Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Treatments for Sun-Damaged Skin: What to Expect

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Treatments for Sun-Damaged Skin: What to Expect

Regular exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light isn’t just a skin cancer risk — it’s also the primary driver of premature skin aging. In fact, UV damage is responsible for up to 90% of the early signs of aging you see on your face and other areas of sun-exposed skin. 

Known as photoaging, this near-universal problem can injure skin cells and destabilize the protein structures (collagen and elastin) that make your dermal tissues strong and resilient, leading to a range of cosmetic skin complaints, including:

Board-certified aesthetic specialist Dr. Nidal Hasan and our team at Cosmetico MedSpa can improve photodamage and minimize the visible signs of premature skin aging with intense pulsed light therapy, also known as an IPL photofacial. 

Here’s how IPL treatment works and what you can expect before, during, and after your session. 

IPL: Not your average laser treatment

An IPL laser device emits multiple wavelengths of light energy to simultaneously minimize common signs of aging like fine lines, correct areas of unwanted skin pigment changes like dark spots, and clear away the redness caused by visible facial veins. It achieves this by:

Whereas other lasers use a single wavelength of light to target one specific skin concern, IPL releases multiple wavelengths of light all at once, much like a photo flash. Because this energy is more scattered and diffused than the light from a conventional laser device, it’s much gentler on your skin — and far more comprehensive in its treatment scope. 

Essentially, IPL’s noninvasive “photo flash” of energy permeates into the second skin layer (dermis) without affecting the outer skin layer (epidermis). The only other laser treatment that can reach deep dermal layers is an invasive ablative technique called laser skin resurfacing, which removes thin layers of epidermal tissue. 

What to expect from an IPL photofacial

Because IPL achieves its damage-correcting, skin-renewing results through the gentle application of noninvasive, multi-wavelength energy, most people need more than one photofacial session to attain the results they’re after. 

Depending on how much sun damage you have, Dr. Hasan may recommend 3-5 IPL treatments, with each session spaced about one month apart. Here’s a closer look at what you can expect along the way: 

Prior your appointment  

Before IPL, Dr. Hassan examines your skin and asks about any conditions that may affect the skin renewal process following IPL, such as eczema or inflammatory acne.  

Then, he provides detailed instructions regarding everything you should avoid — including chemical peels, waxing, skin care products that contain retinol, tanning beds, and time in the sun — for two weeks before treatment.   

During your IPL session

When you arrive for your IPL session, the treatment area should be free of makeup and lotion. After cleansing your skin and applying a cooling gel, Dr. Hasan gives you dark lenses to protect your eyes. 

Then, he systematically moves the laser device across your skin. As its energy pulses into your dermal tissues, it may feel like a tiny rubber band is snapping against your skin. Dr. Hasan can apply a topical numbing cream before your session if you’re sensitive.  

While the length of your session depends on the area of skin you’re treating — face, neck, upper chest, arms, hands, or a combination of areas — the average IPL session lasts 20-30 minutes.      

After your IPL treatment

Immediately following your IPL treatment, your skin may feel mildly sunburned for a few hours; a cool washcloth can provide relief. Many people also experience mild redness and swelling for a day or two.

It helps to avoid wearing makeup and bathing with hot water as your skin calms down; you should also wash with a cleanser made for sensitive skin, stay out of the sun, and apply moisturizing lotion and sunscreen daily.

Your gradual IPL results      

You can expect your sun-damaged skin to gradually improve throughout your IPL treatment plan, becoming firmer and smoother with each passing week as the collagen and elastin remodeling processes accelerate. 

In as little as three IPL sessions spaced over many months, you may be able to fully reverse mild to moderate sun damage and restore healthier, more youthful skin.        

Ready to correct sun-damaged skin?

Whether you’re looking to correct pigmentation problems, smooth out fine lines and wrinkles, erase facial veins, even out your skin tone, brighten your complexion, or all the above, a series of IPL photofacials can get the job done.  

Schedule a visit at your nearest Cosmetico MedSpa office in Highland, Indiana, or Orland Park, Illinois, today.

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