How IPL Works - And What It Can Do For Your Skin

There are plenty of options when trying to improve your skin's texture. Some of the most common choices include skincare products and treatments that can help remove skin issues that cause roughness or acne. For many, skincare products don't work fast enough to see results, and they'll move on to skincare treatments for quicker and more direct effects. One of these treatments, Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy, uses wavelengths of light to improve the skin in various ways, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. IPL is a popular cosmetic procedure known for helping remove those unwanted skin issues that are more stubborn against regular skincare products.


Problems that are tough but reversible like sun damage, spider veins, and hyperpigmentation can take some time to lighten when addressing with skincare products. The key to improvement is prolonged usage of skincare products, which can provide results over time. In contrast, Medical News Today reports that treatments like IPL can resolve these stubborn areas in just a handful of sessions. Although these procedures can come with a hefty price tag, it's a reasonably effective treatment to address these problem areas that become more stubborn with age.

What is IPL?

According to the Dermatology & Mohs Surgery Institute, IPL is a cosmetic procedure that uses light therapy to remedy various skin issues like dark spots, wrinkles, age spots, sun damage, and unwanted hair. The Naderi Center for Plastic Surgery & Dermatology explains that this type of light therapy targets the affected areas so that the body can remove the damaged tissue, leading to healthier regrowth. One session can last around 20-30 minutes and cost you around $700-$1,200, depending on the size of the area. The Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute explains that the average treatment will require four to six sessions spaced out four weeks apart.


Since the light therapy directly targets the skin, you'll want to take several steps to care for your skin before your IPL treatment. Avoid tanning beds, waxing, and sunbathing around two weeks before your appointment to prevent damaging the skin with the light. In the week before your treatment, avoid waxing, cosmetic procedures, or antibiotics, according to precautions given by Pacific Plastic Surgery Group. All of these factors can affect the integrity of your skin during your appointment. To get the most out of your IPL, you'll want to head to your professional with clean, bare skin and no product.

Benefits of an IPL treatment

Although completing the treatment in full may take a few sessions, the therapy is intended to lead to clear, glowy skin. To maximize and extend the IPL's benefits, you want to take care of your skin after the treatment and use sunscreen to protect against ultraviolet rays. The Wellness Group explains that IPL isn't a toxic treatment and is considered safe for most, except for pregnant women and those on blood thinners. 


In the immediate aftermath of the procedure, according to Healthline, you'll likely see puffiness and redness on your face. Walk-in Dermatology adds that it's also normal for your dark spots and freckles to look darker than before your IPL treatment. These side effects will disappear within a few days and shouldn't cause worry. Additionally, you'll want to avoid bathing, showering, or swimming for 24 hours after the procedure. While there are many factors to consider before and after treatment, the benefits of IPL can help relieve even the most bothersome skin issues like rosacea, melasma, and acne scarring.