- IPL skin rejuvenation is a noninvasive skin care procedure that uses high-powered pulses of light to improve the appearance of skin.
- This procedure also treats common skin concerns such as wrinkles, dark spots, unsightly veins or broken capillaries.
- IPL is also effective in treating sun damage and scarring, and the redness associated with rosacea.
- Treatment costs can be as low as $300 per session and recovery takes just two days.
Skin rejuvenation is an umbrella term that applies to any treatment that makes the skin appear younger. Many treatment options are available and include both surgical and nonsurgical options.
Skin rejuvenation is most often associated with minimizing the natural signs of aging but it can also address skin damage that results from injury or trauma, as well as improve symptoms of some skin conditions such as rosacea.
Intense pulsed light (IPL) skin rejuvenation is a type of light therapy used to treat these skin concerns. Unlike other light therapies, particularly those done with lasers, IPL causes minimal damage to the skin and recovery takes just a few days. This method of skin rejuvenation is safe, with minimal downtime.
Benefits include improved smoothness, reduced sun damage and discoloration, and improved appearance of wrinkles, spots or scars.
What Is IPL Skin Rejuvenation?
IPL skin rejuvenation is a skin care procedure that uses powerful bursts of light to improve the appearance of skin. The light waves used are filtered to exclude any harmful wavelengths (such as ultraviolet waves) and kept within the appropriate range to heat up and eliminate targeted cells.
Among these are pigment cells, which are responsible for moles and hyperpigmentation. IPL also targets a compound found in the blood called oxyhemoglobin to help treat those with rosacea. When the temperature of oxyhemoglobin is adequately raised, it destroys the dilated capillaries close to the skin’s surface that are responsible for the red appearance seen in rosacea patients.
Lastly, IPL stimulates collagen-producing skin cells called fibroblasts. Increased collagen production helps to reduce wrinkles and treat scar tissue. These fibroblasts also contribute to the production of hyaluronic acid, a substance that keeps the skin moisturized and contributes to a youthful appearance.
IPL vs. laser treatment
IPL skin rejuvenation and laser skin resurfacing are similar procedures in that they both improve skin through light treatments. Where they differ is in the type of light they use: IPL produces light in a broad range of wavelengths; laser resurfacing uses just one wavelength at a time.
This means IPL is less concentrated, making it less effective at treating serious skin irregularities such as scars. However, it also means that the recovery time for IPL is significantly shorter than for laser therapy.
IPL Skin Rejuvenation Benefits
IPL benefits the skin primarily by destroying compounds that cause hyperpigmentation and redness, and by encouraging collagen formation. These two functions help:
- Reduce skin discolorations such as freckles, birthmarks, age spots and sun spots
- Rid the skin of vascular lesions such as broken capillaries and spider veins
- Improve the appearance of scars
- Tighten and smooth skin
- Reduce wrinkles and pore size
- Reduce facial redness resulting from rosacea
Does It Work?
Evidence shows that IPL skin rejuvenation is an effective way to improve the appearance of skin. It has been found to significantly improve photoaged skin, when used alone and in combination treatments.
IPL has also been tested for its effects on hyaluronic acid and collagen levels in the skin; levels were found to have increased 48 hours after treatment, tightening and improving skin’s texture.
Number of treatments required
Although many patients report visible improvement after just one treatment, clinicians typically recommend 2–5 IPL sessions (spaced four weeks apart) for general skin rejuvenation. If treating severe skin damage or discoloration, as many as ten treatments may be needed.
IPL can also be used to treat melasma, a condition where dark patches appear on the face. While the exact cause of melasma is unknown, risk factors include sun exposure, pregnancy and genetics.
IPL treats melasma in the same way it treats other cases of skin discoloration: by targeting the responsible pigment cells. IPL is particularly effective at treating melasma because it can penetrate the skin and is therefore able to reduce discoloration not only on the skin’s surface but also at lower levels. IPL can also be combined with topical treatments to further minimize dark spots caused by melasma.
Preparation for an IPL procedure usually starts four weeks in advance, following your first consultation. During this time, you should avoid excessive sun exposure (tanning) and regularly apply SPF sunscreen to protect your skin from UV radiation.
Avoid taking aspirin or other anti-inflammatories that may increase the chances of bleeding, and stop using any skin care products that contain abrasive ingredients, such as retinol, that may increase skin sensitivity during treatment.
One or two days prior to treatment, you’ll need to shave the treatment area.
On the day of treatment, do not wear any cosmetics. At the clinic, you’ll be asked to put on a pair of protective glasses. Then, the doctor will thoroughly clean the treatment area and apply a cooling gel.
The procedure itself lasts 30 minutes and takes place lying down. The doctor will move the IPL device across the treatment area as bursts of light are applied; you will feel a stinging sensation.
Recovery and aftercare
Immediately following the procedure, the treatment area will feel hot and sensitive. This usually subsides within a few hours.
Initial recovery from an IPL treatment can take up to two days. During this time, you should avoid direct sunlight or hot water, since it may damage the sensitive skin. Following this, you are advised to wear SPF 30+ sunscreen for up to six weeks.
Common side effects of IPL include redness, swelling and discomfort – symptoms similar to sunburn. Other side effects include blistering, hair loss and unusually light or dark patches of skin. Approximately 10% of patients also experience bruising.
All of these side effects are temporary and resolve within one week of treatment.
Before and Afters
The cost of IPL skin rejuvenation depends on the size of the area being treated. A full face treatment usually costs between $200–$600 per session, depending on the clinic.
Since IPL is considered a cosmetic procedure, it isn’t covered by most health insurance policies.
At Home IPL Skin Rejuvenation Machines
It’s possible to buy your own IPL device for less than the cost of a single IPL treatment. However, commercial IPL devices are far less powerful than their clinical counterparts. As a result, they are only effective for hair removal.
IPL skin rejuvenation is an effective way to achieve youthful and healthy-looking skin. It can benefit those with fine lines and wrinkles, loose skin, hyperpigmentation and rosacea.
Although IPL skin rejuvenation has been proven effective, it does require between 2–5 treatments to provide the best results. Each treatment costs about $300–$600, depending on the intensity and scope of the treatment.
The procedure itself is safe and noninvasive. Each treatment takes around half an hour and involves some discomfort, but patients are expected to make a full recovery within several days.
Skin rejuvenation using IPL is not a recommended treatment for at-home use as the results are inferior to professional treatments. When IPL is performed by a professional, side effects are rare and uncommon, but can include burning and swelling of the treated area.
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