What is IPL (Intense Pulse Light) and How does it work?

Jul 8, 2023


Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Treatments



What is Intense Pulsed Light?


Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatment is often referred to as photorejuvenation or a photofacial. It is excellent to erase sun damage, dilated blood vessels called spider veins (red spots), irregular pigmentation and uneven skin tone and texture on the face, neck and chest, forearms and hands.


IPL is a noninvasive and nonsurgical treatment, and so gentle that it can be used in combination with other superficial treatments like chemical peels to remove dead skin cells and reveal young healthy skin. IPL treatments also smooth fine lines and wrinkles, shrink enlarged pores, and treat rosacea and melasma. IPL is not a laser.


How does it work?


Intense pulsed light penetrates the skin to heat the sub-surface layers of skin called the dermis, without damaging the top layer of skin called the epidermis. The gentle pulses of intense, optimized light target underlying pigment deposits. The hyperpigmented cells absorb the light, which breaks up the excess pigment that comes to the surface and sloughs off a few days after treatment. Additionally, the heat enhances the production of collagen, which over time fills out lines and wrinkles and roughness.


What does IPL treat?



  • Sun-induced skin changes including red pigmented lesions, spider veins, and freckles.
  • Liver spots also called age spots or lentigines found on the hands and face and other areas frequently exposed to the sun. They are common in people over age 60.
  • Melasma – hyperpigmentation on the face that appears during pregnancy or with use of oral contraceptives. It is caused by hormone changes.
  • Rosacea- facial redness, flushing and visible blood vessels. It is a chronic condition that usually begins around age 30 and flares up and remits. It is usually found on the cheeks, nose, chin and forehead.  It develops into a ruddy complexion with visible blood vessels. It is trigger by the sun, stress, hot weather, alcohol and more. The cause is not known.
  • Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation – excess pigment caused by a skin condition like acne, infection, allergic reaction, injuries and trauma.
  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Enlarged pores
  • Rough skin texture
  • Splotchy uneven skin tone and rough texture
  • Acne scarring and hyperpigmentation after acne
  • Acne – treats moderate to severe inflammatory acne to clear pimples and active inflammation.  The high intensity pulsed light reduces the growth of bacteria and eliminates inflammation in oil glands.
  • Unwanted hair on the face, neck, chest body
  • IPL is very versatile and can improve the appearance of many of the most common skin conditions, with little to no downtime and recovery.


The Procedure


Before treatment, a layer of cold gel is applied to numb the skin and improve comfort during the procedure. You will wear dark glasses to protect your eyes. Then, an applicator is placed on the skin and delivers the intense pulsed light to the areas to be treated. As it works, the skin absorbs the light energy and heats up causing a snapping sensation as if a rubber band is being snapped against your skin. The entire procedure can take up to 30 minutes. There may be some short-term tenderness and redness.


Most patients experience a few days of redness like a slight sun burn. Some brown spots may appear darker for a few days or look like coffee grounds that flake off within 3-5 days. You can apply makeup immediately after IPL treatment if necessary.


It is imperative that the area being treated is not tanned 2 weeks before or 2 weeks after the day of the procedure.  Afterwards, it is important to protect your skin from the sun using a sunscreen daily. You should use a gentle skin cleanser and moisturizer for about a week, and then you can resume your normal skin care routine.


During your consultation with Dr. Pantea Hashemi, she will review your medical history, examine your skin and listen to your aesthetic goals and expectations and discuss options to address your goals. Most patients see the best results after a series of 3-6 IPL treatments about one month apart. IPL is safe and effective but unsuitable for pregnant women, people on blood thinner, people who are susceptible to keloid scarring.


Contact Dr. Pantea Hashemi at The Sacramento Skin Clinic to schedule a consultation and discover all your options for aesthetic enhancements.



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