What are IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) treatments used for?
– Evening out skin tone
– Lightening and removing flat, benign pigmented lesions (freckles, sunspots, age spots and general pigmentation) on the face, neck, chest, hands and other areas of the body
– Lightening and reducing facial vascular lesions, and telangiectasia (spider veins, broken capillaries and red spots ) diffuse redness and rosacea on the face, neck and chest
– Lightening and reducing red scarring, stretch marks, Campbell de Morgans spots or cherry angiomas (red spots of varying size) and Poikiloderma (redness, pigmentation and a spotty look to the neck and/or décolletage)
– Helping to control flushing
– General improvements with uneven and blotchy skin
– IPL treatment also has a lesser effect of improving skin texture & firmness through collagen stimulation and improving pore size by temporarily reducing skin oiliness
– IPL treatments are sometimes beneficial for Acne breakouts, but individual results may vary
– Destruction of pre-cancerous lesions (actinic keratosis) when used in conjunction with Levulan (a light activated topical drug) is described in another blog posting
– Note that the ND:YAG Laser is the preferred treatment modality for moderately sized vascular lesions; however, medical grade IPL is a good choice for small vascular lesions, diffuse redness and general overall skin rejuvenation. The ND:YAG laser provides a single high power wavelength that is targeted at hemoglobin or melanin, but the IPL device (which is not a laser) provides a broad range of colors, not all targeted.
– IPL is NOT recommended for Melasma. Melasma is the brown splotchiness on the forehead, cheeks, upper lip, or jaw line that is triggered by hormones and light. Hormones stimulate the growth of cells (melanocytes) that make brown pigment. Natural light (and IPL) stimulates the production of even more brown pigment (melanin). The Clear & Brilliant laser would be an option for treatment of Melasma.
How does the IPL treatment work?
The IPL machine emits high energy bursts of light that is absorbed by hemoglobin (the red blood cells in the blood vessels) or melanin (the brown pigment in freckles and age spots). The light energy passes through the skin and is absorbed by either hemoglobin or melanin resulting in damage to the vessel wall or fragmentation of melanin pigment. These tiny vessels and the melanin pigment are then absorbed by the body, rendering them less visible.
How many treatments are required?
Treatment of benign pigmented lesions generally require 2-5 treatments performed approximately every month or once all the darkened cells have sloughed off. Vascular lesions or diffuse redness generally require 2-5 treatments at monthly intervals to achieve the best results. This is so we can progressively destroy the vessels without damaging the surrounding skin.
The number of treatments and subsequent results will depend on the condition and area being treated. You can expect to see some improvement with each treatment, but each individual’s response may be slightly different to each treatment. The more sun damage or redness you have, the more likely you are to require more treatments. IPL machines that are sold to salons and spas generally have less power than the IPL machines sold to physician’s offices and may require more treatments for similar results.
Is Your Skin Suitable For IPL Treatment?
The table below is used to classify skin according to its melanin (pigment) content and the skin’s reaction to the sun. The lighter the skin type, the more suitable it is for IPL treatment.
|Skin Type||Classification||Colour||Indication for IPL|
|I||Always burns easily and never tans||White||Best skin for IPL treatment|
|II||Burns easily and tans minimally||White||Good skin for IPL treatment|
|III||Sometimes burns and tans gradually||White||Good skin for IPL treatment|
|IV||Burns minimally and always tans||Moderate||Acceptable skin for IPL treatment|
|V+||Rarely burns, naturally dark skin||Dark Brown+||Not recommended for IPL treatment|
Do I require a consultation before I schedule a treatment?
You must be seen in consultation prior to your first IPL Photorejuvenation treatment. During your consultation any specific concerns or questions will be addressed. The cost of consultation will be applied against your first treatment.
What should I do prior to my IPL treatment?
– Please shave the area before your IPL session.
– If you have a history of herpes close to the area being treated, it is recommended that you take antiviral medication before the treatment.
– Avoid self-tanners and unprotected sun exposure 4 weeks prior to treatment. Use quality SPF 30+ daily on sun-exposed skin that is to be treated.
– If you have a history of hyperpigmentation, you may be prescribed topical agents to apply 4 weeks prior to treatment to prevent any hyperpigmentation.
– You will need to discontinue any medications cause light hypersensitivity for a week before each treatment, such as antibiotics (minocycline, tetracycline, doxycycline) or Vitamin A compounds (Retin-A/Renova).
– You may be asked to avoid taking aspirin, ibuprofen, or Aleve one week prior to treatment unless medically indicated as these medications can promote bruising.
– You will be required to discontinue oral isotretinoin (accutane) for 6 months prior to treatment.
– IPL should be avoided if you are pregnant, have a history of seizures, healing problems or keloid formation, severe dermatitis or eczema (within the treatment area), active infections or open wounds in treated area, have a significant systemic illness, have a history of skin cancer or suspicious lesions, are hypersensitive to sunlight, take anticoagulants or medication that alters wound healing, have received gold therapy, or are experiencing cold sores / herpes outbreaks.
What is a typical IPL treatment like?
Prior to treatment, all makeup creams and lotions will be cleaned from the treatment area. Your therapist will put special goggles over your eyes to protect them from the intense flash of the IPL machine. A cool gel is then placed on the skin being treated. The IPL handpiece is gently applied to your skin and pulses of light are administered. Our equipment also utilizes Zimmer cooling technology for increased comfort and safety. Test spots are utilized to reduce the risk of complications and optimize results. You will experience a slight sensation as the light pulses are passed over your skin. The sensation is usually mild and easily tolerated, but there may be some mild discomfort during the treatment (the first treatment typically has the most “zing”). As your skin begins to clear, the treatments usually become more comfortable. At the end of the treatment, the gel is removed and the skin is cleansed with a cloth and moisturizer with sunscreen is applied. If there is any mild swelling, you may be given a cold pack to apply for five or ten minutes. Typically you may reapply foundation or concealer immediately after a treatment. Treatments usually take 30-90 minutes, depending on the size of the treatment area. Levulan treatments follow a different protocol that is described in another blog post.
What can I expect after the IPL treatment?
Your skin may may have a mild “glow” or light sunburn like sensation lasting for 2 to 5 hours after your treatment. Your skin will often feel smoother and have a more even tone. The treated area is generally more sensitive to heat for 2 days following treatment.
– For diffuse redness, generally, the skin looks redder after the treatment then gradually lightens within 1-3 weeks. Makeup can be used right after the treatment, as long as it is applied and removed very gently. Rarely, there is bruising, which can take 1-2 weeks to resolve.
– Contact sports or any other activity that could cause bruising should be avoided.
– After treatment of vascular lesions they will typically either disappear immediately or appear grey or purplish in colour. Vascular treatments generally require at least 3 treatments for best results.
– For freckles and age spots, the spots generally look darker for 3-7 days. Crusting can occur, which may last up to ten days. The lesions will then begin to clear and will generally be resolving at one month. It can take an average of 3-5 treatments to clear age spots.
– Acne prone skin may sometimes have a breakout after treatment.
Are there side effects from IPL treatment?
The main side effects are mild, temporary swelling, redness, an accentuation of the brown spots, crusting, and an occasional bruise or small superficial blister. Do not pick blisters or skin crusting as this may lead to a scar. Treated pigmented lesions will typically slough off in 2-3 weeks. Do not shave the treated area if crusting is evident. Another side effect of IPL treatment is some hair reduction; however, IPL is not as effective as laser hair removal, and more treatments are generally required to achieve similar levels of hair reduction.
Darker patches of pigment on the skin may occur a couple of weeks after treatment (this is not the immediate darkening of pigment we expect when treating pigmentation). This can last from 2 weeks up to 1 year and can be treated with a special lightening cream. You are more at risk of this occurring if you have a darker skin type.
Whiter patches on the skin can occur. This can last 2 weeks up to 1 year, though also has the potential to be permanent. You are more at risk of this occurring if you have a darker skin type.
Higher treatment levels increase treatment effectiveness, but also increase the possibility of adverse effects. Test spots can aid in finding the optimal treatment settings.
How long will results last?
IPL Photorejuvenation will improve many of the visible signs of aging and sun-damaged skin; however, with the passage of time and with environmental exposure, skin ages as we do. If you are exposed to a lot of sun and do not use sunscreen, the underlying issues, will return sooner. However, if you follow a good preventative skin care regime and keep it protected from the sun, your skin will continue to look good. Quality sunscreen, hats and sunglasses are excellent protection for overall skin health. Typically, maintenance IPL treatments are recommended every 6-12 months, depending on individual factors.