Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy, aka photofacial, is a way to improve the color and texture of your skin without surgery. It can undo some of the visible damage caused by sun exposure — called photoaging. You may notice it mostly on your face, neck, hands, or chest where your skin has been exposed to light the most.
IPL is indicated if you have red, brown, or splotchy skin and have relatively fair skin.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does IPL treatment work?
IPL uses light energy to target a certain color in your skin.
When the skin is heated, your body gets rid of the unwanted cells, and that gets rid of the thing you’re being treated for. Unlike lasers, an IPL device sends out more than one wavelength of pulsating light. It can treat a range of skin conditions at the same time. After IPL, you may look younger because your skin tone is more even. Since the light causes minimal damage to surrounding tissue, you can heal quickly.
Who should get IPL treatment?
It works best if you have pale or light brown skin. Talk to your laser technician if you want to lessen or get rid of:
- Stretch marks
- Liver or age spots
- Broken blood vessels
- Brown spots, also called liver or age spots
- Dark spots from hormonal changes
- Discolored skin
- Fine wrinkles
- Redness from rosacea
- Spider veins
- Unwanted hair
Who shouldn’t get IPL treatment?
Talk to your doctor first if you:
Have a skin condition
Take medication for other conditions
IPL isn’t a good idea if you:
- Are sensitive to light
- Have recently tanned your skin using sunlight, tanning beds, or tanning creams
- Might have skin cancer
- Use a retinoid cream
- Are very dark-skinned
- Have a skin resurfacing disorder
- Have severe scarring
- Have keloid scar tissue
- On the day of your appointment, avoid using perfume, makeup, and scented products that can irritate your skin.
How effective is IPL treatment?
How well IPL works can depend on what you want the treatment to fix.
Redness: After one to three treatments, light therapy can get rid of 50%-75% of broken blood vessels for most people. They could completely go away. While treated veins don’t come back, new ones might show up later.
If rosacea causes your face to flush, IPL can be a good alternative to laser therapy. You may have better results if:
- You’re under 40
- Your condition is moderate to severe
- Sun damage: You may see 70% less of the brown spots and redness caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Hair removal: You’ll get the most benefit if you have light skin and dark hair. It may not work at all if you have dark skin or blond hair.
Acne: IPL may help if you have acne or the scarring it causes. You may need about six sessions to notice a difference. Research is continuing.
What are the risks and side effects of IPL treatment?
IPL is safe when done by a trained technician. But the treatment could cause hormonal brown spots to flare up. You could have other unwanted side effects.
Your skin could:
- Become infected
- Change color
- Get crusty
- Contact your doctor if you feel sick after your treatment or your symptoms get worse.
What to expect during IPL treatment
Before the procedure, don’t:
Tan in the sun, in a tanning bed, or with tanning creams for 4 weeks before you go
Wax, or get a chemical peel or collagen shots for 2 weeks before
Wear perfume, makeup, deodorant, or any skin irritants
Take aspirin or another drug that can make you bleed more
Take any medication that will make you sun-sensitive; for example, the antibiotic doxycycline.
Once you’re there, a technician will rub gel on your clean skin. You’ll wear dark glasses to protect your eyes. The handheld IPL device will go right on your body. The session will probably last 30-45 minutes. Large areas could take an hour or more.
While most people are fine with the light pulses, the treatment could sting a little. It might feel like someone is snapping a rubber band on you.
What does recovery From IPL treatment look like?
It may feel like you have a sunburn for 4-6 hours after you’re finished. Ice packs or a cool washcloth can help you feel better.
Your skin may be red or bruised for a day or two. Some of your brown spots may get darker, but they should peel off within a few weeks.
While you heal:
- Don’t put on makeup if your skin hurts.
- Use moisturizing lotion.
- Protect yourself with sunscreen. Make sure it has an SPF of at least 30 and a physical blocker like zinc. Reapply it every 2 hours, even if it’s not sunny outside.
- Wash your face with cleanser for sensitive skin.
- Your dermatologist can tell you when it’s safe to return to your normal skin care routine. It might take a week.
Most people get between three and seven sessions. It depends on the condition you’re treating. You’ll wait 2-4 weeks between each visit. It may take several weeks for you to notice any changes in your skin.
Things to keep in mind about IPL
IPL can make your skin look better, but it can’t stop future aging. It also can’t help the condition that affected your skin. You can get follow-up treatment once or twice a year to maintain your look.
Alternatives to IPL Treatment
These options also may treat your skin spots, fine lines, and redness.
- Microdermabrasion. This uses small crystals to gently buff off the top layer of your skin, called the epidermis.
- Chemical peels. This is similar to a microdermabrasion, except it uses chemical solutions applied to your face.
- Laser resurfacing. This removes the damaged outer layer of the skin to promote growth of collagen and new skin cells. Lasers use only one wavelength of light in a concentrated beam. IPL, on the other hand, uses pulses, or flashes, of several types of light to treat multiple skin issues
What type of pigment can be treated?
IPL is designed to treat age spots, sun damage and freckles on the face, neck, chest, arms, hands, legs and feet.
What type of vessels can be treated?
IPL is designed to treat spider veins and broken vessels on the face, neck, and some other areas of the body.
Am I a good candidate for skin revitalization?
IPL can be safely used on most skin types. During your consultation, we will determine if you are a good candidate for the procedure based on a variety of factors.
What type of result can I expect?
You can expect to see a decrease in the appearance of brown spots, sun damage and vessels for a more even skin tone. You will see a continued improvement over the first 6 weeks after your treatment.
How long does the treatment take?
Depending on the size of the area and the condition being treated, the sessions could range anywhere from 5-30 minutes.
What does the treatment feel like?
Most people feel only a slight “snap” like a rubber band followed by warmth of your skin. You will also feel cooling on your skin as the handpiece glides over the treatment area to help in providing a comfortable session.
How many treatments will I need?
Depending on the condition being treated, 3-6 treatment sessions are recommended for desired results.
How far apart are treatment sessions?
Treatment sessions should be scheduled 3-4 weeks apart.
How much does the treatment cost?
Treatment costs vary depending on the size of the area to be treated.
How does it work?
Specialized pulsed of optimized light are used to target brown spots, sun damage and vessels without harming the surrounding skin. These imperfections absorb the energy delivered to your skin causing them to slowly disappear through your body’s natural healing process.
How quickly will I recover?
You can resume regular daily activities immediately following treatment.
Are there any side effects?
Immediately after the treatment, it is common to feel a mild sunburn-like sensation around the treatment site, which typically lasts 2-24 hours. Redness and/or swelling may accompany this and usually resolves in 2-3 days. We will discuss any other possible side effects and the necessary post-treatment care with you during the consultation, and it is also on your intake forms when booking your service.
IPL Photo-Facial Pre – Post Care Instructions
- Skin should not be tan at the time of treatment. Do not tan or use self-tanner for at least 2 weeks prior to treatment.
- If you are taking Antibiotics, we need to wait 2 weeks after last dose was taken.
- Stop all Retin-A, retinol, Renova, Differen, Tazorac, glycolics, bleaching creams and exfoliants 5 days prior to treatment.
- Shave any hair present in the area to be treated. Men should shave the beard area twice in succession in order to ensure as close a shave as possible. Be aware that there is a possibility of incidental hair loss when treating brown spots in hair-bearing areas.
- On the treatment day, arrive with clean skin, no lotions, creams or make-up.
- If you have a history of cold sores, pre-treatment with an oral anti-viral three days before treatment is required.
- You may have a mild sunburn sensation following treatment that is usually gone within a few hours. Skin redness, crusting, bruising, swelling or blisters may occur and last up to 10 days
- Cold compresses or ice packs should be used to reduce swelling or discomfort if needed. If eyes become itchy or swollen, take an allergy pill – any over the counter, non- drowsy for daytime will do
- Your skin will be fragile for 2-3 days. Use gentle cleansers with lukewarm water and DO NOT rub the skin vigorously
- Skin moisturizers may be used immediately, and makeup can be applied if the skin is not broken
- It is important to avoid sun exposure and tanning creams between treatments. Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunblock SPF 35 or greater on the treatment area at all times. It should be reapplied every 2 hours if outside. Wear a hat if possible
- Pigmented areas (freckles, sunspots) will usually darken after treatments. Crusting of the skin can also form. Please allow these areas to naturally flake off for best results. It may not flake for 7-10 days
- Avoid hot tubs, whirlpools, saunas and excessive sweating for 24-48 hours or until the redness has subsided
- Avoid irritants, such as Retin-A, retinol, Renova, Differin, Tazorac, glycolics, bleaching creams and exfoliants for 1 week
- following treatment
- Avoid chemical peels, facials and microdermabrasion for 1 week following treatment
- Follow-up treatment should be scheduled every 4-6 weeks until desired results are reached
- Consistent treatments will produce the best results
- For pigmentation, 2-3 treatments may be all that is necessary initially, but maintenance treatments are usually needed
- For diffuse redness (rosacea) or blood vessels, it may take 4-5 treatments for optimal results
Interested in scheduling a consultation, appointment or purchasing a package? Text 206-698-2431 or click the button below and our staff will reach out to you.