What is IPL?
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) also referred to as flash lamp therapy or photofacial therapy, is a non-invasive and non-ablative light therapy commonly used for facial rejuvenation and removing unwanted hair. It is also a popular photorejuvenation treatment in Singapore due to its non-ablative and less damaging nature compared to lasers - IPL’s broad spectrum light (polychromatic) is more scattered and less focused and it penetrates down to the dermis without harming or injuring the upper layer (epidermis), and since the wavelengths can be filtered, IPL doesn't have any negative effect on the surrounding cells and tissues.
How Does IPL Work?
A handheld device is passed across the skin delivering pulses of broad spectrum light to the deeper layers of the skin. IPL works on the same principles as lasers in that light energy is absorbed into pigment cells in the skin but the light is less intense. Consider it like a blinking flashlight that’s sending out scattered wavelengths of light, dispersing light energy to the area of concern, which is then converted into heat energy.
While IPL’s broad spectrum of light covers a larger area and delivers many different wavelengths (or colors) in each pulse of light, laser on the other hand, provides a single band of light colour (monochromatic) to target a specific area and condition. The heat is used to destroy unwanted pigment to help clear up freckles and other pigmented or brown spots, or hair follicle to inhibit hair growth in that specific area.
What Can IPL Do For You?
This photofacial is a popular facial rejuvenation treatment for women who desire a brighter, more even skin tone. Heat from the light pulses target the melanin in the skin’s surface work to clear up freckles, age spots, flat pigmented birthmarks, spider veins and other skin discoloration problems like melasma and erythromelanosis (reddish brown patches).
IPL can also be used for hair removal in any part of the face and body including neck, underarms, bikini line, back and legs. To prevent hair regrowth, light pulses target the hair follicle by “burning off” the hair. But it is found to be ineffective for light colored hair and not recommended for darker skin tones.
Procedure and Treatment
Two weeks prior to your procedure, you should avoid the following:
The targeted area will be cleansed first, removing any dirt that may hinder or reduce its effectiveness. Although the newer IPL devices come with integrated cooling systems, a cold gel is usually applied to the area to further minimize any discomfort from the heat. As this treatment does not require a medical professional, the aesthetician or skincare specialist can perform the procedure easily by controlling the intensity or wavelength of the light pulses.
During treatment, the patient is required to put on protective eye wear, to be worn throughout the course of the therapy. Although IPL provides high intensity, it is relatively painless with sensations likened to that of being snapped with a rubber band.
However, the results are not as dramatic as ablative resurfacing ones where both the dermis and epidermis are “injured” to produce a much more noticeable overall outcome.
Each treatment session last about 15 to 20 minutes. A course of four to six sessions every three to six weeks are recommended for best results. For hair removal, IPL works better on thick or coarse, dark hair than on fine, light hair, so more sessions may be required. After the session, the patient can go back to regular activities, avoiding exposure to the sun.
Risks and Side Effects
During treatment, you may experience some pain (which is usually reduced by cold gel), skin turning pink and a little sore immediately after the procedure. Post treatment, most people experience mild redness and swelling which are likened to the general sensations of a mild sunburn which typically go away after a few days.
Though side effects are usually minor, you may blistering (due to skin pigment absorbing too much light energy but this is rare), a change in skin color (as pigment cells or melanocytes are damaged), an infection, hair loss and bruising which is rare and can take one to two weeks to heal. For freckles and age spots, it is normal for the spots to appear darker for a few days.
Makeup can be used right after the treatment, as long as it is applied and removed very gently.
Who Is Not Suitable For IPL