Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Therapy OverviewIntense pulsed light (IPL) treatments, also called photofacials or photorejuvenation,use various light wavelengths delivered in brief pulses to create visible improvements in skin texture and color.These light pulses heat the tissues and focus on specific, unwanted pigments in your skin. The targeted cells are affected by the light wavelength, resulting in improved tone and texture of the skin.
Photofacials target abnormal pigmentation, blood vessel formation and redness. IPL treatments may stimulate collagen production to improve the overall tone and texture of the skin.
IPL treatments may improve the visible damage from sun exposure (called photoaging) that is often found on the hands, chest, neck and face. These quick sessions may significantly improve many skin imperfections with minimal downtime.
Are You a Candidate for IPL?Most people with uneven skin tone and texture qualify for photofacial treatments. If you have any of these skin conditions of the face, neck, hands, decolletage and other body areas, intense pulsed light therapy may be right for you:
- Age spots (also called brown spots or liver spots)
- Broken blood vessels
- Skin discoloration
- Skin redness caused by rosacea
- Sunspots or sun damage
- Uneven skin texture
- Spider veins
- Hormone-induced dark spots
Pregnant women, people with certain skin conditions and those taking medications (such as retinoid cream) that may interfere with the treatment and healing may not qualify for IPL. If you have keloid (thick, raised tissue) scarring or are prone to other forms of excessive scarring and hyperpigmentation, IPL may not be the right fit for your needs. People who may have skin cancer, recently tanned their skin or are sensitive to light treatments should not have photorejuvenation.
Patients with darker skin tones are at a slightly higher risk for complications from IPL treatment. Our San Diego dermatologists can help you determine if IPL or another skin treatment is right for your cosmetic goals. Laser resurfacing, Clear & Brilliant laser or chemical peels are alternative options to IPL treatments. Your particular skin type will be evaluated to be sure IPL is the best treatment for you.
Benefits of Intense Pulsed Light TherapyIPL offers visible results with minimal downtime or the need for ablative surgery (which removes skin tissues). The technology can address a wide range of skin conditions by targeting the pigment in the treated area without harming surrounding tissues. IPL is especially effective at treating pigmentation, redness and sun damage. Research suggests one to three IPL treatment sessions may improve redness and broken blood vessels by up to 75 percent.
Photofacials can be a safe and effective way to reduce redness caused by rosacea for men and women with moderate to severe cases. IPL treatment can improve pigmentation, such as brown spots and redness caused by sun damage. Mild acne and acne redness can also be improved in conjuction with traditional acne therapy.
Additionally, IPL stimulates new collagen production. Since collagen is a protein that improves skin elasticity and smoothness, your face should appear rejuvenated following IPL treatment. Moreover, as you age, your cell turnover rate becomes slower. IPL has been found to accelerate cell turnover so that signs of sun damage do not linger on your face as long.
IPL treatments can make your skin look healthier and more vibrant with an even skin tone and smoother texture, but they won’t stop the aging process or prevent further damage from sun exposure or lifestyle habits such as smoking.
What To Expect During IPL TreatmentOn the day of your IPL treatment, don’t apply any makeup or scented products to avoid skin irritation. One of our experienced dermatologists or physician assistants will apply a gel to the area to be treated and give you protective eyewear to use for the duration of your IPL session. The handheld device will go over the skin and deliver light pulses. Each session often takes 15 to 30 minutes, with larger areas taking longer. The pulsing light may feel like a snapping rubber band or give you a stinging sensation, but some patients feel nothing at all during IPL.
After your IPL treatment, the treated skin may feel like a mild sunburn for a few hours. An ice pack or cold compress can ease any discomfort you may feel. The area may be red for one to two days. If brown spots are treated, they may appear darker before sloughing off in the coming days or weeks.
If your skin feels sensitive, apply moisturizing lotion or sunscreen when applicable. We recommend cleansing your face with a sensitive skin wash while you heal. Tenderness and redness are often gone within 24 hours of your treatment. Stay away from exfoliating products, anti-aging products and sun exposure for a few days following treatment.
You should notice visible results within a few weeks of your IPL treatment, which will continue to improve over the next few months along with subsequent treatments.
IPL Photofacial RecoverySince IPL is one of the more gentle gentler cosmetic treatments, there is no substantial downtime. Many patients choose to return to work immediately since lingering discomfort is minimal if not non-existent. Your skin will appear red (similar to a sunburn) for a few hours or possibly days after your treatment, but you can wear makeup to conceal discoloration. Be sure to wear sunscreen in the days following IPL treatment since your skin is especially vulnerable to UV rays and sun damage during this period.
How Much Does IPL Cost?The cost of photofacials or IPL treatments varies widely depending on your skin concern, the size of the treated area and the required number of sessions to reach your desired results. During your consultation at our San Diego area office, we will discuss your concerns and goals for your complexion and design a treatment plan with a price estimate for your IPL treatments.
Most people have at least three IPL sessions, with some needing as many as seven for specific skin conditions. These treatments are typically spaced four weeks apart.
How is IPL different from other laser treatments?Overall, IPL is less intense than traditional (ablative) lasers because it utilizes short pulses of light. This means that IPL light energy can address deeper tissue without needing to significantly harm the outer layer of the skin (epidermis). While many people assume that this makes IPL a “weaker” treatment, the benefits of IPL are beneficial for pigmentation and well as for redness.
How many treatments of IPL are necessary?Dividing IPL into sessions is a big part of why there is minimal downtime for the treatment — and why the results appear gradually, making the transformation appear more natural. The number of treatments recommended depends on the current condition of your skin and on your personal aesthetic goals. Most patients choose to undergo four to six treatments, each one spaced approximately 4 weeks apart. Annual or biannual touchups may be a good idea if you want to maintain your results.
Is IPL a customizable treatment?Absolutely. The team at Grossmont Dermatology is highly trained in this technology and can adjust the light settings to produce different wavelengths that reach tissues and vessels at various depths beneath the surface of your skin. If you have multiple cosmetic concerns that require different light wavelengths, this can be easily accommodated by our skilled providers.
How can I extend my IPL results?The positive effects of IPL are usually visible for multiple years. The best way to maximize your results is with a great skin care routine. and maintenance. Most of the cosmetic issues that IPL addresses are the result of sun damage. By avoiding the sun and wearing sunscreen lotion when you are in the sun, this helps to protect your skin from harmful UV exposure. Although people tend to be more mindful of sun damage during the summer, protective measures should be taken year-round. After all, sun damage can occur in the winter months and when it is cloudy.
Are any areas off-limits to IPL?IPL is most often used to treat the face, neck, chest, and hands, but that is hardly an exhaustive list. Because it is gentler than laser treatments, IPL is appropriate for almost anywhere on your body where you have freckles, redness, or veins that you would like to address. A cosmetic consultation is best to determine if you are a good candidate for this procedure.
Contact Our Dermatologists About PhotofacialsIf you struggle with skin imperfections, contact Grossmont Dermatology Medical Clinic and Skin Cancer Treatment Center to see if IPL treatments are right for you. Schedule your consultation at our La Mesa, CA office at (619) 462-1670.
Grossmont Dermatology Medical Clinic and Skin Cancer Treatment Center Staff
Grossmont Dermatology is committed to providing patients with excellent quality skin treatments to help them preserve their youth. They use the latest technologies and treatment modalities to provide patients with the most effective services suiting their individual needs.
The team of professionals at the practice comprise:
- Paul B. Dean, MD, MPH, FAAD – Specializes in general dermatology, mole and lesion removal, photodynamic therapy (PDT), and skin cancer treatments.
- Maki Christine Goskowicz, MD, FAAD – Expertise includes general, cosmetic and laser dermatology, and skin cancer surgery and Botox treatments.
- Christopher Crosby, MD, PhD, FAAD - Specialist in Mohs surgery and reconstructive dermatologic surgery for skin cancers.
- Shinko Lin, MD – Specializes in general, cosmetic and laser dermatology, skin cancer treatments, and PDT.
- Helene Jolly, PA-C, MPAP – Performs cosmetic dermatology, acne and skin rash treatments, and mole removal among other tasks.
- Kira A. Tellache, PA-C – Performs general dermatology including acne and skin rashes as well as cosmetic dermatology and mole removal.