Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Frequently Asked Questions

Intense Pulsed Light is a technology where light is converted into heat energy. Treatments are like a very powerful camera flash lamp being held against your skin. The selected light waves target colored pigments such as melanin in brown spots and freckles; and hemoglobin in broken or diffuse blood vessels.  The light waves can also target specific protein molecules in acne bacteria and stimulate collagen production.  IPL treats all conditions without puncturing or abrading the skin’s surface.

Lasers have been in use for many years.  The IPL technology was developed in the nineties and is an adaptation of the laser, more suited to the aesthetic industry.  The biggest difference between laser and IPL is the coverage. The laser beam is very narrow, only covering a small spot at a time, while IPL coverage is several times the area, and therefore treatments are much quicker.

Lasers produce light from one specific wavelength, or color, for a very specific target.  The light emitted from the IPL is composed of a spectrum of colors from different wavelengths, enabling selective photo-absorption (light absorption) to different targets.  In other words, using the IPL is like using a group of lasers in a single treatment.

Photofacials are a very effective skin rejuvenation treatment because they address many concerns at once. Specifically, photofacials will improve:
• Skin Tone and Texture
• Pigmentation and Sun Spots
• Vascular Lesions
• Acne & Rosacea

IPL Photofacials work by using light to stimulate deep within the layers of skin. Using a non-ablative laser carefully calibrated to focus on darker pigments, your provider will use specific settings on the handpiece to target underlying tissue at the root of many common skin discolorations.  Common skin conditions that are effectively treated with IPL Photofacials include:
• Sunspots
• Age spots
• Freckles and other skin discolorations
• Acne scars
• Broken capillaries or spider veins
• Skin redness, including Rosacea
• Superficial wrinkles
• Uneven skin tone
• Enlarged pores.

The result of Living Well’s Photofacial Treatment series is smoother, brighter, healthier looking skin.

Living Well Institute for Skin and Laser’s Photofacial Treatment can be paired with an add on Rejuvenation Treatment.  This process requires a second pass with different settings to affect deeper layers of the dermis.  Rejuvenation stimulates collagen growth and the regeneration of new skin cells as well as diminishing lines and wrinkles for an overall healthy glow.  The results of the rejuvenation process are seen 90-180 days after the original treatment series.

Consultation and Test Patch: 
Your first appointment will be a comprehensive consultation to answer all your questions and to ensure there are no contraindications to IPL treatments, such as medications which cause photo-sensitivity.  We will also ascertain the degree of recent sun or UV exposure on the area to be treated.

The color of your skin and the condition to be treated must be assessed, then a calculation is made to determine the appropriate setting.  A test patch may be applied. Some conditions only require a few minutes wait for the results of the test patch, while others will require a separate appointment of up to 48 hours after the test patch. It is very important to be honest about medications and your recent sun or UV exposure.  Patients with photo-sensitivity problems may develop some adverse reactions such as blistering or mild burning sensations.  Your first test patch flash will be set on a low setting in order to avoid this.  The setting may be raised if appropriate.

All Treatments: 
The treatment area is re-assessed, cleansed to remove traces of oils, etc., and ultrasound gel is then applied.  Both the operator and the client will wear glasses to protect their eyes from the bright flashes of light, then treatment may commence.  The flash light lamp at the head of the hand piece is held against the patient’s skin and the intense light is pulsed at the trigger of a button. The lamp is moved to cover the entire area, with a minimum of 2 seconds between each flash. Once the treatment is completed the gel will be wiped off and a cooling cream will be applied, plus sun block where appropriate.

Hair removal treatments: 
If your appointment is for hair removal; in areas of course hair growth the treatment area is generally obvious.  However, if hair is not easily visible, it is appropriate to allow the hairs to grow slightly.  This area will then need to be shaved before your IPL treatment begins because it is important that the light is targeted down the hair shaft to the bulb. We don’t want to treat (and heat) hairs on the skin’s surface.  Where the treatment area is obvious, you may shave the hair yourself before you arrive for your appointment.

Some treatments have little or no sensation at all,  while other treatments patients may feel a slight sting, similar to the flick of a rubber band against the skin.  It is not unbearable, and we can always reduce the intensity if you feel the need.  Immediately after treatment you may feel a mild heat for a few minutes to a couple of hours.
Immediate Response:  
In most cases there is no visible reaction and you could resume normal activities immediately after your appointment.  However, IPL causes heat in the target tissues; therefore it is acceptable for the area to be slightly reddened immediately after treatment. This  would normally dissipate within half an hour.  It is possible for the skin to appear slightly red for a couple of hours and up to 24 hours. If a reaction is visible after 48 hours, it is imperative you contact your Living Well IPL operator for further advice. For those people concerned about wearing make-up immediately after treatment, provided there is no adverse reaction, (which is very rare), you may apply a mineral foundation to your face after your sun block.  After hair removal treatments, it is also common to see a slight swelling at the mouth of each hair follicle, similar to goose bumps.  This appearance should disappear within the same time frame as the reddening.

Please note: In darker toned people, these responses may be delayed for up to 24 hours.

Light produced by laser and by IPL is absorbed by the color pigment, melanin, which is present in our hair and skin. Caution is required when treating people with darker skin (skin that contains a higher amount of melanin) which tan very easily.  Hyper-pigmentation or blanching of the skin is likely to occur if there is too much melanin present in the skin.  It is possible to treat medium toned skin on a low intensity.  The consultation process and a test patch, will determine whether each individual can be treated.  Strict guidelines must be adhered to when treating darker skinned people, using only low levels of intensity at each session, and therefore more treatments will be needed to achieve results.  Generally, Black, Middle Eastern, and Indian skin are not treatable – for both skin rejuvenation and for hair removal.
Sun exposure and tanning: 
You can NOT be treated if you have had ultra violet (UV) exposure from the sun or sun beds within the past 4 to 6 weeks.  Therefore prior to your treatments you must cover well with clothing, hats, and sun block to prevent extra activity of the melanin cells in your skin.  Melanin cells are responsible for tanning.  Your tan slowly ‘wears off’ as those cells reach the surface of your skin in the normal skin- shedding activity, known as skin renewal. Spray-on tans stain the outer skin cells, and this color will intensify the IPL heat at the surface of the skin, therefore we cannot treat with IPL for at least two weeks after a spray-on tan application.

For hair removal treatments, allow the hair to grow slightly, ( 2 mm is enough) immediately prior to your treatment day.  It is advisable to shave between appointments, DO NOT wax or pluck the area to be treated.
Please note, shaving does not cause future hair growth to grow more rapidly or become more course.  Only the actual shaved hairs will become coarser, but they will shed, and new growth will be normal.

For 24 hours after each IPL treatment:
• No sun exposure or UV exposure of sun beds
• Wear sun block with both UVA and UVB protection
• No depilatory, AHA, glycolic or salicylic creams
• No very hot baths or showers – tepid water only
• No heat treatments e.g. sauna
• No swimming in chlorinated pools or spa baths
• No deodorant – if underarms treated
• No perfumes, highly perfumed soaps or lotions, etc.

Long term Aftercare:
• Always wear sunblock with both UVA and UVB protection
• Avoid excessive sun or UV exposure.  Cover up and be sun-safe.

    • Redness and swelling of the skin are normal.  They are harmless effects which usually disappear within half an hour, but can occasionally be visible for two to thirty hours. Tightening of the skin can sometimes be felt for one or two days. In extreme cases blistering may occur, which heals in a few days.  Cooling, healing gel or ice-packs should be applied frequently to alleviate discomfort.  Treat this situation as you would for sun burn.
    • Scabbing is possible after blistering.  It is extremely important NOT to pick scabs off the skin, as they are protecting the underlying skin while it heals itself.  If you pick a scab off, the healing process will stop and you could be left with little pock marks.
    • If any signs of redness and swelling are still present after 48 hours of treatment, please contact the Living Well IPL operator for further advice. We will be contacting you in 24 to 48 hours to give you appropriate advice.  In the mean time, treat as sun burn.
    • Blanching or hyper-pigmentation will only occur if strict guidelines regarding settings for the different skin types and colors have not been adhered to; OR if the client has not disclosed all contraindications, medications. or the full extent of their sun or UV exposure during the month prior to treatment.  Usually blanching or hyper-pigmented scars will heal and fade over weeks or months, but in extreme cases, especially on darker skin, they could be permanent.