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Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)

IPL is a noninvasive treatment that requires no downtime that treats a variety of skin concerns, including acne, rosacea, skin pigmentation abnormalities, various signs of aging, vascularity (broken blood vessels), and unwanted hair. Sometimes known as a “photofacial,” IPL is similar in some ways to laser therapy (which also uses light), but it’s also different in important respects.

After researching the latest technologies that are now available, Dr. Miles selected the Stellar M22 Universal IPL to offer to our patients. This IPL device has a number of features that help to ensure patient safety and provide the best possible results. The treatments are only performed by a licensed Esthetician, Registered Nurse, or by Dr. Miles himself.

How does IPL work?

During an IPL treatment, very intense but brief pulses of light are applied to the surface of the skin. The light pulses heat the skin’s surface, causing a mild thermal injury. In turn, this activates the body’s natural healing response.  Different wavelengths of light can be used to target different skin conditions.

Different structures of the skin absorb light differently. Darker structures will tend to absorb more light energy than lighter ones, and so they will be more affected by the treatment. This allows IPL to target certain skin issues. For example, any dark spots on the skin (such as “sun spots” or “freckles”) will be more affected by the treatment, and the body will tend to slough off or reabsorb these spots as part of the healing process. Red spots can also be targeted in a similar way. In general, body hair is darker than the skin surrounding it, so IPL can also be used to target unwanted hair growth with Laser Hair removal.

Our IPL device allows unprecedented levels of control by the treatment provider. The pulse times are optimized to provide excellent results while minimizing skin damage, which lessens side effects.

What can IPL be used to treat?

Here in our office, we use IPL for:

  • Skin rejuvenation – fine lines and wrinkles
  • Sun damage and sun spots
  • Treatment of acne
  • Treatment of rosacea
  • Treatment of red spots or vascular lesions
  • Hair removal
  • Addressing skin pigmentation changes

Who is a candidate for IPL treatment?

Although IPL is a very low-risk treatment, there are some people who might not be a candidate for the treatment. Certain medical conditions or medications can lead to a higher risk of unwanted side effects from the procedure. Good candidates for IPL are those who:

  • Have skin concerns that IPL is effective for, such as those listed above.
  • Are generally healthy, with no serious illnesses (like cancer, uncontrolled diabetes, or a bleeding disorder).
  • Have no history of skin lesions in the area to be treated, including skin cancers or precancerous lesions.
  • Don’t have a history of melasma
  • Heal well after injuries, with no history of keloids (excessive growth of scar tissue).
  • Don’t have permanent dental implants (which are made of metal).
  • Have not used Accutane for at least six months before receiving IPL.
  • Are not pregnant or nursing.

Does IPL hurt?

IPL is a non-invasive treatment, so there are no incisions or injections. In fact, most patients don’t even need topical anesthesia or pain control during the procedure. Some patients describe the sensation that occurs with each pulse of light as a quick “pinch” or a “snap,” but it’s generally not painful enough to require any anesthesia.

How many IPL treatments do you need?

Although patients may see some results after their first treatment, IPL works best when performed as a series of treatments. Our providers will recommend a series of 3 to 4 treatments, spaced about four weeks apart. Our provider will discuss the specifics when you come in for your consultation, because the recommendation may vary somewhat based on your specific goals for the treatment. IPL is not a “one and done” treatment modality, but rather should be planned as a series of treatments with a maintenance treatment every 6-12 months to help prolong desired results.

Is there any downtime?

One of the best advantages of IPL is that it doesn’t require any significant downtime. Many patients experience some redness and swelling of the treated area immediately afterward. This simply represents the activation of your skin’s natural healing response, and it will go away within a few hours to a couple of days (depending on the intensity of your treatment).

Some people experience some mild scabbing or crusting of the pigmented areas for a few days after an IPL treatment. This is normal and is actually a part of the intended treatment effect. These areas will flake off within a few days. They can be easily covered with makeup and should not require any “social downtime.”

To improve your results, it’s important to keep your skin moisturized during recovery so that it can heal and rejuvenate. We recommend using EltaMD Moisturizer or EltaMD Laser Balm, to provide your skin with the moisture it needs for optimal healing.

You should avoid direct sun exposure to the treated area for at least two weeks after your procedure, to avoid possible hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin). We also highly recommend wearing sunscreen at all times after your procedure to protect your skin from further damage. We recommend ZO Sunscreen+Primer SPF30 or EltaMD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF46. Inquire with one of our providers to learn more about available recovery products.

How is this different from laser skin resurfacing?

IPL and ablative lasers are similar in that both treatment modalities use light to affect the skin. However, with laser treatment, the light is kept in a focused beam at a constant intensity With fractional lasers (such as the CO2 Coolpeel, which we also offer here in our office), the treatment is spread into discrete “dots” across the face. In general, the laser disrupts the skin’s surface at each treated spot. Lasers can be used to promote effects like skin tightening and improvements in skin texture.

IPL, by contrast, spreads the light over a larger area of skin at one time, and the entire area is treated, rather than just particular small dots. IPL tends to be a gentler treatment overall and does not generally disrupt the surface of the skin.  We have carefully chosen a laser treatment device that creates the least downtime that is far gentler than most lasers, while still delivering proven results.  IPL can be used for hair removal, to target brown spots, red skin lesions, and broken capillaries; while a laser doesn’t work for these issues. IPL can also create skin tightening and other anti-aging effects.

An IPL device produces white light, which contains the entire visible color spectrum. However, the light can also be filtered to use only certain wavelengths or colors of light. This allows the treatment to be precisely targeted, to get the results that the patient is looking for. Depending on what you’re hoping to achieve with IPL, we may select different wavelengths for your treatment.

Complete skin rejuvenation with SmoothGlo

We also offer radiofrequency (RF) treatments for our patients. IPL can be combined with RF microneedling (VoluDerm) to provide enhanced results. The combined treatment is known as SmoothGlo. The IPL treatment is performed first, and this draws hydration into the skin (among other effects). The extra water helps to conduct the RF energy, which is delivered to the skin through tiny electrodes. The two treatments support each other in order to enhance the results by addressing pigmentation issues, fine lines, and wrinkles, while simultaneously tightening the skin for a smoother, clearer complexion. Our office is a Certified SmoothGlo provider, which means our providers have been trained and certified to perform the combined procedures to achieve optimal results for our patients.

IPL Charlotte area

We’re very excited to be able to offer IPL to our patients. While Dr. Miles is an expert at achieving great results from a surgical facelift, there are also many patients who are looking for a less invasive anti-aging treatment without downtime, IPL offers exactly that. IPL also allows us to address a variety of other skin concerns, noninvasively and with minimal discomfort.  IPL treatments are also a superb adjunct for patients who have already had a facelift or are planning on undergoing a facelift, to further enhance and prolong the results.

If you’re bothered by concerns about sun spots or irregular pigmentation, or the overall appearance of your skin, then we invite you to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced providers. After examining your skin and learning about your goals for your appearance, our expert licensed aesthetician will make recommendations for a treatment plan to address your concerns.  Besides IPL, we also offer a variety of other treatment modalities, including laser skin resurfacing, RF Microneedling, chemical peels, dermal fillers, Botox, and more.