What is IPL?
IPL stands for “intense pulsed light“. IPL technology was invented by Lumenis and was originally used for photorejuvenation (photofacial) and hair removal.
What is an IPL Photofacial?
IPL photofacials, also called IPL photorejuvenation, uses Intense Pulsed Light technology to treat various imperfections of the skin, with the aim of creating a smoother, more even skin tone. These treatments are typically available at medical spas and dermatologist’s offices. The technique uses very intense and bright light with high energy levels at certain wavelengths to help improve the look of a number of different types of skin conditions, including:
- Photoaged skin (sun damage)
- Age spots (sun induced freckles)
- Liver spots & other benign brown pigments
- broken capillaries (spider veins)
It is important to note that IPL treatments should not be expected to correct melasma, sagging skin, or deep folds or wrinkles in the face.
How Does IPL Work?
Here’s how IPL works, quoted directly from the Lumenis website:
“A broad spectrum of light is transmitted through a small, smooth, transparent handpiece which is gently placed over the skin. Cut-off filters in the handpiece change the wavelength range allowing it to be optimized for different applications and skin types. The light penetrates the tissue and is absorbed by either the blood when treating vascular lesions or the melanin when treating pigmented lesions damaging them. The body’s natural processes then remove the injured tissue giving the skin a more even and youthful appearance.”
Are you a Candidate?
Patients considering an IPL photofacial should remember that while they can be very effective for some, they are not meant for everyone. Candidacy for these treatments depends on several factors, including medical history, skin color, tendency for scarring, and other issues. It is recommended that you consult with a board certified plastic surgeon or a dermatologist to discuss your eligibility before making an appointment with a practitioner.
What Does an IPL Photofacial Cost?
The cost greatly depends on your specific location and the individual practitioner or provider that will be performing the treatment. It also depends on the number of sessions and the condition that is being treated. Overall, you can expect to pay anywhere from $75 to $300 per session. The complete treatment of a specific condition could easily cost over $2000 if several sessions are required. Call practitioners in your local area for the best estimate of cost.
Preparing For Your Appointment
Before you have an IPL photofacial, it is important for you to prepare. First, make sure that this is the right type of treatment for your unique needs. Next, take care to stay out of the sun for as much time as possible before the treatment. Sun exposure encourages the production of melanin, but its presence in the skin – while beneficial for protecting you against the sun’s rays – can also interfere with the effectiveness of the treatment by “protecting” the skin by absorbing the light’s energy.
The IPL Photofacial Experience
The nature of IPL photo facials means that they are associated with a high level of heat. For this reason, they must be administered by a professional, as opposed to being available with a device for home use. Many of the professional devices include cooling features that help to lower the level of discomfort and decrease any of the pain that is experienced during the sessions.
The experience of an IPL photo facial is often compared to the feeling of having an elastic band snapped against your skin. A topical numbing cream may be applied in order to assist in reducing that discomfort. Each complete session typically takes around 30 minutes. Following the treatment, a cooling gel may be applied.
After Each Treatment
The majority of patients do not experience downtime, and can apply makeup right after their treatments in order to cover up any lingering redness. Make sure that you wear a high SPF, even if you will be exposed to sunlight for only a few moments.
Over time, the natural healing processes of the skin helps to remove the affected areas, leaving fresh and healthy skin behind.
Typical Treatment Course & Maintenance
In order to obtain the desired results, you will likely need several treatments. Depending on the condition and its severity, 3 to 8 treatments are usually needed, with the occasional follow-up treatment after longer periods of time to help to maintain the results.
Before You Sign
There is no standardization or regulation of this industry. Not all IPL technology is created equally. Not all IPL technicians are equally trained. Although not serious, there are unpleasant risks involved with an IPL photofacial. Before you sign, interview your technician as to her knowledge and experience with the equipment and procedures for your exact skin type and condition. Ask for references, and follow up with them. This article on About.com has prepared a good list of things to be aware of and questions you should ask.
Consider An Alternative
While IPL has certainly put the photofacial on the map, there are now alternatives to the IPL experience. Click here to discover the the benefits of an LED photofacial.