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IPL laser (photofacial)

IPL lasers shoot pulsed (not continuous) light at the skin to destroy unwanted cells.

By Zeel Editorial Staff, Last updated: August 2, 2012

Treatment Basics

Regulatory approval: Approved by the FDA in 1995.

Other names: photofacial, photorejuvenation, fotofacial, rejuvenation laser treatment, IPL

Manufacturer: Various, including Advanced Technology Laser

IPL, or intense pulsed light, is a good type of treatment for removing pigmented lesions such as age spots and birthmarks. These non-laser, light-based systems shoot pulsed light (as opposed to continuous light) at the skin to heat the underlying tissues.

IPL treatments can target cells of different cell colors at one time, but it is more attracted to darker tones. When the light is absorbed by these pigmented cells, it is converted into heat energy.

The heat physically destroys the cells, resulting in a smoother, more even complexion.

What It's Good For

IPL can effectively reduce the appearance of lentigines (liver spots), sun spots, freckles, and birthmarks (the brownish ones).

Who it works for: IPL is ideal for individuals with lighter skin, who are less likely to experience hyper- or hypopigmentation. Still, individuals with darker skin can be treated with IPL if the pulse width of the device is adjusted.

Simply put, extending the time in between each pulse restricts the amount of energy that can be built up, making the IPL less harmful for darker skin.

Recommended age range: There are currently no age restrictions associated with the procedure.

When will I see results?: Pigmented lesions can be removed after three to five IPL sessions, spaced one month apart. The discolorations should gradually lighten after each treatment.

Changes on your face will be generally more obvious than those on your neck, chest, arms, and the backs of hands.

How long it lasts: Religiously applying sunscreen to protect your skin after IPL treatment can extend the results of your treatment. Removal of pigmented lesions is permanent, though new age spots may appear in time.

Key benefits of IPL laser (photofacial): Many IPL devices make use of a relatively large treatment tip, making widespread pigment issues easier to treat. They are also coupled with a cooling tip to prevent overheating, and have adjustable pulse durations so the devices can be customized to each client.

Licensed uses: There are numerous IPL devices currently on the market. Though each device has its own FDA restrictions, there are many currently available that are cleared for treating pigmented lesions.

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