The most common purpose of the IPL device is to correct for facial dyschromia, which is a fancy way of saying pigmentary change. Optimal conditions for the IPL are distinct brown and red colors on a white, or light, background.
The bright light is tunable to address different pigmentary changes and skin types. It can even be used to remove hair! Finally, melasma. We have seen gorgeous results with IPL treatment for melasma, though it’s not for everyone. You would need to be evaluated on an individual basis.
The treatment is usually sold as a set of three, though four or more treatments may be necessary, and it is possible for the pigment to return. After determining the correct settings, we perform a skin patch test by treating a peripheral area of the region of interest and wait sufficient time to assess tissue response. This prevents skin injury in most cases, but it is certainly possible to see delayed adverse effects.
Intense pulsed light (IPL) is often categorized as a laser but it is not. It is just as it is named: an intense light that pulses.
After the patch test, we apply a topical water-based gel to facilitate safe, the uniform transmission of light energy to the skin. We then confirm the treatment settings and treat the affected areas. Most patients do not need numbing cream for this (it feels like a rubber band snapping), but it is always an option.
As a rule of thumb, the pigmentary changes typically get worse before they improve. A great selling point, right? But this is the mechanism of action for IPL. The pigmented spots tend to darken as the IPL light energy targets the browns (melanocytes) and reds (vascular lesions). Once the dark areas respond, they migrate toward the surface and actually appear darker.
The good news is at the next treatment, the light/dark disparity becomes greater, and the IPL is inherently more effective. After this treatment, some of the dark lesions literally flake off like coffee grounds, while the more subtle pigmentary changes darken. And at the third, or possibly fourth treatments, the pigmentary irregularities further dissipate.
Individual results may vary
This 30-something Caucasian woman before, and 4 weeks after, IPL treatment. As you can see, the dark pigmented lesions literally disappear.
IPL is safe, but we sometimes encounter some blistering or even skin slough. We work hard to prevent this type of change by applying a cooling machine to the treated areas and minimize residual heat in the tissues. Furthermore, we work hard to minimize factors that can increase the risk profile of our patients.
Treatment may begin on the day it is prescribed, or there may be several weeks between your decision to undergo treatment or when your treatment will begin. If we delay your treatment, there’s probably a reason for it, and so we recommend:
Also, the following must be stopped or avoided for at least 7 days prior to your treatment: electrolysis, waxing, laser hair removal, masks, other peels or laser/light-based treatments, hair dying, permanent wave or straightening, depilatories, retinoids (Retin-A, Renova, Avage, etc.), exfoliation by loofah, sponges, scrubs or microdermabrasion