POSTED: 6 May 2024

IPL Skin Rejuvenation Treatments Are Trending, Here’s What You Should Know

In the never ending pursuit of flawless skin, Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) is suddenly trending as the ultimate treatment for skin rejuvenation. The big reason for this is that IPL is a non-invasive treatment that targets a myriad of skin concerns including hyperpigmentation, signs of aging like wrinkles and acne scars. The popularity has also been boosted by more affordable professional treatments and even at home devices. In this article we’ll do a deep dive on what is IPL for skin, how it works, its benefits, risks and side effects. We’ll also explore the difference between IPL vs Laser treatment for skin rejuvenation and compare clinic vs at home devices.

What is IPL & How Does it Work?

IPL is a photorejuvenation technology that uses high-intensity pulses of light to penetrate the skin without damaging the surface. The light energy is absorbed by pigments in the skin such as melanin and haemoglobin which is then converted into heat. This heat destroys unwanted pigment and stimulates the underlying connective tissues which promotes collagen production. Since IPL uses a broad spectrum of light, it can address multiple issues simultaneously such as hyperpigmentation and skin ageing for example.

Benefits of IPL for Skin Rejuvenation

The main reason for the popularity of IPL is its rumoured ability to address various skin concerns within just a few sessions. The Key benefits of IPL for the skin are:

  • Evening Out Skin Tone: IPL can significantly Hyperpigmentation caused by sun damage like sunspots and freckles. It is also highly effective in reducing visible veins and capillaries. These effects can overall give a more even complexion.
  • Smoother Skin Texture: Another way IPL excels is that it smoothes skin texture through collagen stimulation. This helps treat acne scars and other texture irregularities.
  • Anti-ageing: IPL can also reduce fine lines and wrinkles as well as firming up the skin. This skin rejuvenation is due to the collagen stimulating effects of IPL treatment.

Who Is IPL Best For?

Although IPL treatments offer a wide range of benefits for skin rejuvenation, the effectiveness and safety of IPL vary across different skin types. This is largely due to how the technology interacts with melanin so skin tone is a huge indicator of whether IPL is suitable for you.

IPL is most effective and safest for individuals with light to medium skin tones (Fitzpatrick Skin Types I-III). This is because the light energy is designed to target darker pigments (like those found in freckles, sunspots and hair) which contrasts more distinctly against lighter skin. In lighter skin, there is less melanin to absorb the light by non target areas. This reduces the risk of unwanted side effects such as burns or changes in pigmentation.

Using IPL on darker skin tones (Fitzpatrick Skin Types IV-VI) can be more challenging because the light might get absorbed by the healthy non targeted skin. This carries a higher risk of adverse effects, including burns, hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation. Some newer IPL devices come equipped with settings that can be adjusted to lower energy levels which is supposed to be safer for darker skin tones. However, the efficacy and safety may still not match those seen in lighter skin.

What IPL Skin Treatment Involves

Unlike microneedling or other popular skin rejuvenating treatments, IPL does not involve injections or needles. IPL treatments are also very versatile and can be customised to suit different skin types and conditions. This makes it a great option for people with multiple skin problems. In general, professional IPL treatments involve:

  • Consultation: A qualified therapist will determine your skin concerns and goals. This helps to determine whether IPL treatment is safe and suitable for you. They may also do a patch test to check for IPL side effects.
  • Pre-Treatment Preparation: You’ll receive detailed instructions to follow prior to the session. You may also need to stop certain medications like retinoids for a period before and after treatment.
  • The IPL Procedure: During the treatment you will get eye protection to shield your eyes. The therapist will apply a cooling gel to the treatment area to for comfort and to improve the effectiveness of the light therapy. The IPL device is adjusted to the appropriate settings based on your skin type, tolerance and the specific issues being addressed. The therapist will then move the hand piece over the target areas to deliver light pulses into the skin.
  • Post-treatment: Therapists usually apply a soothing gel then give you IPL aftercare advice and side effects to look for. despite this treated skin may appear red and feel tender, similar to mild sunburn, for a few days. You will need to commit to a skincare routine that at least includes hydration and sun protection.

How Many IPL Sessions Will I Need?

The number of IPL treatments required, the success rate and the longevity of the results vary significantly between person to person. They depend on a number of factors including the specific skin concerns, skin type and overall skin condition.

Most people will need to undergo a course of IPL treatments administered in a series of sessions. On average, patients need between 3 to 6 treatments to achieve best results. These sessions are usually spread about 4-6 weeks apart. This allows the skin to heal and respond to the light therapy. However, the exact number of treatments can be significantly more than this. For example, more severe concerns like deep pigmentation such as Ochronosis or extensive sun damage might need more sessions. On the other hand, patients with modest expectations only seeking minor improvements may require fewer treatments.

Are Results Permanent?

IPL has a high success rate (up to 80%) when used for skin rejuvenation. It is particularly effective in treating pigmentation disorders, vascular lesions, texture and anti-ageing. Although IPL can provide substantial improvements in skin appearance, the results are not typically permanent. This is due to natural aging and environmental factors that cause skin damage which are generally ongoing. You can extend the benefits of IPL treatments with the following:

  • Broad-spectrum sunscreen daily to protect against new UV damage.
  • Targeted skincare that supports skin health and rejuvenation using active products like antioxidants and retinoids.
  • Periodic maintenance sessions once or twice a year can act as touch-up treatments which maintain and prolong outcomes.

Risks & Side Effects

IPL skin treatments are generally safe and effective. However, they are not without potential risks. Common side effects of IPL include mild redness and swelling of the treated area. These typically subside within a few hours to a couple of days. Some patients may experience sensations similar to a mild sunburn (warmth, tenderness, and light peeling) post-treatment. More severe but rare complications can include blistering, bruising and changes in skin pigmentation. These are most likely to occur if the IPL is not appropriately adjusted for the patient’s skin type. It can also happen if you don’t follow post-treatment care instructions regarding sun exposure. Additionally, there is a risk of eye injury if you don’t use proper eye protection during the procedure.

To minimise these risks, it is vital to choose a qualified and experienced practitioner who can correctly assess skin type and ensure that the treatment is appropriate for you. They can also adjust the equipment settings appropriately and provide comprehensive pre- and post-treatment care instructions.

Cost of IPL Skin Treatments

The cost of IPL skin treatments can vary widely depending on several factors. General factors that affect cost include geographical location of the clinic, expertise of the practitioner and size of the area needing treatment. Obviously, the number of sessions required to achieve desired results also has a big impact on overall cost.

On average, a single session of IPL treatment in the UK might cost anywhere from £200 to £500. For a series of treatments, which most clinics recommend, the total cost could range from £600 to £1,500 but can be much more depending on the number of sessions included. It’s also important to consider potential additional costs, such as consultation fees, post-treatment skincare products and follow-up visits. Some clinics might include these within the treatment package while others might charge extra so always check!

Difference between IPL vs Laser Treatment for Skin

Both IPL and laser are popular and effective skin rejuvenation treatments but there are distinct differences. Understanding this is key to choosing whether IPL vs Laser treatment will most benefit your skin:

  • Technology: IPL devices emit a broad spectrum of light with multiple wavelengths vs laser treatments which use a single, focused wavelength of light. As such, IPL simultaneous treatment of various conditions such as pigmentation, vascular lesions and general skin rejuvenation. On the other hand, the high precision of Lasers is best for targeting specific concerns. These include deep wrinkles, tattoo removal, severe acne scars or stubborn pigmented lesions.
  • Suitability: In general, IPL treatments work best on light to medium skin tones vs laser treatments which cater to a broader range. This includes darker skin tones where specific lasers like Nd:YAG are both effective and minimise risks.
  • Recovery & Side Effects: IPL skin treatments generally have minimal downtime, with patients possibly experiencing temporary redness or slight swelling for a few hours to a day. Correctly carrying out the procedures lowers the risk of side effects in IPL vs Laser. Recovery from laser treatments can vary widely depending on the type of laser used. For example, ablative lasers may require a week or more of downtime.
  • Costs: IPL treatments are generally more affordable per session vs Laser. This is mainly because the equipment costs less and can address multiple skin concerns simultaneously in fewer sessions.

IPL Treatment at Home vs Clinic

There are a number of at-home devices which aim to provide the skin rejuvenating benefits of IPL at lower cost vs clinic treatments. Each of these IPL options offers distinct advantages, downsides and side effects.

In a clinic, trained practitioners normally carry out professional IPL treatments using advanced high-powered machines. This means that they are capable of delivering more intense and precise treatments tailored to individual skin needs. In general, you can expect more effective and faster outcomes, with a higher level of safety from professional IPL treatments. That being said, it comes with a higher cost and the inconvenience of attending appointments if you’re busy.

In contrast, at-home IPL devices are easy to use and convenient. However, to ensure safety, they operate at lower energy levels which also limits their efficacy and speed of results. For many, this is a fair trade for a much lower overall cost and convenience. When deciding between at home or in clinic IPL, its important to consider your skin type, concerns and goals. If you have pre-existing skin conditions, it best to consult with a professional consultation before deciding on any treatments.

IPL skin treatments offer promising benefits for rejuvenating your skin and addressing a variety of concerns. This noninvasive treatment has a high success rate and minimal down time. However, IPL is not suitable or safe for everyone and results vary widely between individuals. That’s why it’s vital to do your research and get a consultation with a qualified and experienced therapist if you’re considering professional IPL treatments. If you’re tempted by at home IPL devices, make sure that these are appropriate for your individual skin concern and type. Speak with a skin specialist first before considering any type of IPL treatment if you have existing skin conditions medical problems or are prone to hyperpigmentation or irritation. They will help you decide whether IPL is best for you vs alternative treatments like Laser.

At City Skin Clinic, we are devotees of personalised skincare. Our online skin clinic, offers safe and effective individualised treatments with prescription-strength ingredients like Tretinoin and Hydroquinone. Our doctors treat a range of skin conditions including acne and scars, hyperpigmentationmelasma and skin ageing. To start your personalised skincare plan, book a virtual video consultation or use our online consultation form. The journey towards great skin starts here.

Authored by:

Dr Amel Ibrahim
Aesthetic Doctor & Medical Director
Founder City Skin Clinic
Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Associate Member of British Association of Body Sculpting GMC Registered - 7049611

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