IPL, or Intense Pulsed Light, is a type of light therapy used to help treat discolouration in the skin, such as melasma, sun damage, age spots, thread veins, birthmarks and freckles, as well as acne and signs of ageing (think fine lines and wrinkles). IPL is also commonly used for hair removal.
How does IPL work?
The Intense Pulsed Light is very often likened to a flash light in the the light scatters whereas laser is a beam of light. It works well as it gets right to the pigment, heating it up and breaking it down thanks to its multiple wavelengths of light that scatter within the skin. These multiple wavelengths are able to treat various issues at once.
After cleansing the skin, you are given goggles or eye shields to protect your eyes from the light. Then, the practitioner covers the target area in a gel not dissimilar to the type you see being before a scan, it is a water based gel. Initially you will be patch tested to ensure that the settings both suit your skin and see results. This is allowed to settle as your detailed consulted in completed. Once the results are noted from the patch test and it is safe to proceed.
Next, they take a handheld applicator, which they pass over the target areas. This delivers pulses of broad spectrum light into the skin, which cause light flicks - almost like flashes from a camera. The skin is continually cooled as the treatment is done. They might do several passes to make sure they have sufficiently treated the area in question, but then you’re done.
You’ll likely find that discolouration may appear darker for the first few days after the treatment, but then slight crusting and flaking will start to occur - and it’s after this stage that you should see the results.
What are the benefits of IPL?
There are several key benefits of IPL skin treatment: it’s quick (sometimes just minutes, depending on the area), which is a huge plus. And there is no real downtime, so you can be back at work or whatever else you choose to do straight away, and no-one will need to know where you have been. It is best to be gentle with your skin for 4 to 5 days. The skin can be red immediately post treatment. IPL boosts collagen and elastin production, which is a great bonus of the treatment. The results can be incredible, leaving you with clearer, even-toned, fabulous skin.
What are the side effects of IPL?
Does it hurt ? It really depends on your pain threshold - everyone is different - but, generally, it’s described as feeling like being pinged by elastic bands. So not too bad overall. It is a quick treatment - literally its over before you know it. You’ll probably look and feel like you have mild sunburn for a few hours afterwards - red, tender and your skin might be a little swollen. Ice packs and cold compresses can work wonders on treated areas - relieving any discomfort. You’ll definitely want to avoid hot showers etc until your skin is healed.
Who is IPL best suited to?
IPL works most effectively on very light skin as darker skin tones absorb more of the light’s energy, which can lead to skin damage. So, it’s always a good idea to have a consultation with a highly skilled , well qualified practitioner who will be able to tell you whether you are a good candidate for the treatment.
How often do I need to have IPL therapy?
For best results, your practitioner may suggest having a course of treatments. This could be 3-6 sessions, but really depends on your individual skincare needs and how effective the treatment is on you.
What should I avoid before and after IPL?
In the week leading up to your IPL treatment, and the days following, you’ll definitely want to avoid sun beds, saunas, and direct sunlight - you really don’t want to heat the treated area. And you should apply a high SPF !
Avoid waxing, threading, chemical peels and any products you have that contain vitamin A. So active ingredients such glycolic acid or retinol.
Avoid using Ibuprofen in the run up to your appointment and the days that follow, as this can lead to blood thinning, so increase your risk of bruising as does omegas. But you’re ok to take paracetamol if you need some pain relief.
- Pregnancy .
- A Suntan – either from natural sun, sunbeds or fake tan with lotions or spray (book your IPL or laser appointment at least 2 weeks AFTER your holiday as IPL and laser is attracted to the melanin in tanned skin)
- Photosensitive conditions
- Cancer, especially skin cancer or if undergoing chemotherapy treatment
- The recent or regular use of certain drugs- such as photosensitive anti-biotics, anti-biotic creams or gels, Roaccutane, herbal St John’s Wort, anti-coagulants, Gold medications or Retin A prescribed by a GP.
- Recent injectables or Botox in the area (leave 10-14 days apart from IPL or laser treatment)
- Recent surgery in the area
- Healing Disorders- such as Diabetes Mellitus, lupus or radiation therapy or chemotherapy
- History of keloid scarring (thickened scarring)
- Open wounds or lesions near the area
- Herpes Simplex (cold sores) – We can treat you if a cold sore is NOT present, as long as it is understood that IPL can, in some instances, trigger the onset of a cold sore
- Lymphatic/Immune System disorders
- Psoriasis/Eczema near the area to be treated
- Skin diseases or disorders
- Thyroid condition (The use of Thyroxine is not normally a problem)
- Steroid Therapy
- Raised moles and Birthmarks
- Tattoos and Permanent Make-up in the area to be treated (These can be avoided if necessary)
- The frequent use of Retinol Creams/gels, Glycolic acids and steroid creams/gels should be avoided whilst having these treatments
- Patients who are unlikely to follow the post treatment guidelines or those with unrealistic expectations from the treatment.
Who can perform IPL?
For the safest, most effective IPL treatment, always make sure you book an appointment with a skilled experienced technician.