Are you ready for your close up? They say a picture’s worth a thousand words….so what are your photos saying? Maybe they’re telling your age or that you’ve spent a lot of time in the sun or that you struggled with breakouts in your teens or early 20s. And while none of these are anything to be ashamed of, maybe the fact that they’re showing on your skin is something that concerns you. If so, we can help. There’s a light at the end of the skincare tunnel and it’s called IPL.
IPL (or intense pulse light, often called photofacial) is a laser-like treatment designed to address multiple pigment issues including sun damage, age spots, freckles or brown spots, broken blood vessels, rosacea, acne scarring and even unwanted hair. Although it’s similar to laser treatment, unlike lasers which focus one wavelength of light, IPL relies on multiple scattered wavelengths that penetrate into the dermis, reaching the second layer of skin without harming or damaging the skin’s surface. Pigment cells in the skin absorb the light, which then converts to heat causing a breakdown of unwanted pigment or destruction of unwanted hair follicles. In short, IPL causes a controlled reaction within the skin to address pigmentation concerns and undesired hair, while also stimulating collagen production, resulting in a smoother, clearer, more even toned complexion. And while many patients focus on facial skin, IPL can be performed on virtually any area of the body, including the neck, chest or décolleté, shoulders, back, arms, legs, and hands. In fact, IPL can be very effective for addressing age spots on the hands (which often show our age long before our face does).
Not only does IPL target pigment and redness, it is easily combined with other laser treatments to even more effectively stimulate both collagen and elastin, tighten pores, address and kill acne bacteria and improve overall skin tone and texture. We like to say that it lightens, brightens and tightens!
That all sounds amazing right? But how do you know if you’re a good candidate for IPL? If your skin concerns include redness such as mild rosacea or broken capillaries, age spots or freckling, sun damage or mild acne scars, your skin will likely respond well, while those with darker skin tones or very tanned skin, more severe cases of acne or rosacea or very deep scars or wrinkles may not be good candidates. As always, we will consult with you prior to treatment to determine whether your skin will respond safely and positively to IPL before beginning any treatment or series.
Once we determine that IPL can effectively and safely address your skin concerns, here’s what you can expect from your photofacial treatments at W. Let’s start with the prep. To prepare for your appointment we recommend that you avoid harsh direct sunlight, tanning beds, waxing, chemical peels, retinol products and aspirin/ibuprofen for approximately a week prior. This will help minimize or avoid any complications or adverse reactions.
When you arrive, we will begin by cleansing and applying a cool gel on the areas to be treated to facilitate the light pulses and protect the skin. One of our highly trained and skilled providers will then use our IPL machine to perform the photofacial treatment on the desired areas. Many patents say that IPL feels like a series of rubber band snaps over the skin, and while it is admittedly not the most comfortable feeling, the small stings do fade and leave areas of heat that diminish fairly quickly once the session is complete. During treatment we do offer the Zimmer cooler to alleviate excess heat and keep skin more comfortable, and both the Zimmer and cool washcloths can be used following treatment until the heat has fully dissipated. Your treatment should take less than an hour, depending on the area(s) to be addressed, and although you will be red after, you can go about your day with no major downtime. Some people experience mild swelling, often in the shape of the IPL, but this will also decrease over the following 24-48 hours. Over the course of 3-7 days following treatment, you will notice redness possibly getting deeper and brown pigment getting darker (to the point of looking like scattered coffee grounds) before sloughing off naturally, leaving smoother, more even skin. We do encourage patients not to use an exfoliant during this time in order to allow skin to heal and slough off on its own for best results.
Following treatment, we also encourage patients to cleanse skin with a mild cleanser twice a day, apply generous amounts of sunscreen and stay moisturized (we are always happy to recommend products that are safe and comfortable for post-IPL skin) and, again, avoid exfoliating or scratching at dry patches to allow skin to heal naturally.
By a week post-IPL you should notice less brown and red pigmentation and your complexion should look both brighter and tighter. And while you will likely notice results after only one session, we highly recommend 3-6 sessions to address pigment issues (typically spaced four weeks apart) and 6-12 for permanent hair removal. Most patients see very noticeable results about three months after their final session. However, once your initial series is complete, you may want to consider annual maintenance treatments to maintain results as pigment can often be stubborn and may return over time or with repeated sun exposure.
Anytime is the perfect time to schedule your IPL series. However, if you do have an event, holiday party or photos coming up, we encourage you to plan ahead and schedule your photofacial at least two weeks prior. If you have any additional questions about IPL treatment or are interested in scheduling a consultation, don’t hesitate to call us… we’d love to talk with you and get you scheduled. We’re excited to show you the light and get you ready for your close up!