Initially approved to treat dilated blood vessels, IPL (intense pulsed light) treatment is commonly used as photorejuvenation to decrease brown spots caused by sun damage as well as minimize broken capillaries and rosacea. The treatment, also called a photofacial or fotofacial, uses an arc of light energy to penetrate all levels of the skin without harming the surface, resulting in little to no downtime.
IPL is recommended for the treatment of excess pigmentation including age spots, sunspots, freckles and melasma as well as broken capillaries and rosacea. IPL is typically used on the face, hands, neck, chest and legs. Several treatments spaced 3-4 weeks apart will produce optimal results.
IPL is not recommended for darker skin tones (Fitzpatrick IV-VI). Melanin (pigment) absorbs light energy so olive or brown skin, even tanned skin from self-tanning lotion, has the potential to burn and potentially scar or cause permanent discoloration. Topical treatments and a series of chemical peels may be more suitable before laser or IPL treatments.
During your first appointment your provider will determine if you are a good candidate and they may perform a spot test. They will also give you instructions on what to avoid for up to two weeks prior to treatment, including waxing, tanning or sun exposure, peels and topical creams containing retinol or glycolic acid. At the start of your treatment your skin will be cleansed and an ultrasound gel applied and you will be asked to wear protective eyewear. The device will be moved against your skin, emitting light pulses which may cause a snapping sensation and it can feel very hot and even painful unless a topical anesthetic is used.
Your skin will likely be swollen or red for a few hours or the rest of the day but you should be able to resume regular activities or work. Use ice packs or a cool washcloth on the treatment area to ease discomfort. For one to seven days post-treatment you will notice pigmented spots rise to the surface of your skin before fading a few days to a week later. Your skin may feel sunburned or hypersensitive. Avoid sun exposure and wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen SPF 30+.
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