Intense Pulsed Light
Intense pulsed light (IPL) or flashlamp therapy is a non-invasive and non-ablative treatment that uses high intensity pulses of visible light to improve the appearance of the following skin problems:
- Vascular lesions including spider angiomas, port wine stains, broken facial veins, rosy cheeks, rosacea and red thread veins of the legs
- Freckles and age marks
- Facial lines and wrinkles
- Removal of unwanted dark hair
How does it work?
IPL systems work on the same principles as lasers in that light energy is absorbed into particular target cells with colour (chromophores) in the skin. The light energy is converted to heat energy, which causes damage to the specific target area. IPL systems are different to lasers in that they deliver many wavelengths (or colours) in each pulse of light instead of just one wavelength. Most IPL systems use filters to refine the energy output for the treatment of certain areas. This enhances penetration without using excessive energy levels and enables targetting of specific chromophores (these are skin components that absorb light).
IPL therapy is considered a non-ablative resurfacing technique, which means that it targets the lower layers of skin (dermis) without affecting the top layers of skin (epidermis). The results are not as dramatic as ablative resurfacing where both the dermis and epidermis are injured to produce a much more noticeable overall outcome. The advantage of IPL therapy is its minimal downtime – a patient can often have the procedure done in their lunch-break and return to work immediately afterwards.
What to Expect During Treatment
Before the procedure begins, you will be given protective eyewear to protect you from the bright flashes of light. A cool gel is often applied to the treatment area, both to lubricate the handpiece and to help cool the epidermis during the treatment. Your skin care specialist will apply brief pulses of bright light to the skin through the handpiece. Depending on the size of the area being treated, the procedure may take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour.
Intense Pulsed Light FAQ’s
We like to say, you ‘turn the clock back’ with this type of procedure, but the clock keeps ticking! Most people complete a series monthly treatments and then return for a maintenance treatment once or twice a year.
It is imperative that the area being treated is not tan the day of the procedure. Other areas on the body can be tan but not the treatment site. Afterwards, it is important to protect your skin from the sun using a sunscreen daily. You should use a sensitive skin cleanser and moisturizer for about a week, then you can resume you normal skin care routine.
Most patients experience a few days of redness and possible pinpoint bruising after the IPL procedure. Some brown spots may appear darker for a few days, then peel off. You can apply makeup immediately after IPL treatment if necessary.
In general patients have a series of three to six treatments, approximately one month apart.
When the pulses of light are applied to the skin, patients feel some stinging, similar in sensation to the snapping of a small rubber band against the skin. We therefore have our patients apply an anesthetic cream to the area at home or in the office 30-60 minutes prior to the procedure.