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Notes on Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)

Intense pulsed light also known as IPL is an in-salon treatment that can be used to treat a wide range of skin issues including freckles and sun spots, wrinkles and fine lines, uneven texture and tone, and visible capillaries and redness. It can also be used for hair removal. 

Commonly grouped together with laser, IPL works in a similar way, however, they aren’t quite the same. IPL varies in that it relies on light of different wavelengths that are spread across a broad spectrum (whereas laser only uses light of a singular wavelength), meaning it can target larger areas of skin. IPL is able to penetrate deep into the dermis (the layer of skin below the epidermis) without causing harm or damage to the outermost layer of skin, effectively stimulating collagen production and removing excess pigment which in turn means little to no downtime. 

Like most in-salon treatments they’re best left to a professional, in untrained hands an at-home device carries great risk and could result in burns or severe scarring. In addition to the risk, at-home devices are not strong enough to yield significant results so my advice is to save your skin and money for the in-salon treatment or instead focus on a skincare routine with high-performance actives tailored to target your skin concerns. 

The treatment is not painful but does involve a level of discomfort, akin to the feeling of a small rubber band being snapped against the skin. While there is typically minimal downtime involved, the skin may appear red or ‘sunburnt’ for a short period after treatment. Any patches of pigmentation will darken and gradually disappear altogether in pace with the skin’s natural cell turnover process, revealing an even-toned and smooth complexion beneath.

Similar to laser treatments, IPL is best suited to those with fair or light skin tones. It is best to avoid retinol, glycolic acid and chemical peel for 2 weeks ahead of your IPL treatment. Results are cumulative, so it will take several sessions to reach your desired outcome. Personally, I have been using IPL as a modality in my studios for years and find it yields especially wonderful results when used in conjunction with laser, radio frequency and LED light.