IPL, or Intense Pulsed Light, treatments have become extremely popular in recent years. Also known as Photofacial, a professional-grade IPL machine can address a variety of cosmetic concerns, including hair removal, reduction of redness/broken capillaries, sun damage pigmentation removal, acne treatment, anti-aging treatment, and general improvement of the skin’s tone and appearance. Small IPL machines designed for home use have also become available via many online retailers. The question is: which option is worth your investment?
Are home-use IPL machines effective?
Yes, they are effective. However, since they are designed for home-use, there are limitations to their capabilities. They cannot provide the accurate results or meet the standards followed by cosmetic industry professionals. Home-use IPL machines lack the power of the machines used by medical spas and salons, who also follow safety standards ensuring the best treatment experience for their clients.
Potential side effects of at-home IPL devices include:
- Irritation or discomfort
- Unwanted pigment changes
Because at-home devices use much lower energy than professional versions, these side effects are rare. However, people with darker skin tones should exercise caution. These machines are designed to target the pigment in your skin and those with darker skin are at a higher risk for adverse effects.
What Do IPL Treatments Do?
IPL for Hair Removal
An IPL machine sends intense pulsed light through the epidermis into the dermis, producing a photothermal effect. It conducts the energy from the hair section to the hair root, then quickly raises the temperature of the melanin rapidly and decomposes it, resulting in hair removal. The light is only absorbed by the melanin in the hair and hair follicles, not by the area surrounding the region.
While IPL for hair removal is permanent, it will require several treatments due to the hair growth cycle. For the treatment to be most effective, six to eight treatments are generally needed. The advised interval between every treatment is four weeks.
IPL for Skin Rejuvenation
During this process, the IPL treatment stimulates collagen-producing skin cells called fibroblasts. Increased collagen production helps to reduce wrinkles and treat scar tissue. By activating the skin’s fibroblasts, production of hyaluronic acid, a substance that keeps the skin moisturized, is also increased. At the same time, the photothermal effect of the IPL enhances blood vessel circulation. As a result, wrinkles are reduced or eliminated as the skin becomes smoother, clearer, and firmer. The appearance of scars is also reduced by IPL treatment.
IPL for Acne Treatment
Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) is the name of the bacteria that live on the skin. P. acnes contributes to the infection of pimples. The IPL device’s specialized spectrum of IPL VA-305 penetrates the skin and stimulates the porphyrin, which releases monomorphism oxyanion. Monomorphism oxyanion kills propionibacterium acnes effectively.
IPL for Spider Vein Removal
IPL treats spider veins by applying heat to the walls of the blood vessel, damaging it. The light penetrates the skin, targeting the spider vein, but without damaging the surrounding skin. After this damage to the vein is complete, the vein will gradually disintegrate and be reabsorbed by the body. IPL is very effective for spider veins because the amount of heat from each wavelength can be manipulated, giving it the ability to treat large and small areas.
IPL for Skin Pigmentation
Fading of hyperpigmentation using IPL treatment depends on the location and type of spot being treated. When treating brown spots (also known as hyperpigmentation), an immediate darkening of some skin around the treatment area is possible. This is common and no cause for concern, as this side effect is temporary. This darkening occurs if there is brown pigment in the upper layers of your skin. The darkened area typically begins to fade in 7-14 days. At this time, it should become apparent that many superficial brown spots around the treatment area are becoming lighter and less noticeable.
Treating melasma is more challenging. Melasma is a condition producing dark patches of skin on the face. While the exact cause of melasma is unknown, risk factors include sun exposure, pregnancy, hormonal contraceptives, and genetics. IPL is generally very effective at treating melasma because it can penetrate the skin and is therefore able to reduce discoloration not only on the skin’s surface but also at lower levels. If the pigment is located deeper in the skin, it may not be possible to erase all spots and discoloration. IPL can also be combined with topical treatments to further minimize dark spots caused by melasma. Optimal results can largely depend on the skill and experience of the technician performing IPL therapy.
Most patients obtain optimal results with a minimum of five treatments. Each IPL treatment builds on the effects of the previous treatment to gradually produce clearer skin. These improvements are usually detectable about a week after each session. The most noticeable improvements are apparent after monthly treatments of three to six months. Results can vary from session to session. Treatment appointments are scheduled about a month apart to allow for skin cell turnover, giving the skin time to recover and produce the desired collagen for clear, smooth skin.
How Long Before My Skin Heals After an IPL Treatment?
There is no downtime with an IPL treatment and discomfort is minimal! Clients can return to their usual routine immediately after the treatment. IPL therapy is designed to treat one skin layer at a time. Because pigment discoloration can exist at different depths in your skin, follow-up sessions allow the treatment of deeper layers of the skin for the best results.
While it may be tempting to purchase an at-home IPL machine, you may not get the results you want. Their lower energy output will produce very subtle results even after multiple treatments. In addition, excessive use of these machines can damage your skin. To get the best results for the money you spend, investing a little more in professional IPL treatment may be a better option for you.
If you are interested in IPL treatment, please call our office at 972-294-6992. Our experienced staff is happy to answer all of your questions and help you select the best treatment for the results you want.