Hydroxy acids, microneedling, light therapy. No, this isn’t a list of boring science-y terms about spaceships or the moon. On the contrary, these are all the amazing ways skin experts are addressing a different kind of crater (a skin crater, to be exact) – the dreaded acne scar. If this is a problem you’re facing, we definitely encourage you to add these anything-but-boring terms to your beauty vocabulary. Today’s lesson: Intense pulsed light treatment, or IPL for short.
This cosmetic breakthrough has only been around for a decade but has already garnered a cult following for its ability to treat acne scars, lighten skin pigmentation, and remove unwanted hair. Well, aren’t there a bunch of other skin treatments already addressing these skin issues? Good question. If you’ve come seeking answers, then we’re here bearing good news! We’re sharing everything we know about IPL treatments and the nitty-gritty behind the hype.
In a Nutshell: What is IPL?
Everything you need to know is basically in its name – intense pulsed light. With the use of a handheld device, waves of light are distributed into the skin through short, intense pulses. When these pulses of light energy are absorbed by the skin, it is converted into heat that destroys unwanted pigment cells, broken tissues, and hair follicles. These bad boys are responsible for acne, skin redness, dark spots, hair growth, and other skin issues.
Now, before you cringe at the thought of a foreign object penetrating your skin, get this. IPL treatments are non-invasive, non-ablative, and require zero downtime to recover from. That means you can sneak in a 15-minute session during lunch break and head back looking like you just had the best plate of steak! Plus, the device itself is skin-friendly. It is set to a specific range of wavelengths that are safe yet strong enough to reach the deeper dermis without damaging the topmost layer (the epidermis).
To paint a more simple (and less technical) picture: Just imagine Santa’s little helpers quietly working inside your skin to give you the best gift of all – a fresh, flawless face! Luckily for you, you don’t have to wait til Christmas to get it. Since gaining popularity in recent years, there has been a boom in skin clinics offering services like IPL photofacial, IPL photorejuvenation, IPL therapy, and, our personal choice, IPL skin rejuvenation. These fancy terms are basically one and the same thing: They all use intense pulsed light technology to correct problems related to skin tone and skin texture. Here’s a more comprehensive rundown of what you can treat with IPL.
Problems with skin texture
- Active acne (pimple, papules, pustules, cysts)
- Acne scars
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Unwanted hair
Problems with skin tone
- Age spots
- Broken blood vessels or capillaries
- Dark spots due to acne or hormonal changes
- Redness due to rosacea
- Sun spots
- Skin discoloration or pigmentation
If you’re plagued with any of these problems, IPL treatments are definitely worth considering. We can go on and on about its wonders, but in the interest of this article (and your time), let’s zero in on what IPL is best known for: Acne scars.
- IPL Skin Rejuvenation for Rosacea
- IPL Skin Rejuvenation for Broken Capillaries
- IPL Skin Rejuvenation for Wrinkles
- IPL Skin Rejuvenation for Pigmentation
Acne Scars: Why is IPL Skin Rejuvenation the Best Treatment?
Fine, maybe best is a loaded word. But for a lot of acne-prone people, IPL is certainly the best they’ve ever tried. It addresses both active acne and acne scarring in an effective yet comfortable manner. Apart from delivering impressive results, it is ideal for people with sensitive skin or those too busy to afford any downtime post-treatment. Here’s how it works.
How acne scars form
Anyone with acne scars knows how much of a paralyzing insecurity they can be. While acne may come and go, acne scars are painful (and oftentimes, permanent) reminders of these breakouts. However, contrary to the enemy we make them out to be, scars are actually signs of the body’s natural wound healing response. Scarring happens when our body heals itself from burns, cuts, damages, or infections. As part of our body’s inflammatory response, collagen is produced in the affected area to hydrate, repair, and regenerate broken tissues.
Unfortunately, while our bodies are smart, they are not perfect. In the case of acne scarring, the body’s collagen production is not always on point. Raised acne scars occur from too much collagen production, while the lack thereof leads to pitted or depressed ones. This usually happens in such situations:
- Your acne becomes infected
- You experience a new breakout while still healing from a previous breakout
- You’re genetically or historically prone to irregular scarring
- You have severe cystic acne
- And our all-time guilty pleasure – you pop your pimple before it is ready
How IPL helps acne scars
This is where an IPL treatment comes in handy. In order to ‘correct’ this over or under production of collagen, it recreates the same inflammatory response that caused the acne scar in the first place – but this time, a more precise and controlled version. Long story short, the light produces heat that kills the bacteria inside acne and triggers the repair of surrounding skin, raised scar tissue, and inflammation. That way, it gets rid of the existing damaged skin layers, and produces new collagen that finally gets the job done! You will notice an overall smoother and more even skin texture. As if that wasn’t relieving enough, it also lightens dark spots and skin redness caused by your acne scars. All we can say is, be sure to take photos before and after the IPL treatment to properly commemorate this big life success!
Keep in mind: More severe cases of acne scarring and pigmentation will not be solely fixed by intense pulsed light treatments. As an added measure, some dermatologists recommend combining them with other treatments, like a chemical peel, for better results. However – and this is BIG however – make sure you allow at least 4 weeks in between treatments. Make sure your skin has internally recovered from one before proceeding to the next.
IPL, Laser, Microdermabrasion, Chemical Peels: What’s The Difference?
With so many innovative acne treatments available, we understand why it could be hard to keep up! Laser therapy, microneedling, and chemical peels are just a few of the many buzzwords we hear. Along with IPL, these treatments are known to address acne scarring as well. So why should you pick an IPL treatment?
First of all, let’s make it clear: This is not a case of best vs. worst. These are all effective treatments against acne scarring; you just need to find what is best for you. They are similar in the sense that they trigger the skin’s healing response to grow new, healthy cells. The difference lies in how they do it, and how that could affect your skin.
IPL vs. exfoliation treatments
Chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and dermaplaning are all forms of physical exfoliation. As opposed to using light like IPL treatments, they use exfoliating tools or acids that directly alter the skin’s surface. Because of their more invasive nature, you will need to set aside time to fully recover. You will experience uncomfortable – sometimes painful – side effects like peeling, redness and irritation. But these can be remedied by religiously following the recommended skincare routine. Once you get past the downtime, the improvement on your skin’s appearance will make it all worth it.
IPL vs. laser treatments
Laser treatments are more similar to IPL treatments, maybe a first cousin if we’re talking relations. Similarly, they use light waves to trigger the skin’s healing response. However, the type of light is where they differ. Laser uses single-spectrum light vs. IPL’s broad-spectrum light. This difference is what makes laser treatments effective in treating a specific problem, while IPL has a broader coverage and can treat both scarring and pigmentation simultaneously. Downtime will depend on the kind of laser treatment you get and the problem you want treated. Non-ablative lasers have zero downtime, while more ablative lasers need between 2 weeks to 3 months to completely heal. Like exfoliation treatments, you will experience slight peeling as well.
With all these options to consider, there is no right or wrong choice. It all boils down to getting a treatment that is most suitable to your skin condition and lifestyle.
IPL Procedure: What Should I Expect?
If you do decide to proceed with an IPL Skin Rejuvenation treatment, remember these tips to prepare you for the big day! Although some people see visible improvements after just one session, your dermatologist or aesthetician may recommend multiple treatments for your skin condition. Three to six treatments is usually the case, with a rest period of one month in between sessions.
Preparing before IPL:
Schedule your appointment at least 1 week ahead to give you ample time to apply these tips before your treatment:
- Avoid sun exposure as much as possible, or at the very least, wear a high-SPF sunscreen.
- Avoid taking aspirin and other anti-inflammatory meds.
- Avoid using strong skincare products that could cause skin sensitivities.
Procedure during IPL:
IPL treatments are extremely quick and low-maintenance. Each session only takes 30 minutes on average. Here’s what to expect upon entering the room.
- Your aesthetician will start by cleaning your skin. Make sure not to wear any makeup on the day of your treatment.
- After cleaning, you will be given special protective glasses to wear for the rest of the session.
- Cooling gel will be applied to your skin, then the treatment will start. The handheld device will release pulses of light on targeted areas of your face. Depending on your tolerance for pain, you may feel some tingling sensations throughout this process. To manage your expectations, some people associate it with the feeling of being snapped by a rubber band.
Do’s and Don’ts after IPL:
- After your treatment, expect your skin to feel hot, tingly, and sensitive. Although rare, some may experience redness in the treated area. These are all normal post-treatment effects and usually disappear within 24 hours.
- Stay away from the sun as much as possible. Practice SPF protection by wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more.
- Follow IPL Skin Rejuvenation aftercare instructions and products recommended by your beauty therapist.
- If you got IPL for vein reduction: You may experience minor bruising up to 7 days at most.
- If you got IPL for pigmentation: Expect very dark spots on your skin for 10-14 days. These will eventually flake and fall off on their own.
Safety first: Is IPL for everyone?
All that being said, it is important to note that IPL treatments are not for everyone. While we’ve established how generally safe it is, people with certain skin types or more severe skin conditions may react differently. Nothing life-threatening, but nothing too beneficial either.
If you fall under the list below, be on the safe side and consult a dermatologist or beauty aesthetician first.
- Dark-skinned people, as they have more melanin, which is the pigment responsible for producing color in our skin. Light therapy treatment may cause more pigmentation.
- Those who recently tanned their skin through sunbathing or using tanning creams and tanning beds
- Those who have a keloid scar or history of severe scarring
- Those who have a skin resurfacing disorder
- Those using skin products with retinoids
- Those who are taking medication for other health conditions
- Pregnant women
Where to get IPL Skin Rejuvenation
We hope we’ve made a convincing case for intense pulsed light treatments and the wonders it can do for your acne scars! If you’re looking for an IPL Skin Rejuvenation treatment near you, our team at Lovoir Skin Body & Beauty can help you out. Our trained aestheticians are highly knowledgeable on IPL, its effect on your skin, and the best procedure practices. You can book an IPL Skin Rejuvenation treatment here!
If you need more guidance, you can book a consultation with our expert aestheticians first. We offer different skin consultations before recommending which of our beauty treatments is best for your skin concerns. See you at the salon!