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Intense Pulsed Light

What to Know About

Intense Pulsed Light

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy is a laser treatment that helps minimize discoloration, wrinkles, and blemishes in your skin. Dermatologists use IPL to treat unwanted brown or red skin pigmentation, such as sun damage, rosacea, birthmarks, broken blood vessels, age spots, and more. It can also be used to remove hair.

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How Does Intense Pulsed Light Therapy Work?

Like laser treatments, IPL uses light to make changes to your skin. Unlike laser treatments, however, Intense Pulsed Light utilizes several different wavelengths of light to affect your cells. By using less-focused light, IPL can reach the second layer of your skin without causing damage to the top layer, minimizing overall skin damage.

Once applied, the targeted cells absorb and convert the light’s energy to heat. This process destroys the pigmented cells, removing the unwanted color. If you’re using IPL to remove hair, the light will destroy the hair follicles and prevent further growth. As it evens your skin’s coloring, Intense Pulsed Light therapy may create a more youthful appearance.

Conditions It Treats

Intense Pulsed Light therapy can be used to treat both medical conditions and cosmetic worries. You may want to utilize IPL if you have:

  • Sun damage
  • Freckles
  • Age spots
  • Birthmarks
  • Rosacea
  • Broken blood vessels
  • Varicose or spider veins
  • Acne
  • Scars
  • Fine wrinkles
  • Discolored skin
  • Unwanted hair

Who Should Get IPL?

While Intense Pulsed Light therapy can be used anywhere on the body, it is less effective for patients with darker skin tones and light-colored hair. This treatment is also not recommended for areas of skin with uneven pigmentation or for patients who get keloid scars that are raised and thick. You should also consult with your dermatologist first if you:

  • Have recently used tanning beds, tanning cream, or prolonged sun exposure to tan your skin
  • Are pregnant
  • May have skin cancer
  • Take certain medications or use a retinoid cream
  • Suffer from a skin condition, such as eczema or inflammatory acne
  • Have light-sensitive skin

What to Expect from Your Intense Pulsed Light Therapy Appointment

Before your treatment, your dermatologist will carefully check your skin, discuss the treatment, and answer any questions you may have. They may recommend that you limit or avoid some medications, activities, and products during the weeks before your appointment. When preparing for an IPL treatment, patients should generally avoid the following:

  • Tanning beds and creams
  • Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight
  • Collagen injections
  • Chemical peel treatments
  • Waxing
  • Medications that increase your risk of bleeding
  • Products containing vitamin A

Intense Pulsed Light treatments cause some pain, so your dermatologist will apply a cooling gel and anesthetic cream to the treated area before the procedure. As the light is applied, you may feel a stinging sensation, similar to being snapped by a small rubber band. Most IPL treatments take around 20 to 30 minutes.

After your treatment, you may have pinpoint bruising and redness that lasts a few days. Some dark spots appear darker before peeling off in the days following the procedure. Most patients require three to six treatments for their desired results, though your needs may vary. For hair removal, six to 12 treatments are usually necessary.

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