Intense Pulsed Light
Human skin is prone to issues with pigmentation. From age spots to rosacea, hyperpigmentation to blotchy areas, few of us have consistent, even-toned skin without blemishes.
At Smooth Solutions Medical Aesthetics, we utilize Intense Pulsed Light therapy to get rid of these spots and pigmentation issues, improving the skin tone, texture, and radiance.
What is Intense Pulse Light?
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) is often confused with lasers. The two are similar but different. Lasers deliver a single wavelength of light energy, making the energy good for very specific issues, such as matching the hair color for laser hair removal. Intense Pulsed Light delivers a wider spectrum of light energy. Because of this, different pigmentation issues can be addressed at one time. Like laser skin treatments, IPL treatments are delivered in short pulses of energy.
How does IPL treatment help my skin?
There are two ways IPL benefits your skin. First, it penetrates the epidermis layer of the skin (the outer layer) and gently heats the dermis, the skin’s second layer. When the body senses this heating in the dermis it responds as if it has been wounded by producing new amounts of collagen and sending it to the “wounded” area. Since collagen provides the skin’s underlying support structure, this firms your skin and reduces lines and wrinkles.
The second IPL benefit addresses your pigmentation problems such as age spots and wrinkles. The darker cells absorb the IPL energy and the melanin pigment fragments. The body then absorbs the pigment cells and the spots become less and less visible. With veins, the energy is absorbed by the dark blood, heating the vein. This heating causes the vein wall to collapse and close off the vein. The body then scavenges the vein and it completely disappears.
Who is a good candidate for IPL treatments?
These treatments work best when there is a good amount of contrast between the patient’s skin color and the color of the unwanted areas of pigmentation. People with white, untanned skin with good elasticity are good candidates for IPL treatments. That’s because the light energy can be fully absorbed by the melanin in the darker spots without being absorbed on tanned, but clear, areas of the skin.
It is important to note that IPL doesn’t provide instant results. These are completely non-invasive, easy-to-tolerate procedures whose results build with repeated treatments.
People who are not candidates for IPL at Smooth Solutions are pregnant women, those with an active skin condition, or those taking certain drugs such as Accutane. If you have tanned or darker skin, these aren’t good treatments, as the light energy can cause pigmentation changes.
What skin issues can be treated with IPL?
At Smooth Solutions Medical Aesthetics, we use IPL to treat these pigmentation problems with our patients’ skin:
- Age spots/liver spots
- Areas of discoloration
- Blotchy skin
- Dark spots from hormonal changes
- Broken blood vessels
- Acne scarring
IPL also improves the fine line, wrinkles, and acne scarring. It is also effective for removing spider veins.
How is IPL performed?
Two things are done before we begin your IPL treatment: we give you protective eyewear to protect your eyes from the bright light, and we apply cool gel to the treatment area to act as a lubricant for the IPL handpiece and to cool your surface skin.
Next, we direct the IPL onto your target areas. This is delivered in very short pulses of intense light. At each pulse, you’ll feel a sensation akin to the snapping of a small rubber band on your skin. The number of pulses you receive will depend on the size of the area being treated.
What should I expect after my IPL treatment?
These treatments with our Smooth Solutions patients are well tolerated and non-invasive. After your sessions, your skin may be slightly pink or red. You may also have some mild swelling on the treatment areas. These effects usually resolve within a few hours or up to a day.
Your skin will be more sensitive to the sun, however, so you’ll need to be sure to avoid sun exposure for several days, and diligently use sunscreen for at least two weeks. Of course, sun damage is what caused your pigmentation problems to begin with, so protecting your skin will help keep your skin looking great moving forward.
Do IPL treatments hurt?
When the IPL energy is delivered onto the skin the sensation ranges from a feeling of warmth to something like the slight sting of a rubber band being snapped lightly on your skin. Our patients do not equate our IPL treatments with “pain.” Obviously, some areas, such as the forehead, can be more sensitive than others.
When will I be able to see results from my IPL treatments?
It will take a few days to start to see your results. After your treatments, your targeted age spots and areas of darker skin will actually become darker. This can be disconcerting, but it is actually a good sign. The darker skin cells have absorbed the IPL energy and are beginning the process of dying and being shed by the body. They will be replaced by new skin cells and the darker cells will be gone. This will erase or dramatically reduce the appearance of these areas.
As for the effects from increased collagen production, those are ongoing improvements that will start a week or so after your session and will continue for weeks.
What risks are associated with IPL treatment?
One of the reasons our Smooth Solutions patients love our IPL treatments is that they are very low-risk treatments. Short-term potential side effects after an IPL session include very minor possible swelling, redness, and increased visibility of small capillaries. These are short-term issues, usually resolving in just a few hours. There is a slight chance of hyperpigmentation, but the expertise of our team ensures that risk is incredibly low.
How long will my results last after my IPL treatments?
These improvements in your age spots, rosacea, and other pigmentation problems are permanent. The broken blood vessels cleared are also gone for good. How your results endure or evolve depends on you and the sun. Sun exposure has caused most of these issues, and it will again if you don’t protect your skin. If you’re getting a lot of sun exposure and don’t adequately protect yourself with SPF 30 sunscreen, your sun spots, age spots, and broken capillaries will develop again. But if you take good care of your skin and protect it from the sun, your skin will continue to look good for the long term.
At Smooth Solutions Medical Aesthetics, we recommend an initial series of 6-8 IPL treatments. From there, patients opt for IPL treatments every 6 or 12 months as maintenance to continue the renewed collagen production.