IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) laser treatment, also referred to as photorejuvenation treatment, or photofacial treatment, is a nonsurgical cosmetic skin procedure commonly used to correct skin irregularities and reverse the signs of aging. In 2007, according to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, over 500,000 IPL laser treatment procedures were performed on women, and over 60,000 were performed on men in the United States. This anti-aging cosmetic procedure can cost between $150 and $600 per session as of 2009.
Reasons for Treatment
IPL laser treatment patients range widely in age and skin condition. Patients with corrective goals commonly use IPL to reduce skin irregularities caused by sun damage. Hyperpigmentation, the technical term for skin discoloration, appears in the form of age spots and liver spots. Another form of hyperpigmentation is melasmas, caused by pregnancy or menopause. IPL patients also use the treatment to reduce the appearance of scars, birthmarks, and. stretch marks. Fine lines and wrinkles can be diminished with multiple sessions. Patients with younger, less problematic skin, who use treatment as more of a preventative anti-aging solution, generally seek an overall improved complexion by way of a more even skin tone, and the radiance of a “new” layer of skin cells.
How it Works
IPL technology enables high-intensity laser beams to emit from a filtered flashlamp. The beams are filled with plasma energy that is channeled through the outer layer of the skin (the epidermis) to the deeper skin layers (the dermis), in order to dissolve and destroy the unwanted skin cells, and promote the growth of new skin cells in the targeted area, thereby removing unwanted pigmentation. Different versions of IPL technology are designed to target different structures of the skin, and which version is used depends on the patient’s desired results of the laser treatment. The most significant benefit of choosing IPL laser treatment over other forms of laser treatment is that IPL technology is non-ablative. This means that the surface of the skin is left undamaged, since the lasers permeate through the outer skin layer to repair the skin from the inside out.
Painfulness and Post-Treatment Downtime
It is highly uncommon for an anesthetic to be given for IPL laser treatment, as the patient experiences very little to no pain. At most, the lasers produce the feeling of a tiny pinch on the skin, or a prickling sensation. IPL patients also experience no post-treatment downtime, and may return to normal daily activities directly after treatment.
IPL laser treatment first results in a more even skin tone and overall improved complexion. Broken capillaries and redness due to skin conditions, such as Rosacea, can be resolved in one or two sessions. The reduction of age spots and liver spots, as well as hyperpigmentation from melasma, require multiple treatment sessions, the number depending on the depth of the skin condition. Diminishing fine lines and wrinkles by “filling” the skin from the inside out with new skin cells, after the old “zapped” cells have been destroyed and replaced, also requires multiple sessions, which vary in length and quantity. Scars, birth marks, and stretch marks are also reduced with continual treatment. All results are long-term to permanent.
While IPL enthusiasts from the medical side claim that this technology is safest in the laser treatment field, and has the least risk of side effects, increased skin irritation is not uncommon to IPL patients. Redness, itchiness and (even if rarely) a stinging sensation in the skin, usually on the face, are all possible post-treatment side effects. A definite side effect of any laser treatment is the skin’s increased sensitivity to UV rays. Those “freshly” exposed cells that give the skin its younger looking appearance are substantially more prone to sun damage; therefore, it’s even more crucial that the patient apply a high-strength SPF sunscreen before stepping out of the house.
References and ResourcesCosmetic Plastic Surgery Statistics - The American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
"New Standards Urged for Treatment at Spas," By Liz Kowalczyk, The Boston Globe; February 24, 2009.
LocateADoc.com - IPL Before & After Photos