A lot of us find it relaxing to bask in the sun and soak in all that vitamin D. After all, spending time in the sun relaxing on the beach, listening to a podcast or just enjoying the view is a great way to relieve stress.
However, despite how much we love the sun, age, and continuous exposure to it ends up causing a lot of damage to our skin. Then, the sun becomes our enemy, causing hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, sunburn, skin cancer and a lot of other skin conditions.
So, what can we do to get our skin back to its former glory? How do we get skin rejuvenation? A good idea to help make this happen is intense pulsed light (IPL), a laser treatment that is becoming increasingly popular. We will discuss everything about skin rejuvenation with IPL.
What is Intense Pulsed Light?
Also known as flashlamp therapy, intense pulsed light (IPL) is a non-ablative and non-invasive treatment. It works by targeting the blood vessels with a high-intensity pulse of light to solve several skin conditions like unwanted hair, wrinkles, facial lines, age spots, freckles, rosacea, hyperpigmentation and broken facial veins. Commonly done in a medical spa or physician’s office, IPL treats skin issues in polychromatic blasts of powerful light.
This IPL light creates energy that penetrates deep into the blood vessels to fix the melanin causing skin spots and discolouration. It also attacks the pigment particles so that it can destroy their bonds and let them rise to the surface in the form of scabs. These are then removed naturally by the body. With IPL treatment, there is no downtime, only very mild discomfort like redness.
The different wavelengths are also very gentle on the skin. Laser treatments are excellent in taking care of hyperpigmentation, which can be a result of skin injuries, hormonal fluctuations, and sun exposure. With a series of IPL treatments, you can achieve skin rejuvenation for even stretch marks and acne.
Several years of damage caused by UV rays will require a lot of patience and treatment to reverse it. While there are some topical treatments like vitamin C and hydroquinone for hyperpigmentation, a more permanent solution is intense pulsed light (IPL) that treats the face, neck, and other parts of the body. With IPL, you can restore your glowing skin.
There are various IPL machines designed to combat specific skin issues. Common ones are Ellipse, EpiLight, and LumenisI Quantum IPL. Ellipse is used in treating some vascular birthmarks, thread veins and spider veins. In this procedure, the light pulse targets hemoglobin in the blood and uses heat to destroy the red pigment. This is done without damage to skin tissues.
EpiLight is used to treat skin discolouration problems like melasma, erythromelanosis, pigmented birthmarks, freckles and age spots. Similar to Ellipse IPL treatment, this machine combats pigmented lesions by destroying the melanin on the skin’s surface.
Finally, the Lumenis Quantum IPL takes care of hair removal. If you have unwanted hair on your legs, chest, back, neck, face or underarms, the intense pulsed light (IPL) will target the hair follicle, which will lead to the hair falling out. It also prevents the growth of new hair.
How does intense pulsed light therapy work?
Intense pulsed light (IPL) works almost the same way as lasers. The target cells which contain chromophores in the skin absorb the light energy, and this forms the bases of intense pulsed light. Laser light energy that penetrates the skin is converted to heat energy that damages the target area.
To accurately target specific chromophores and enhance light penetration without the use of excessive energy, a lot of intense pulsed light systems use filters to refine the energy output during treatment. This therapy is a non-ablative resurfacing technique that targets the lower layer of the skin without damaging the upper layer.
However, compared to ablative resurfacing, which injures the epidermis and dermis, the results take a longer time to show up. The most significant advantage of IPL is that it has no downtime, so you can resume normal activities almost immediately.
A brief overview of hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmentation is one of the most common skin conditions in recent times. It is a harmless skin condition that appears as we age, with the most common cause being UV rays. In this type of hyperpigmentation known as age spots, the skin tissue appears in patches and becomes darker than the skin surrounding it.
This condition is not unique to any ethnicity, and this darkening happens due to excess melanin produced by the body. You notice these patches on the face, neck, and hands that are regularly exposed to UV rays. There is another type of hyperpigmentation known as melasma, which closely resembles age spots but instead is caused by hormonal fluctuations.
This means that constant changes in progesterone and estrogen levels in women could lead to melasma, which appears on the chin, upper lip, nose, forehead, and cheeks. Women on birth control pills and those who are pregnant are susceptible to this condition, which affects a significant number of the female population.
Finally, another type is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This appears when you have had a skin injury and once healed leaves a discolouration behind. Damage to the epidermis stimulates an increase in melanin production, which in turn leads to hyperpigmentation.
This is also common on the skin where acne has healed and leaves a dark spot. This condition doesn’t go away on its own but can be treated with skin lightening creams. Those who opt for IPL treatments experience better success at truly treating their skin and making it glow.
Picking the right clinic for IPL
Although IPL is considered an effective and safe treatment, picking the right clinic has a massive effect on the overall success of your procedure. Therefore, you need to thoroughly vet any clinic you choose as the location of your intense pulsed light therapy. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and do as much research as possible about the clinic before giving the green light.
An excellent intense pulsed light therapy clinic will be willing to spend considerable time discussing the procedure with you and providing valid answers to your questions until you are satisfied. If they have a website, be sure to check if the physician has a license to perform intense pulsed light therapy.
In the absence of a working website, look for this at the clinic. As a license is not required to operate the IPL laser, you should make sure that you trust the physician and have a fair idea that they know what they are doing. If you are unsure, get a regular facial first to confirm their abilities.
Before the treatment procedure, your physician will inform you of the IPL therapy process, expectations, and the correct diagnosis of everything involved in the treatment. Usually, most IPL treatments are straightforward as long as the technician has the proper level of training and experience. Make sure that you avoid sun exposure for at least two weeks before your treatment.
During the procedure, the technician will apply a topical anesthetic to help numb the area from pain. To protect your eyes, you will have to wear protective goggles. After this takes effect, the next step is to apply a cold gel on the treatment area while the glass surface of the machine delivers a pulse of light at strategic spots on the treatment area.
Usually, this should last for less than 30 minutes, and you will need at least four sessions at four weeks interval to get the best results. However, this is not a fixed time limit as your technician will decide what works best for your situation. It’s okay to return to work immediately as it doesn’t inhibit your ability to go about your normal activities.
Even after your intense pulsed light treatment, you should minimize sun exposure. IPL is not a painful procedure, some people describe the sensation as similar to a light pinch. However, this is not the same for everyone as some people find it uncomfortable. It depends on your pain threshold. You can use light makeup immediately after the IPL treatment as long as you apply it as gently as possible.
What happens after intense pulsed light therapy?
After getting your intense pulsed light treatment, you should take great care of your skin to avoid the resurfacing of skin damage. If your skin condition is a result of excessive exposure to UV rays, then always use a sunscreen or cover up adequately when outdoors. It is still better if you can prevent spending as much time outdoors as possible.
Protect your face with a wide-brimmed hat or visors for your eyes. If your skin condition is melasma, it could be more challenging to correct since hormonal fluctuations cause it. Consider an alternative method of birth control, rather than using pills. However, if it is caused by pregnancy, it may go away after a while, with results being more visible after birth.
Using intense pulsed light for hair removal
Intense pulsed light (IPL) is also quite effective in getting rid of unwanted hair. For really hairy people, this will come as a relief as it sometimes negatively affects our overall appearance while also reducing body confidence. However, getting rid of unwanted hair using IPL is not meant to be a magical quick fix as it requires perseverance and months of patience to get fantastic treatment results.
IPL treatment is effective in hair removal when the hair is in a growing phase called the Anagen stage. Hair has three life cycle stages, and each hair on the body is usually at different stages most times. So, the average continuous life cycle time will depend on the area of the body the hair is growing. For example, the life cycle is as long as 12 months on the legs and as little as five months at the underarms.
Therefore, you need to have multiple treatments to get all the hair in the treatment area at the Anagen stage and reduce hair growth successfully. This is why you need consistency and patience. Avoid hair removal methods like epilating, sugaring, and waxing while having your laser treatment. Instead, it is advisable to shave before your procedure and in-between treatments as well.
The bad news about this intense pulsed light therapy is that it is not suitable for everyone. It doesn’t work for specific hair colour and skin tones, so you need to be sure that it is right for you. IPL therapy is a no-no for darker skin tones as this technique uses light energy to work on the dark pigment on the skin and hair. This dark pigment will then absorb the light and release heat that damages the hair follicle enough to allow it to fall out.
However, with darker skin tones, the dark pigment could become overheated, leading to permanent patches, scarring, blisters, and burns. IPL for hair removal can be done at home with your laser machine. However, you need to follow all instructions and go through the hair removal process carefully.
Side effects of intense pulsed light treatments
As with most laser skin treatments, IPL has a few side effects which fade off after a while. One of the side effects is bruising, which affects a low percentage of people and could take about two weeks to heal fully. This could be less depending on your level of maintenance. The skin pigment may also absorb too much light energy, which may, in turn, result in blistering or the pigment cells may get so damaged that they leave behind skin patches.
Immediately after your IPL treatment, your skin may feel a little sore and turn pink. You could also experience swelling, peeling, or redness of your skin over a few days after your treatment. Other side effects to look out for are crusting, which go after ten days and darker spots for a few days if your IPL treatment is for age spots and freckles.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) is a revolutionary treatment technique in the world of laser treatments. With its track record of impressive results, you can benefit from the effectiveness of IPL to get rid of unwanted hair, treat hyperpigmentation, get rid of acne scars, and generally make your skin look as fabulous as you desire.