All your IPL Questions- ANSWERED!

CHELSEY BECKER, MSN, FNP-C

CHELSEY BECKER, MSN, FNP-C

Spa Director & Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner

By: Chelsey Becker

IPL – Intense Pulsed Light – is commonly referred to as a laser treatment, but it’s actually a light therapy. IPL is very similar to laser, however, laser focuses on just one wavelength of light at your skin, while IPL releases light of many different wavelengths, like a photo flash. The light from IPL is more wide-spread than a laser. IPL is ideal for treating skin conditions where we want to penetrate multiple depths of the skin, while laser is preferred for targeting a specific depth, or more focused area in the skin (treatments such as laser hair removal). 

1. When do we recommend IPL treatments?

IPL is a very effective treatment for dramatic improvement of red and brown pigmentation on the face and neck. This pigmentation often stems from sun exposure and sun damage. IPL photo facials are also recommended for improvement in overall texture and appearance of your skin for a healthy, refreshed look. Always consult your provider before undergoing treatment, but you might be a good candidate for IPL if you struggle with: 

  • Fine lines & wrinkles
  • Sun-damaged skin (photoaged)
  • Blush of rosacea
  • Age spots and sun-induced freckles
  • Benign brown pigment
  • Persistent red pigmentation
  • Red spots and large blood vessels
  • Acne scars & large pores

2. How long is a typical IPL treatment?

Depending on your specific targeted treatment area(s), IPL treatments take between 15 to 20 minutes to complete. We do recommend a series of treatments, spaced four to six weeks apart in order to achieve optimal results, and quarterly maintenance treatments. 

3. What can I expect during an IPL treatment?

Your provider will clean and prep your treatment area(s) and apply a topical numbing cream to ensure your comfort during your procedure. Once your treatment area is prepared, your provider will move their laser over the skin in a grid-like pattern, flashing the light about every centimeter. Depending on your specific needs, your provider may need to go over your treatment area multiple times. IPL is a breakthrough treatment designed to help restore the appearance of your skin, without causing damage to the skin’s surface. 

4. What is the downtime with an IPL treatment?

Following your IPL treatment, you may experience mild to moderate redness, which lasts 1 to 3 days. The pigment in your targeted treatment area will also turn darker over the next 48 hours. THIS IS NORMAL! Your skin will naturally exfoliate (or flake off) often within a week, but to err on the side of caution, we recommend patients plan for 7 to 10 days of that flaking. We call this the “chocolate chipping” effect or “peppering.” During that window, you would not want to add any additional exfoliation. Trust your skin to do it’s thing!

5. Are there any do’s and don’ts with IPL treatments? 

  • We recommend waiting 24 hours after treatment before working out.
  • We cannot treat IPL if there’s any type of tan on your skin (self-tanner, spray tan, tan from sun exposure). If you have a tan, we must wait two weeks before treating with IPL. IPL treatments are more effective when you’re at your baseline skin tone (your lightest complexion).
  • You can cleanse and moisturize your skin, protecting it like you normally would. We recommend a gentle cleanser and a gentle moisturizer. 
  • You can apply makeup the next day.
  • We recommend avoiding direct sunlight, waxing, chemical peels, and retinoids for two weeks post treatment.

6. Is IPL effective for hair removal?

It depends! Light therapy can be effective for hair removal, but because it is more widespread, targeting multiple depths in the skin, it’s not a preferred method for hair removal. Here at Aurora, we use a true laser machine for hair removal treatments. The laser device is a more focused treatment, allowing us to target hairs at the follicle making it much more effective for hair removal, and also allows us to treat darker skin tones than we could with IPL. 

IPL has quickly become a patient favorite here at Aurora, because of its effectiveness in reducing pigmentation, the quickness of the treatment, and the affordability! It’s also a huge plus that IPL does not damage the outer layers of your skin, allowing for a fast recovery with minimal downtime. As always, we encourage you to discuss all of your options with your skincare provider, including the benefits, potential risks, and cost to decide if IPL is right for you!