What is IPL?
IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light, a widely-used outpatient treatment for vascular conditions like rosacea and spider veins, as well as excessive pigmentation—such as age spots—caused by age and sun damage. Also known as a “photo facial,” IPL has been a recognized dermatologic procedure since the 1990s.
How it works
IPL is sometimes confused with laser treatment, but the technology is not quite the same. IPL can focus on a larger area, which can result is less treatment time. Using short bursts of high-intensity light to penetrate the skin surface, IPL targets and damages the melanin that causes hyperpigmentation (age spots), and the broken capillaries that produce spider veins. Your body’s natural repair systems then gradually repair the damaged areas. In the process, IPL also stimulates the production of collagen and elastin—natural proteins that contribute to the firmness and suppleness of skin—helping to plump up your skin and give it a fresher look.
While IPL is typically not as painful as laser treatments, you will probably experience some discomfort. (The sensation is often compared to the feeling of a rubber band being snapped on the skin.) To minimize this, a cooling gel is applied to the skin before treatment.
IPL is an outpatient treatment. There are no restrictions on activity following treatment, and makeup can be applied afterward. You should begin to see a lightening of treated areas within three to seven days. Most patients will require a series of from three to five treatments, usually spaced about a month apart.
Is IPL for you?
IPL is most effective on light, untanned skin. Because darker skin absorbs more light energy, it may not be recommended for people with darker complexions, as burns, blisters, and hyperpigmentation can result. While IPL can be used for hair removal, it cannot eradicate tattoos, and can actually have the effect of making them permanent.