Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatment is a lower-impact alternative to laser therapy. It can be used to diminish freckles, sun spots, flat birth marks, and other discolorations of the skin. It can also be used as a hair removal treatment. Finally, it treats some conditions lasers do not, namely facial redness, such as that caused by rosacea. The treatment is perfect for thin-skinned individuals who cannot undergo laser treatment or do not want to suffer the downtime of laser skin resurfacing.
IPL works by pulsing the skin with intense light, similar to a laser, but lower intensity and a wider potential of wavelengths. It is the variation of wavelengths that allows it to treat facial redness, whereas CO2 and Erbium lasers both produce red light that is reflected by red skin.
IPL works by a process called selective photothermolysis. The pulsed light is transmitted through or reflected by lighter tissues, but is absorbed by darker tissues, such as freckles, sun spots, birth marks, and hair follicles. When the light radiation is absorbed by the dark skin, it is turned into heat energy, causing thermal trauma to the cells. In other words, they are destroyed. Ideally, candidates for IPL should be light-skinned with dark spots or hairs to be treated.
According to clinical studies, the mean hair removal achieved by IPL was 76% after an average of 3.7 treatments. Although anecdotal evidence claims that hair color is a significant variable, the studies did not confirm this in its results. Other studies show that hair removal can be successfully achieved on patients with very dark skin (Fitzpatrick skin types V-VI).
This can lead to long-lasting hair removal and, in some cases, permanent hair reduction. Often, too, hair that grows back comes in lighter and finer.
The IPL treatment is sometimes painful, although not for everyone. Improper treatment can cause burns, so make sure you work with a qualified IPL technician. After the treatment, you will likely experience raised bumps and red coloration around the destroyed follicles. Typically, these side effects will subside after three or four days.