by Laura Kay
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) is a light therapy for photodamaged, reddened, or uneven skin. Hyperpigmentation in the form of sunspots, freckles, post-inflammatory marks (i.e. acne scars), and vascular skin issues such as broken capillaries, rosacea, and angiomas (raised, bright red bumps) are all conditions of the skin that can be improved, and even eliminated, using IPL.
Intense Pulsed Light is performed by a nurse or certified technician. A cold, water- based gel is applied in a thick layer to the skin. The IPL handpiece has a small glass lens, which is placed against the skin. The technician will then manually trigger the IPL machine, which emits pulses of a very bright, scattered light energy through the lens and into the skin (think of a very bright camera flash type of light). This light energy travels right through the skin’s surface, down to the lowest levels of the skin, targeting any tissue affected by excess melanin (brown pigment) or hemoglobin (the red pigment of the blood cell). When the light energy comes into contact with these structures, it converts to a powerful heat energy which affects only the pigments it is attracted to – melanin and hemoglobin. This heat energy causes somewhat of a controlled injury to excess brown and red pigments, destroying things like broken vessels, sun spots, rosacea, and sun damage. This heat energy also stimulates fibroblasts into action – these are the structures within the skin that promote collagen and elastin production. The great thing about this treatment is that it is very specific in what it targets – the light bypasses any ‘normal’ or unaffected tissue, leaving you with minimal downtime and a treatment that is very safe for the skin overall.
General redness and a sensation of warmth is very normal after a treatment – it feels like a mild sunburn that usually will improve within the first few days after the procedure. Brown spots or areas of sun damage will typically become crusty and flaky, whereas red lesions and vessels tend to become a little bit more bruised or purply looking. Some people also experience puffiness. These effects take about a week to heal completely, with any crusty areas sloughing off and bruising slowly fading. This treatment is one that produces optimal results after a series of treatments, usually 4-6 sessions on a montly basis, but most individuals do see a noticeable improvement to their skin after just 1 treatment.
This treatment does enhance photosensitivity so sun protection is an absolute must – using an SPF 45-60 and limiting time spent outside during the sun’s peak times is recommended for about 4 weeks after each session. You also need to be very gentle with your skin during the first week – no exfoliation, medicated skincare products, or facial waxing. Applying cold compresses during the first week or so will help your side effects to subside more quickly, and you will be back into your regular routine in no time!
The cost of IPL treatments range significantly. A quick ten minute appointment for a small spot, like a single freckle or red spot, may cost about $50. Areas like full arms or legs can take up to two hours for the technician to complete a single session, and can cost anywhere from $300 to $500. The most popular area to treat is the face however, ranging from $250 to $400 per session.
Intense Pulsed Light is one of the safest, most effective anti-aging treatments on the market today. It is a great option for those looking to avoid more invasive methods, like ablative lasers, surgery, or injections. The end result is an even, smooth complexion, unmarred with discolouration. Intense Pulsed Light restores your natural beauty, revitalizing that bright, radiant skin that we all strive for!