What is IPL Used for When Treating the Skin?

“As one of my patients described, ‘they are the years I’ve earned and don’t want to claim!'” says Dr. Miriam Hanson, cosmetic dermatologist in Austin, Texas. “And it’s really not anything dramatic. Most people are not striving to look sixteen again. It’s more about looking refreshed, well rested and rejuvenated.”

One of the best ways to put on a “fresh face” is to receive Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy from a licensed dermatologist.  Often referred to as a Fotofacial, IPL devices use a broad spectrum light source to treat various skin issues.

“It’s not a ‘Laser‘ per se,” explains Dr. Adam Mamelak, dermatologist and skin care expert at Sanova Dermatology. “Lasers use single wavelengths of amplified light to target specific individual colors and structures (known as chromophores) in the skin. With IPL’s broad spectrum, multiple chromophores can be treated at one time. Definitely one of the benefits of getting an IPL fotofacial.”


So what is IPL used for when treating the skin?

  • Erase sun-induced damage—age spots and brown pigmentation.
  • Minimize Rosacea—redness and broken blood vessels
  • Diminish pigmented lesions—birth marks, liver spots, freckles, spider angiomas, and port-wine stains
  • Reduce pore size, facial lines, and wrinkles
  • Lessen scarring, particularly from mild to moderate acne and stretch marks
  • Remove unwanted, dark hair

IPL therapy is mainly used on the skin of the face, neck, upper chest, arms, and hands; however, it may be used on other areas as well.

“It’s interesting,” says Dr. Mamelak, “we always remember to take care of our face with sunscreen and high quality skin care, but the neck and chest are often forgotten.” IPL has been used to effectively treat Poikiloderma, a condition where patients develop red-brown patches on the sides of their neck and upper chest from long term sun exposure.

“I find IPL is an incredible solution for those dark spots on the backs of the hands,” says Dr. Hanson. “Liver spots, age spots, lentigos or freckles, call them what you will – IPL is effective in erasing them from sight”

What to expect at your visit?

You might compare IPL therapy to being flicked with a rubber band.  Usually, a topical anaesthetic cream is applied to the skin 30-60 minutes before your treatment to minimize any discomfort.  Treatments take approximately 20-30 minutes.  A cool gel is rubbed on the area and then pulses of light are focused on the skin.  A pair of protective eye shields are wore during the treatment for your comfort and safety.

What about aftercare?

Following the IPL therapy, there may be some redness.  Thereafter, the treated skin will darken before it peels off, usually within 7-14 days.  Patients may use make-up right away to cover any dark spots or pinpoint bruising.

For best results, the skin directly around the area to be treated should not be tan.  After IPL therapy, be sure to protect your skin with sunscreen.  Use a cleanser and moisturizer formulated for sensitive skin for about a week, after which you can return to your normal skin care routine.

Some patients find they need a series of three to six treatments.  Once the skin has been rejuvenated, your dermatologist will monitor the need for additional maintenance treatments at your yearly dermatology check-up.

Contact Us

If you want to see the younger you when you check your magic mirror, contact us at Sanova Dermatology.  We can answer any questions you might have and see if IPL therapy is right for you!

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