As medical and technological discoveries continue to be made, more and more techniques are being developed that help us look and feel our best. You may have heard of IPL treatment, also known as intense pulsed light treatment. If you are not entirely sure what the light can do for you, you are not alone. Let’s look at how this treatment works and what exactly it helps with.
What Is IPL?
An IPL treatment is sometimes referred to as a photofacial or photorejuvenation. It is designed to help the problems that arise as we get older and our skin stops making as much collagen and elastin as it used to. This typically begins to happen in our early 30s, and the signs of aging are not far behind. It is also highly effective at treating the skin imperfections that are caused by the sun.
Light treatments, including those that use lasers, are divided into ablative and non-ablative. IPL is a non-ablative treatment, meaning it is relatively easy on the skin. As the name implies, it involves pulses of intense light being precisely targeted at skin imperfections.
The light is attracted to both melanin and hemoglobin. These are the things that cause skin discoloration and redness. When they absorb the light, they are destroyed. At this point, they are either safely absorbed by your body or brought to the surface layer of the skin, where it will easily flake off.
What Can an IPL Treatment Help With?
Depending on the wavelengths used in the treatment, IPL can help with a variety of things, often all in one session. You should consider this treatment if you are seeking a way to get rid of:
- Dark spots
- Age spots
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Sun damage
- Broken blood vessels
- Enlarged pores
IPL Versus Other Laser Treatments
These types of treatments are very similar and therefore very often confused with each other. They both work with the same basic principle — heat up the skin to trigger the production of collagen while also targeting excess melanin. A laser treatment, however, uses only one wavelength, while an IPL treatment uses many. Laser treatments are typically more targeted, as well. A beam of energy is targeted at one tiny area of the skin. IPL treatments can impact larger areas at one time. Generally speaking, IPL is gentler on your skin. A laser treatment often results in downtime and some discomfort, which is another significant difference.
IPL for Hair Removal
One exciting new use for intense pulsed light is for hair removal. The pulses of light are absorbed by the melanin in the root of the hair, interrupting its growth cycle. The hair will eventually fall out on its own, root and all, giving you long-term smoothness.
IPL for hair removal has some advantages over laser treatments. At the same time it is targeting the hair, it can be improving the condition of the skin in the area. A larger area can typically be targeted at one time. It results in little to no downtime and is considered to be a pain-free procedure.
The trade-off, however, is that it can take more sessions than it would with laser treatments. You can expect it to take anywhere from six to 12 sessions to reach your optimal results. To ensure that all hairs are treated, you will need to wait a few weeks in between sessions. Both laser and IPL treatments have limitations when it comes to effectiveness on darker skin tones.
Who Is a Good Candidate for IPL Treatment?
Due to the variety of wavelengths that can be used, this treatment is available for a wide range of skin tones. That being said, it tends to have the most success on those with fairer skin. This is because it works by targeting melanin. Those with darker skin tones naturally have more melanin, leaving them at a higher risk for hyperpigmentation and blistering. Those with darker skin tones can receive treatment, however, at a lower intensity, therefore requiring more sessions. Pregnant women are advised to wait until after they give birth to have this treatment performed.
What to Expect with an IPL Treatment
We will first sit down with you to discuss what your aesthetic concerns and develop a treatment plan. Be sure not to tan prior to your appointment, as this will negatively impact your results. Before beginning the actual IPL treatment, the target area is cleaned and prepped. A cooling gel is used on the target area as well, to both ensure comfort and help the light be more effective. You will get to recline during the treatment while wearing protective eye gear. Once all this has happened, you are ready for the IPL to begin.
Exactly how long your treatment will take varies depending on the size of the target area. It can typically be done in as little as 20 to 30 minutes, although larger areas can take an hour or more. Once the session is completed, the gel is wiped off and the skin is cleaned once more. The skin will be moisturized and sunscreen will be applied.
In order to reach your optimal results, you will likely need more than one session. Most people are advised to have between three and six sessions. One month will need to pass in between your sessions.
What to Expect after an IPL Treatment
Once your treatment is complete, you will be given after care instructions. These can vary a bit from person to person, but always include protecting your skin from the sun. Wear ample moisturizer and avoid direct sunlight whenever possible for at least one week. You will also need to use a gentle cleanser during that time. It will take roughly a week to begin seeing results. They are considered cumulative and will get better and better with each session. In many cases, the amount of energy used can be increased at each appointment, which increases the effectiveness.
If you are treating issues like age spots, brown spots, or freckles, you will notice them getting darker in the days after your treatment. This is a sign that it is working! They will then begin to either flake off or gradually fade. Remember, multiple sessions will likely be required to completely eliminate these issues.
What Results Can Be Expected with IPL?
Although you get long-term skin remedy results with an IPL treatment, it cannot stop the aging process. How long your results last will depend on your lifestyle habits. Staying out of the sun and protecting your skin when you do go out in it are crucial. Without doing so, you can expect your skin imperfections to reappear quickly. When proper precautions are taken, your results can be kept up long-term with yearly maintenance treatments.
It is important to note that an IPL treatment will not make your skin more sensitive to the sun once you pass the one-week mark. The emphasis on avoiding prolonged sun exposure is simply because UV rays are so damaging to the skin. While intense pulsed light can treat previous damage caused by the sun, it cannot prevent further damage if you do not protect your skin. On top of wearing a good sunscreen, be sure to pack a hat and sunglasses when heading outside. While some people claim you shouldn’t get this treatment done in the summer, it can actually be done any time of the year as long as you are careful.
Do Intense Pulsed Light Treatments Hurt?
This is understandably one of the most common questions asked about the IPL experience. A topical anesthetic cream can be applied prior to beginning. This cream takes between 30 to 60 minutes to become effective, something worth keeping in mind. You will feel a warming sensation when the pulse of light hits your skin. To some, this feels like having a rubber band snapped on their skin. Overall, the experience should not be a painful one.
What Are the Benefits of an IPL Treatment?
People typically love their experience with intense pulsed light treatments. This is because:
- It is quick: Appointments are quick and easy with this treatment. What’s even better is that there is no downtime afterward. You can immediately go back to work or other normal activities.
- There is no pain: As discussed above, this is considered to be an easily tolerable procedure. You do not have to worry about pain management after your treatment.
- It is cost-effective: Compared to other laser treatments, IPL is more affordable. Plus, you get long-term results, making these treatments even more cost-effective.
- It can help control acne: Those who are plagued by acne know how frustrating the redness that goes along with it can be. IPL has been shown to reduce redness and shrink pores.
- It can be used on areas other than the face: Being sometimes called the photofacial, it is easy to see why people only think of IPL as a face treatment. The reality is it is great on the neck, shoulders, and even the chest. These areas also tend to suffer from sun damage.
- It boosts your confidence: One of the best reasons to have this treatment is to boost your self-esteem. This added confidence can translate to more overall happiness and increased quality of life.
How to Learn More about an IPL Treatment
If you think that IPL may be the treatment you have been searching for, get in touch with our team at Delta Laser & Skin Care Centre in Delta, BC! We will be happy to discuss your options and begin working on a treatment plan. We also serve residents in Surrey, Langley, and White Rock. If you are looking for a way to improve the condition of your skin without a lot of downtime, IPL is a great option. Contact us today to schedule your consultation!