Intense Pulsed Light (IPL/Fotofacial) photorejuvenation is an exceptionally effective non-invasive treatment that can be customized for multiple skin tones and various aging skin conditions. IPL treats redness, tiny veins, brown spots and sun damage. It improves overall skin tone while greatly reducing surface imperfections associated with aging and sun damage.
We use the Lumenis M22 IPL Laser to treat over thirty skin conditions including acne, freckles, “spider veins”, age spots, and rosacea on the face, neck, chest, hands and legs (for varicose veins). The M22 combines the best IPL technology with the most effective laser system for the shortest treatments times and quickest post-procedure recovery times. Whatever the treatment goals may be, our expert practitioners apply their years of experience to achieve optimal results.
What is Intense Pulsed Light?
IPL is a non-ablative (skin tissue is not destroyed) treatment which delivers targeted, high-intensity, visible pulses of light into the deeper layers of the skin. The wavelength and range of the light emitted during the treatment is adjusted to accommodate your specific skin needs and concerns, without damaging surrounding skin. When the light energy is absorbed by melanin (responsible for skin pigment) and hemoglobin (red blood cells in the blood vessels), these structures become damaged and are absorbed by the body or brought to the surface of the skin where they will slough off in a few days to a week.
While some results will be visible after one session, a series of three to five treatments is typically recommended for optimal results. Due to its non-invasive nature, there is less downtime than other types of laser treatments and so can be repeated around once a month, or as advised by your practitioner.
Which conditions can be treated?
Photorejuvenation therapy can be used for a wide range of conditions, including (but not limited), to the following:
• Broken blood vessels
• Brown spots, also called liver or age spots
• Dark spots from hormonal changes
• Discolored skin
• Fine wrinkles
• Redness from rosacea
• Spider veins
Is IPL right for me?
Intense pulsed light treatments are ideal for individuals with light to medium complexions looking to reduce skin discoloration, improve skin tone, diminish the effects of sun damage, and treat vascular lesions (broken blood vessels) or capillary inflammation (spider veins). Because of the multiple wavelengths used during an IPL treatment, it can be adjusted for a spectrum of skin tones. However, fair skin that is relatively elastic is likely to show the greatest improvement.
Key Benefits and Typical Results
Besides being able to treat a wide variety of skin discolorations, and reduce the appearance of vascular lesions, other significant benefits include fast treatment times (45 to 90 minutes, depending upon the size of the treatment area), with minimal recovery time and long-lasting results. Age spots and freckles typically do not come back.
How do I prepare for treatment?
Your skin must not be tan. It is imperative to always use a high SPF sunblock on any areas being treated in the weeks prior to the treatment. (It is always preferable to wear sunscreen when outdoors but it is especially important before IPL sessions.) Avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (ibuprofen, naproxen, etc) and other blood thinners such as aspirin and alcohol 24 hours before your appointment. Retinol-based medications should also be discontinued. Please tell us if you are taking any prescription blood thinners and check with your doctor to confirm you can stop taking them a few days before the procedure. Also avoid products with ingredients which can irritate your face, such as Retin-A, retinol, benzoyl peroxide, glycolic/salicylic acids, astringents or chemical peels for at least two weeks.
What happens during treatment?
We will apply a topical numbing agent twenty to thirty minutes prior to reduce the sensitivity of the area being treated. Discomfort varies from patient to patient, and is also dependent upon the area being treated. The sensation of the IPL bursts is often compared to the snapping of a rubber band on the skin. You also have the option to self-administer inhaled analgesia, our PRO-NOX™ Nitrous Oxide System, which is an add-on service, for pain and/or anxiety. Please let your practitioner know if you are concerned about pain beforehand, and also as the treatment is in progress. We want to make you as comfortable as possible. The treatment time itself for the face and neck is usually no more than ten to fifteen minutes.
Post-treatment or downtime?
Immediately after the treatment you may notice some minor redness and swelling, similar to that of a sunburn. Ice packs or a cool washcloth can be used as needed. If treating freckles and other dark spots, you may experience dryness and flaking of the treated area. Some of the spots may appear darker, but they should slough off within a few days. You can apply makeup immediately after an IPL treatment if desired. Avoid heavy exertion and activities which may cause flushing of the skin for three days after treatment. Avoid harsh topical products such as retinols and glycolic acid products for one week after as your skin will be more sensitive while the healing process continues. As before the treatment, avoid direct sunlight on the treated area and use a broad spectrum UVA/UVB SPF for four to six weeks after your treatment.
How long until I see results?
It will take four to six weeks to see the full results from a single treatment, however you should see dark spots fade and slough off within a week. If you complete a series of treatments about one month apart, the maximum results will be visible in two to three months after the last treatment.
How long will results last?
With proper skin care and sun protection following photofacial treatments, results can last for years. But remember that sun exposure induces skin create brown spots and other pigmented lesions. Since it is impossible to avoid all sun exposure, even with the best skin care regimen and protection, new spots and blemishes may emerge over time. Therefore it is critical that a good skin care regimen be followed faithfully and year around. Discoloration and skin damage does not only occur during the summer months. Damage can occur at any time when high-spectrum UV radiation pierces overcast weather. Always wear high SPF protection when in the high country and on the ski slopes. To protect your results, and your financial investment, you should protect your skin with medical grade skin care products. Even following the best practices, our patients find that they may need an IPL maintenance treatment about once a year.
Can this treatment be used as part of a combo therapy?
Yes! IPL is commonly combined with other treatments — neurotoxins such at BOTOX® Cosmetic, and dermal fillers such as JUVÉDERM® FDA-approved family of injectables. We can recommend a package suited to your specific needs and goals. Consultations are always free, so make your appointment online today or call us in Marin at 415-464-8801 or in Hayes Valley, San Francisco at 415-255-9510.
What’s the science?
Intense pulsed light works on the same principles as lasers in that light energy is absorbed by pigment cells in the skin (chromophores). The light energy is converted to heat, which causes damage to the specifically target area. IPL systems are different than lasers in that they deliver many color wavelengths in each pulse of light instead of just one wavelength. Our photofacial system uses filters to refine the energy output for the treatment of different types of skin blemishes and conditions. This enhances penetration without using excessive energy levels and enables the targeting of specific skin components we are treating.
IPL therapy is considered a non-ablative resurfacing technique, which means that it targets the lower layers of skin (the dermis) without affecting the top layers of skin (the epidermis). The results are not as dramatic as ablative resurfacing (using powerful lasers) where both the dermis and epidermis are injured to produce a much more noticeable overall effect. The big advantage of IPL therapy is its minimal downtime; a patient can often have the procedure done during a lunch break and can return to work immediately afterwards.