IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light. In some contexts, it can be called photofacial, but in terms of IPL treatment for rosacea, it is a form of photorejuvenation.
It is used for the treatment of skin issues from freckles and sun damage, to irregular pigmentation, excessive redness and visible capillaries using flashes of powerful light. The concept behind IPL is to allow the light wavelengths to penetrate the skin’s surface. In this way, it can reach the source of the issue.
How Does IPL Treatment Work?
The energy from the light produces several types of effects within the skin. It can speed up healing, reduce the appearance of visible capillaries, and break down excess pigment into tiny particles that are either flushed out through the body’s lymphatic system or pushed up to the skin’s surface where they will be naturally exfoliated after a week or so.
IPL uses specific wavelengths (colors) that deeply penetrate the skin to manage the condition being treated. It is a non-ablative technique. This means that it targets the deeper layers of the skin (the dermis) without affecting the epidermis (the upper layers of your skin – the part you see). In this way, your skin can be treated with very little downtime.
What Can You Expect from IPL Treatment for Rosacea?
Make sure to consult with your practitioner before getting IPL therapy for rosacea. The reason is that there are a few things you will need to do to prepare.
The first recommendation is typically to make sure you don’t have any tan – real or fake. The bigger the contrast between your natural skin color and the symptoms you’re trying to eliminate, the better. Moreover, if you are using any medications or skin care products that boost your sensitivity to light, you will need to stop using them. If you can’t stop using them, IPL may not be the right natural rosacea treatment for you.
* Please note that it is important to speak with your doctor before ceasing the use of any prescription medications. It is not recommended that you stop using a prescribed medication without first consulting with a physician.
** If you are not sure whether or not your medication or skin care products cause light sensitivity, speak to a pharmacist and the IPL practitioner.
On the day of your appointment, your procedure will take place in a treatment room. You will lie on a bed and will be provided with some goggles. The practitioner, also sometimes known as a technician, will apply a gel to your face, which will likely feel cool if not cold.
Feel free to ask questions and make sure you understand everything you want to know before the procedure starts. That said, if you need the procedure stopped at any time, it is your right to do so.
One important factor worth considering is that most people find that IPL for rosacea is painful. During the treatment, you will feel pain. Some describe it as being repeatedly snapped with a rubber band. Others report a sharp snapping pain sensation that goes right through their skin and even into their teeth.
The length of time an IPL therapy for rosacea takes depends on how much of your face needs treatment. An entire face will usually take around 20 minutes. The technician will move across your entire face with the device, inch by inch. Your face will be broken down into four sections: two cheeks, a forehead and a chin. If you need only two or three quadrants treated, it will take less time.
Following the treatment, the gel is removed and a sunscreen is typically applied. These sessions make your skin exceptionally sensitive to sunlight. It is very important to keep your skin protected using sunscreen and shade after IPL therapy for rosacea.
You can apply makeup directly to freshly treated skin. Many patients – even those who don’t always wear makeup – will often use makeup to cover their skin after IPL for rosacea. The reason is that the skin immediately following treatment is generally blotchy, red and swollen. Moreover, it is also often worsened from sweat resulting from the pain throughout the session.
The good news is that many people find that the additional flushing and swelling will reduce relatively quickly.
What is the Success Rate of IPL Treatments for Rosacea?
There have been several studies conducted on the effectiveness and success rate of IPL therapy for rosacea. The results of the studies have varied, though they have all shown at least a certain amount of success in easing symptoms.
A 2003 study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology (1) examined the impact of IPL on rosacea redness, flushing and breakouts in patients with subtypes 1, 2 and 3. The 32 patients in the study underwent between one and seven IPL sessions followed by a clinical and photographical assessment and detailed questionnaire.
The results showed that 83% of the participants experienced reduced redness, 75% had a reduction in flushing and improved skin texture, while 64% had reduced acne-like breakouts. Complications were mild and temporary.
Another study published in the Dermatologic Surgery journal (2) in 2005 examined the impact of IPL on vascular facial lesions in rosacea patients. Their results were recorded clinically and photographically. Among the participants, there was a 77.8% mean clearance of the symptoms. That clearance was maintained throughout an average follow-up period of 51.6 months. Of the 508 treated facial sites, the lesions returned in 4 over a span of 3 years. Side effects recorded in this study were minor.
Research published in the British Journal of Dermatology (3) in 2008 recorded substantial reduction in erythema (redness) following IPL therapy for rosacea following four sessions. The redness reduction was an average of 39% on the cheeks and 22% on the chin. These results were confirmed by photographical assessment. Moreover, the researchers measured a reduction in the overall severity of the rosacea. Between 70% and 83% of the patients experienced an overall improvement of 50% or better. The results continued to be maintained by six months after the treatments. Side effects were minimal and temporary.
The Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy (4) published a study in 2011 used IPL to treat rosacea symptoms. Among the study participants, 80% experienced redness reduction. Another 78% experienced reduced flushing and better skin texture. Additionally 72 percent had fewer acne-like breakouts. No complications or adverse effects were recorded.
Every one of these studies concluded that IPL therapy for rosacea was a meaningful, beneficial treatment for this skin condition.
1. Taub, AF. Treatment of Rosacea with Intense Pulsed Light. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. 2003 June;2(3):254-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12848109
2. Schroeter CA, Haaf-von Below S, Neumann HA. Effective Treatment of Rosacea Using Intense Pulsed Light Systems. Dermatologic Surgery. 2005 October; 31(10): 1285-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16188180
3. Papageorgiou P, Clayton W, Norwood S, Chopra S, Rustin M. Treatment of Rosacea with Intense Pulsed Light: Significant Improvement and Long-Lasting Results. British Journal of Dermatology. 2008 Sep;159(3):628-32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18565174
4. Kassir R, Kolluru A, Kassir M. Intense Pulsed Light for the Treatment of Rosacea and Telangiectasias. Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy. 2011 Oct;13(5):216-22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21848421
Who Can Get IPL for Rosacea?
While IPL can be helpful for many rosacea patients, it is not appropriate for everyone. It is very important to start with an accurate diagnosis of the skin condition from your doctor or dermatologist. It is not safe to simply assume that you have rosacea because of redness on your face. Several other conditions can present in a very similar way, so it is critical to receive an expert diagnosis to be certain.
Next, you will need to schedule a consultation with your IPL technician. This will allow you to better evaluate whether or not you think IPL is right for you. Equally, it will let the technician determine whether or not you are a good candidate for IPL therapy for rosacea.
If you must take certain medications, or if you have naturally tanned or dark skin, you will need to make sure that your technician is highly experienced. In some cases, IPL may not be right for you at all. Darker skin tones and certain medications significantly increase the risk of burning or permanent pigmentation changes. Discuss these issues with great care with your technician before choosing to go ahead with IPL.
What do IPL Treatments for Rosacea Cost?
Intense pulsed laser therapy isn’t cheap. In the United States, the average session will usually cost between $450 and $600 depending on your location, the clinic you choose and the amount of your face that needs treatment.
Moreover, it’s also important to take into account that the vast majority of rosacea patients require multiple sessions to achieve the best results. Expect to need between three and six sessions depending on the severity of your condition and your response to the IPL therapy for rosacea.
How Long do IPL Results Last?
IPL results can last for several months or longer for rosacea patients. The length of time does vary depending on many factors. These can include, among others:
• The severity of the condition in the first place;
• The number of IPL sessions received;
• Sun exposure following the treatments;
• Rosacea trigger exposure following the treatments;
• Individual rosacea factors.
Research shows that patients can typically expect most of their symptoms to remain controlled for at least six months. While some patients must return for more sessions twice per year, others can go a year or longer without having to repeat their sessions.
What are Common Alternatives to IPL for Rosacea?
The two most common alternatives to IPL for rosacea are: laser and LED light therapy.
Laser must also be administered by a technician at a clinic. On the other hand, LED light therapy for rosacea can be administered in a clinic or spa, or a patient can also self-administer treatments using a home device with the right strength and wavelengths.