In the past few years, a new kind of treatment for skin issues called Intense Pulsed Light therapy or IPL has emerged. IPL uses bursts of concentrated visible light to target problem areas deep within the skin.
What’s the difference between a laser and IPL?
Intense Pulsed Light is similar to a laser but there are differences.
A laser uses only one wavelength of light while IPL uses a broad spectrum of many wavelengths.
During IPL therapy, the intense light passes right through the outer layers of skin. Deep inside the skin, areas that have darker coloring such as hair follicles or age spots absorb most of the light.
The light energy is converted into heat, destroying the dark cells, which are then reabsorbed by the body.
Are consumer grade IPLs safe for use?
It is a painless, effective, and safe way to manage certain skin problems.
UV wavelengths are usually removed from the IPL spectrum, so the light does no damage to the outer layer of skin and does not increase the risk of cancer.
What is IPL used for?
Intense Pulsed Light therapy is effective for a variety of skin conditions that cause darkening. It was originally used for dermatologic problems caused by blood vessel problems, such as port wine stains, rosacea, and spider angiomas.
IPL is very effective at reducing these kinds of discoloration.
It can also be used to treat acne scars, excessive freckles and age spots. Certain models of IPLs can safely be used for hair removal.
If you’re unsure whether or not IPLs are right for you, consider asking a dermatologist.
What else should I know about IPLs?
Different wavelengths of light correspond to different colors, and certain skin conditions absorb some colors of light better than others.
For example, a port wine stain absorbs more red light than the area around it. In these cases the light used for IPL may be tailored specifically to the skin tissue being treated. This increases the effectiveness of the IPL as well as helping to protect healthy skin.
During an Intense Pulsed Light treatment, a cooling gel is usually applied to the area being treated in order to reduce the sensation of heat from the light.
Sometimes this cooling gel is combined with an anesthetic, but this is not always necessary as IPL does not cause pain.
Some users report that IPL feels like a repeated flicking or snapping sensation on the skin.
Glasses or goggles can be worn to protect the eyes and the IPL is provided through a small wand that is moved over the skin.
Treatments usually last about 20 minutes and you may need several treatments.
IPL light does not affect the outer layer of skin and it can sometimes take a while for the changes underneath the skin to become visible, even when the treatment is working well.
There is no recovery necessary after an IPL treatment, but in some cases the skin being treated might turn pink as though it has been sunburned, with a stinging or prickling feeling.
This side effect is uncomfortable but not harmful, and should go away within a day or two.
If you have any skin-related questions or concerns, ask a First Derm dermatologist!