IPL, or intense pulsed light, is a versatile treatment that can improve a range of skin conditions.
The first IPL device was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1995, to treat dilated blood vessels called telangiectasias. In the decades since, IPL treatments have expanded in scope to address vascular lesions, pigmented lesions, and even unwanted hair.
Today, dermatologists frequently use it as photorejuvenation, to decrease brown spots from sun damage as well as to minimize broken capillaries and rosacea.
An IPL device delivers an arc of light energy that penetrates all levels of the skin, without harming the surface, so there’s little to no downtime. The size of the head of the IPL device is usually larger than most laser spot sizes, which allows for the rapid treatment of large areas. The light treatment can be performed on the face, hands, neck, chest, and legs.
Most people need several treatments (often called photofacials or fotofacials, when used to rejuvenate sun-damaged skin) to see optimal results. They’re typically performed three to four weeks apart.
What happens during IPL facial?
What can you expect after IPL treatment?
Your skin may be red and swollen for a few hours or the rest of the day, but you should be able to go back to your regular activities or work, using ice packs or a cool washcloth on the treated area if you need to ease the discomfort. You’ll be able to apply moisturizer, sunscreen, and makeup immediately after the treatment.
One to seven days post-treatment, pigmented spots will appear to rise to the surface of your skin—the brown, freckled areas can look like coffee grounds—before fading a few days to a week later, according to Dr. Klein. Your skin may feel sunburned and hypersensitive for a couple days following, so treat it gently until you’re completely healed. Avoid sun exposure and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater on the treatment area at all times.
When will you see IPL facial results?
The treatment plan for IPL is typically slow and steady, using multiple treatments to achieve full results. Patients often see some improvement in redness within two weeks of their first session, but it may take three to four treatments to see significant results, particularly for more severe dark spots.