What Is an IPL Photofacial and Why Are They So Popular?

Jun 07, 2022
What Is an IPL Photofacial and Why Are They So Popular?
Intense pulsed light, or IPL, is used during photofacials to treat all kinds of imperfections, including sun damage, acne scarring, rosacea, spider veins, age spots, and unwanted facial hair.

There are plenty of traditional facials for those looking to improve their complexion, but technology like IPL therapy has opened the door for newer, more effective skin treatments. Photofacials use light to penetrate the deeper layers of your skin, allowing them to reach problems that typical facials cannot touch. 

At Woodlands Aesthetics Center in The Woodlands, Texas, Dr. Jon Rawson provides intense pulsed light (IPL) photofacials to help remedy a variety of skin conditions. 

IPL basics

Intense pulsed light is often compared to laser treatments, but they’re not quite the same. Lasers send a concentrated wavelength of light into the skin, whereas the wavelengths used during IPL therapy are scattered and less focused. 

This allows the light to penetrate your skin with less damage to the uppermost layer, known as the epidermis. As the intense pulsed light is absorbed, it is converted into heat and absorbed by the pigments, hair follicles, and capillaries within your dermis. 

This process breaks down pigmentation, reducing the appearance of freckles, melasma, and age spots. It can also destroy hair follicles, which can help with unwanted facial hair. IPL therapy even has the potential to eliminate broken blood vessels like spider veins, and rosacea

The biggest benefit of photofacials is that they can treat multiple problems at once, clearing up your complexion faster than tackling each problem individually. 

Making a decision

While intense pulsed light can provide remarkable results for some patients, it’s not right for everyone. Every photofacial should be preceded by a consultation to ensure that the treatment will have the intended effects. 

Many factors can affect how you will react to IPL therapy, including your skin tone. Darker skin might respond negatively to intense pulsed light, since the process targets pigments like melanin. Other factors to consider include: 

  • When you last received injectables like dermal fillers or Botox 
  • When you last used tanning beds or creams
  • When you last used a retinoid cream 
  • Certain conditions, such as skin resurfacing disorders or keloid scarring 

During your consultation, your dermatologist will examine your skin, discuss your goals, and let you know what to expect. 

What to expect 

If you choose to move forward, make sure to wear sunscreen and avoid blood thinners in the days leading up to your treatment, and skip your makeup/skincare routine that morning. 

The photofacial itself is largely painless, though you might feel a slight snapping sensation (like a rubber band snap) as the light pulses through your skin. If this bothers you, ask for a numbing cream prior to your treatment. 

Each session typically lasts 20-30 minutes, and your skin will be sensitive or “sunburned” afterwards. These side effects will pass, and damp rags or ice packs can alleviate discomfort in the meantime. 

Following your treatment, it’s important that you use gentle cleansers, moisturize often, and wear sunscreen every day — even if you don’t plan on going outside. While the redness caused by IPL therapy can be off-putting, resist the urge to cover it with makeup. Applying and removing makeup irritates the skin, which will only prolong the side effects. 

Interested in trying a photofacial for yourself? Schedule a consultation to learn more, or visit our contact page for more options.