin type, condition of your skin, lifestyle, and the amount of sun exposure you get following the procedure. For example, not protecting your skin from the sun after treatment can provoke a strong reaction and possibly worsen your skin condition.
Most patients do see improvement; however, with any medical procedure there is always the possibility that you will only see a minor change or not see a response. Rosacea also may worsen temporarily before you see improvement. Oftentimes, you will need a second or even third treatment until you see visible results. Your therapist can determine if you are a good candidate for IPL and how many treatments you will require.