As we age, signs of sun exposure and other imperfections can appear on the skin. Though collagen loss and pigmentation are often a natural part of the aging process, this experience can be frustrating for many. Additionally, as patients get older, some may experience other changes to the skin, such as rosacea, skin laxity, and uneven skin texture. Thankfully, there are non-invasive treatment options that can help to combat some of these changes.
One of the most exciting innovations in the world of non-invasive cosmetic dermatology is that of Intense Pulsed Light therapy. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatment uses concentrated wavelengths of light to rejuvenate the skin, improve skin tone and texture, and help to reduce the appearance of sun exposure or aging on the skin. IPL is safe to use on a variety of skin types, and can help to improve the overall look of the skin in as little as one session. Also, IPL treatments are commonly used for hair removal, which can be an excellent option for patients seeking an alternative to shaving or waxing.
If you’ve observed changes in skin texture on the skin, or are interested in new hair removal techniques, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Michele Green is here to help. Dr. Michele Green is an expert in New York in laser treatments including the IPL treatment. With over 25 years of experience in minimally invasive cosmetic treatments, Dr. Green combines the science of technology and the art of cosmetics to bring you the very best in laser treatments in NYC. In her NYC private dermatology office, she is able to customize a treatment protocol designed precisely for your skin type and skin condition.
What is Intense Pulsed Light (IPL®) Therapy?
IPL treatment, also called photo rejuvenation, is a technology based on different wavelengths of light, and is used as anti-aging treatment to rejuvenate the skin. Intense pulsed light is different from a laser treatment in that a laser typically is focused on a single wavelength of light. IPL, however, releases many different wavelengths of light and produces a “flash” of light. Since IPL has more than one wavelength, it is able to treat a variety of different skin conditions. The light from the IPL is scattered and reaches down to the dermal layer of the skin. Depending on which wavelength of light is utilized, either pigment cells, hair follicles, or blood vessels, absorb the light energy, and are destroyed. IPL can undo the visible damage caused by the sun, pollution, environmental stresses, and photo aging.
What does Intense Pulsed Light Therapy Do?
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy, which is often referred to as “Forever Young BBL”, and sometimes called a photo facial, offers New York patients the chance to improve the tone and texture of their skin without significant recovery or downtime. The IPL is ideal for evening out skin tone, texture, sun damage, or healing visible redness from broken capillaries or rosacea. IPL is a safe and effective treatment which can help you look your best. IPL treatment is able to treat many different skin conditions including:
- Brown spots
- Sun damage
- Broken blood vessels
- Facial rosacea
- Skin laxity
- Hair removal
- Skin tone and texture
- Leg veins
- Sun spots
- Acne scars
What is Intense Pulsed Light Hair Removal?
Intense Pulsed Light hair removal is a type of laser hair removal that’s designed to eliminate hair by targeting the pigment in the hair follicle, which in turn eliminates the hair during the growth phase while leaving the surrounding skin untouched. The hair follicles are best treated during the growth phase of the follicle, as a dormant hair follicle will not be readily affected by the laser treatment. Additionally, because IPL hair removal relies on pigment in the follicle to absorb laser energy and heat, patients with light colored or grey hair may not have enough melanin in the hair follicle to make IPL hair removal affective. IPL hair removal was one of the first laser hair removal techniques developed and is still highly popular, as it can also offer skin rejuvenation to the treatment area.
Dr. Green offers laser hair removal treatment in her office using both the Candela GentleLase and GentleYag lasers, which are able to provide safe and effective laser hair removal for both lighter and darker skin tones.
How does Intense Pulsed Light hair removal work?
The best way to understand how to use intense pulsed light hair removal is to consult with an expert dermatologist to determine if IPL hair removal is right for you. Once you have consulted with Dr. Green, you can prepare for your appointment. In order to prepare, you should avoid waxing, tweezing, or plucking hair for the two weeks before the procedure. As you need the root of the hair to be intact in order for IPL treatment to function properly, it is essential to avoid those practices that may pull out a hair from the root. You may, however, shave during the two weeks prior to your appointment, or in between IPL sessions.
IPL treatment targets melanin so it is important to also avoid tanning prior to your appointment. In order to do so, Dr. Green recommends using a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 on the treatment area anytime you are outside.
Who is a good candidate for IPL?
A good candidate for Intense Pulsed Light is a patient who has sun damage, freckles, age spots, or broken blood vessels and wants skin rejuvenation. These issues may be on the face, chest, neck, or body. One of the benefits of intense pulsed light therapy is that there is no downtime required for this procedure. Also called a photo facial, this intense pulsed light treatment, improves fine lines and wrinkles, tightens the skin, and also removes unwanted hair. Many patients choose IPL over chemical peels since there is no downtime associated with this treatment. In addition, IPL can treat spider veins and leg veins and remove pigmented spots or vascular lesions on the face or body. In this way, Intense Pulsed Light treatment can treat the majority of skin problems from sun exposure. IPL can also be used effectively for patients with red marks from acne and acne scars.
How does Intense Pulsed Light work for a “photofacial”?
In addition to treating pigmentation, damage on the skin, and removing hair, Intense Pulsed Light treatment can be used to tighten the skin and reduce wrinkles, generating younger looking, healthier skin. The procedure is non-invasive and painless and works by using the Sciton Broad Band Light (BBL) treatment SkinTyte laser. SkinTyte sends light energy to the dermis to deeply heat the collagen there while simultaneously cooling the epidermis for comfort and safety. The heat sent to the dermis triggers the body’s natural healing process and a new foundation of collagen in created, which makes the skin firmer and reverses the effects of aging on the skin. The procedure should be repeated every couple of months for best results and has great success in correcting damage on the skin and producing smoother, healthier skin. The process is also effective for younger patients who do not need to correct any damage but would like to delay the effects of aging and maintain healthy skin.
IPL Treatment for Rosacea
Rosacea is a chronic skin condition characterized by facial redness and swollen blood vessels, most commonly found on the nose and cheeks, that can be accompanied by burning or itching feeling. The condition can also cause small bumps that look like acne and that may be filled with pus. While Rosacea can go into remission and symptoms may fade naturally, Rosacea symptoms can flare-up and be triggered by a variety of dietary, lifestyle, and/or environmental factors. As such, Rosacea is best treated with the support of an expert dermatologist. Dr. Green will treat the symptoms of rosacea in several ways, and Intense Pulsed Light therapy is essential to the treatment process. IPL is very effective at targeting and removing the redness and broken blood vessels associated with rosacea.
Intense Pulsed Light Treatment for Age Spots and Sun Damage
Over time, exposure to the sun can cause visible damage to your skin in a process called “photoaging,” which occurs when ultraviolet radiation causes DNA changes in the skin. This leads to symptoms such as age spots, liver spots, rough and uneven textured skin, broken capillaries, and blotchy redness. Intense Pulsed Light, also often referred to as a “photofacial,” can reverse the visible effects of photoaging on your skin. A photofacial uses different wavelengths of light to target the second layer of your skin, known as the dermis. The melanin in your skin transforms the light energy into heat, which then destroys the pigmentation caused by photoaging, clearing your skin.
How to use intense pulsed light therapy
The process for IPL treatment is simple and convenient. First, you’ll meet with Dr. Green to discuss your medical history, current skin condition, and individual needs and goals to determine if IPL treatment is right for you. For all IPL procedures, Dr. Green will be able to pinpoint the treatment area, as well as the number of sessions required, and will use an IPL device on the treatment area to improve the look and feel of the skin.
The IPL treatment is not painful. The IPL treatment feels a little bit like a rubber band snapping against your skin. The stinging is mild and no topical numbing cream is required for the procedure. You should avoid having a sunburn or being tanned before the procedure, as the IPL will interpret the tan as pigment that it needs to remove, and you could potentially have a burn. If you suffer from melasma, you should also avoid IPL treatment as the light energy can exacerbate melasma and make it more noticeable. It is best to avoid topical Retinoids or alpha-hydroxyacids before your IPL treatment as well. If you are having IPL for hair removal, it is not advised to wax or tweeze the hair for at least two weeks before the procedure so that the hair follicle itself can be treated.
What should I expect during the IPL treatment?
Dr. Green will prep the treatment area by removing all makeup and sunscreen before your session. Protective goggles will be given to you to wear during the treatment to protect your eyes. A cool gel is applied to your skin and the light pulses from the IPL will be delivered to the dermal layer of your skin. The pulses will feel a little like a rubber band snapping against the skin. The treatment time will take between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on which area of the body is being treated and for which specific skin condition. The number of treatment sessions needed depends on both the skin condition being treated and the condition of the skin. For example, laser hair removal typically takes six sessions and extensive photo damage takes five to six sessions.
What is the recovery from Intense Pulsed Light?
Intense Pulsed Light treatment is non-invasive and non-ablative – meaning the laser does not remove the top layer of skin — so you should be able to return to your regular activities directly following the procedure. You may experience some redness and mild swelling for 1-2 days after the treatment, and the area of your skin that received the IPL treatment might feel like you got sunburned for 4-8 hours afterwards. A cool washcloth can be used on sensitive areas to help ease the stinging sensation. After the first IPL treatment, some spots on the skin may darken. This is normal and will go away within 3-7 days of receiving the initial IPL treatment.
What is the aftercare for the IPL treatment?
It is important to maintain strict sun avoidance for the week after your IPL treatment and use a broad spectrum sunscreen to the treated area. Although this treatment is non ablative with minimal to no downtime, it is important that proper skin care and sun avoidance be maintained after your skin treatment for the best cosmetic results. Dr. Green recommends and SPF of 50 or higher with zinc oxide. It’s best to use a combination of physical sunscreen and chemical sunscreen. Physical sunscreen remains on top of the skin and contains minerals such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide in order to reflect UV rays away. Chemical sunscreen, on the other hand, is absorbed into the skin and converts UV rays into heat. For a physical sunscreen, Dr Green recommends MGSKINLABS Broad Spectrum SPF 50.
How much does Intense Pulsed Light cost?
The cost of the IPL treatment ranges depending on the skin condition being treated and the size of the treatment area. A small area for hair removal may be anywhere from $200-400, but a photo facial may range in price from $800-1,000 per session. During the consultation with Dr. Green, an expert cosmetic dermatologist in NYC, she will review with you all of the prices and procedures.
IPL Therapy for Skin Tightening
As we age, our skin naturally becomes looser and more wrinkled. Sciton Broad Band Light (BBL) is one of the newest IPL therapy devices, and offers a non-surgical way to tighten the skin around the neck and face. Not only does the procedure correct damaged skin providing a younger look, but a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology suggests that BBL treatment can alter the expression of genes linked with the aging process. As a result, the process delays the skin aging process, keeping skin young and healthy. BBL is a process that benefits patients whether they are looking to maintain healthy skin or correct damage including photoaging, pigmentation, redness, scars, or acne. The procedure is effective for a variety of skin types ranging from lighter to darker skin types.
Which skin tones can be treated with the IPL Device?
Depending on the condition that Dr Green is targeting with intense pulsed light, the treatment either targets the melanin in your skin or the pigmentation of your hair. Due to this, IPL treatment is best for patients with skin types I-IV (fairer skin tones). When it comes to laser hair removal, Dr. Green uses two different kinds of lasers for patients with different skin tones. For patients with light skin, Dr. Green uses the GentleLase and for patients with dark skin, Dr. Green uses GentleYAG. Patients with light skin and dark hair will have the best results for treatment with GentleLase. Both lasers remove hair quickly and without pain and neither require recovery time following the procedure.
How often do I schedule my follow-up treatment with the IPL?
Patients who receive IPL treatments every couple of months observe better results in addressing their skin care needs. The frequency and number of follow-up treatments for Intense Pulsed Light will vary depending on the condition you are treating so you and Dr. Green will discuss your situation and determine the treatment schedule that is right for you. Typically, patients will schedule a follow up procedure with Dr. Green every 4 to 6 months. You should see a change in your skin after the first IPL treatment appointment, but you will observe that, over time and multiple treatments, your skin will appear smoother, more even, and brighter.
Should Microdermabrasion be performed after IPL?
Microdermabrasion is a process in which small crystals are applied to the skin and used to exfoliate, which removes the patch of rough skin, revealing the layer of new, smooth skin. Microdermabrasion is safe for all skin types and can be used in conjunction with IPL treatment. However, Dr. Green recommends waiting 3 to 4 weeks after the IPL treatment to use the microdermabrasion treatment in order to get the best results. It is best to consult with Dr. Green about the combination of treatments that will work best for you in addressing your specific needs.
How does IPL compare to laser treatment?
A laser uses a single focused wavelength of light to treat a specific skin condition, whether it be redness with the V-Beam, or sun spots with the Alex-Trivantage. There are both ablative and non-ablative laser treatments available. Ablative laser treatments heat up the skin, and remove the top layer of skin. Non ablative lasers, such as the Fraxel laser, treat only a fraction of the skin and do not disturb the top layer of skin. After Fraxel laser, new collagen is formed, and it can treat fine lines and wrinkles, sun damage, and acne scars. Lasers, such as the Fraxel laser, treat these skin conditions with fewer treatment sessions than Intense Pulsed Light.
What are the possible side effects of IPL?
Typically, the side effects to IPL treatment are incredibly mild, and may include redness or swelling. Occasionally, potential side effects of Intense Pulsed Light treatments may include:
- Worsening of facial melasma
How IPL Helps
Dr. Green performs IPL treatments using the Sciton IPL machine, also known as Forever Young BBL™, broadband light. The BBL is known as the world’s most powerful IPL machine. BBL uses a special pulse laser approach by delivering short bursts of high-intensity light energy below the skin’s surface. This light energy helps to damage the melanin (skin pigmentation) responsible for causing age spots and other skin discoloration, and also addresses the damaged blood vessels which cause visible broken capillaries. IPL treatments also help boost the natural collagen production in the skin. For skin rejuvenation, this procedure can help removes age spots, freckles, redness, small vein vessels as well as reduce active acne.
Although IPL is similar to laser therapy, the treatments are much gentler than traditional laser resurfacing procedures, and require no downtime following a treatment session. Although IPL is a comfortable procedure for the majority of patients, some do notice mild discomfort during their treatment, although this sensation lessens with continued treatments. While there may be some variance depending on the area being treated and amount of correction that’s needed, you can expect most treatment sessions to take about half an hour.
The BBL™ broadband light uses infrared light energy to heat the dermal layer of the skin, stimulates new collagen production, and tightens and firms the skin. This SkinTyte™ treatment is extremely effective at tightening the skin in the lower face, jowls, and neck, and leaving you younger looking with each successive treatment. This skin tightening treatment has been so successful that patients return on a yearly basis for maintenance treatments.
How many treatments of IPL do I need?
Because of the minimally invasive nature of IPL, Dr. Green recommends a series of treatments for the best results, usually between four and six sessions spaced approximately one month apart. The number of treatments will vary from patient to patient according to your specific appearance goals. You should see a change in your skin right after your first treatment session. At first, brown spots will actually become darker and you may see some redness. This can be covered by makeup, and should resolve quickly. Skin will look smoother and your skin tone will become more even, with the skin looking brighter and more radiant following each session.
Melasma and Intense Pulsed Light
Melasma is a skin condition that creates flat brown or dark grey pigmentation on the surface of the skin. Melasma can develop due to a variety of environmental factors, including sun exposure and changes in hormones. As melasma is photosensitive, it is best to avoid IPL treatment of any kind, as this can exacerbate the appearance of melasma on the skin. If you are experiencing sun spots or brown spots on the surface of the skin, it’s very important that you are seen by an expert dermatologist before engaging with any laser treatments. Dr. Green works with many patients who had previously been treated with inappropriate laser types that have further spread the appearance of melasma on this skin. She understands how crucial it is to match skin pigmentation and discoloration to the best–and safest–treatment available from the very beginning.
An alternative treatment to laser therapy for patients with melasma is that of chemical peels, such as the Cosmelan peel. Dr. Green will apply the Cosmelan peel – a professional-grade mask – to the treatment area in her Upper East Side dermatology office. The amount of time that the mask needs to stay on your skin varies depending on the severity of the condition being treated, as well as skin type, but typically, patients should keep the mask on for several hours. Patients can easily remove the mask at home after the specified amount of time with a gentle facial cleanser. The Cosmelan mask will cause the top layer of skin to peel, revealing a smoother layer of skin. The process is safe, requires minimal down-time, and greatly reduces signs of pigmentation on the face.
Is Intense Pulsed Light safe?
Intense Pulsed Light is a non-ablative and non-invasive procedure and is, therefore, very low-risk. The light pulses are not removing any skin, rather the wavelengths of light are targeting the darker pigmentation in the second layer of your skin (the dermis) to remove the discoloration. Most patients experience only mild discomfort during the procedure itself, which is often described as being lightly flicked with a rubber band, and there is no downtime necessary following the treatment. Patients can return to their regular actives right after the procedure. The skin in the treatment area may feel red and swollen for one to two days, but these symptoms clear up quickly on their own. During the recovery phase, patients need to be diligent about wearing sunscreen as the skin is more sensitive to UV rays after the IPL process. Dr. Green strongly suggests using both physical and chemical sunscreen on affected areas anytime you go outside after receiving the IPL treatment.
Why patients prefer non-surgical treatments to plastic surgery
When patients are thinking about undergoing a procedure to affect the look and feel of their skin, a question might come up about non-surgical treatments like Intense Pulsed Light treatment and how it compares to plastic surgery. Most patients have a preference for non-surgical treatment for many reasons. In particular, IPL treatment is highly effective in removing evidence of skin damage as well as removing hair and maintaining firm, healthy, and youthful skin without being invasive or ablative – meaning the procedure does not remove any skin or require any incisions. Plastic surgery on the other hand requires anesthesia as it is invasive and ablative, which has significant effects for the pain involved during the extensive recovery. Depending on the type of procedure, recovery from plastic surgery can take anywhere from six weeks to several months, as patients will be caring for the wound caused by the surgery. It can also take a significant amount of time before patients can return to their regular activities after the process.
With IPL treatment, conversely, there is no downtime after the treatment, and patients can return immediately to their regular activities. There is minimal discomfort during or after the procedure such that a numbing cream is rarely required during the treatment itself. Due to the positive and lasting results from IPL treatment, the minimal discomfort from the procedure, and the lack of downtime needed following appointment, patients express a preference for non-surgical options.
How do I get started with the IPL treatment for photo rejuvenation?
If you’re ready to remove the redness from rosacea, the appearance of broken capillaries, or the hyperpigmentation from sun damage, there are solutions that can help. Dr. Michele Green is an expert in non-invasive cosmetic dermatology, from chemical peels, laser treatments, and cosmetic injectables like Botox® and Juvederm®. As a cosmetic expert, board certified dermatologist in New York, Dr. Green is consistently voted one of the best dermatologists in NY by Castle Connolly, New York Magazine, and Super Doctors. Please call our NYC office today to schedule a consultation at 212-535-3088 or contact us online today to learn if Intense Pulsed Light is the best cosmetic treatment for you.