Originally, IPL therapy was approved for hair removal by the FDA in 1995, but since then, it has come to be used as a treatment for a variety of dermatologic issues as a “photofacial” or in more targeted ways. IPL’s non-ablative technology allows noticeable results without major healing time. The results depend on the provider, the wavelengths used, and the initial skin type of the patient. Read on for more information on IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) and learn if it is right for you.

How Does It Work?

IPL uses many wavelengths of non-collimated light with filters that limit particular portions of the light spectrum to target a wide variety of color targets at the same time.

True lasers use a single wavelength of light in a collimated beam (where all the beams line up and there is no spread outward) to aim for one color target. IPL uses many wavelengths of non-collimated light with filters that limit particular portions of the light spectrum to target a wide variety of color targets at the same time. For this reason, IPL is also known as Broad Band Light, or BBL. When used properly in experienced hands, IPL light is safely absorbed only by its intended targets and avoids damaging surrounding tissue, making it a noninvasive and non-ablative treatment with little recovery time.

IPL’s converted heat energy is able to focus on certain pigments depending on the wavelengths included in the filtered light. For example, certain wavelengths will treat vascular lesions, such as rosacea and spider veins, by targeting hemoglobin in your blood, thus heating only the vessels to cause them to seal shut without affecting the surrounding tissue. Pigmented lesions, such as lentigoes or sun spots, are removed by targeting and destroying the melanin in the skin’s surface. In all cases, but especially true for hair removal, IPL works extremely well for light-skinned, dark-haired patients; this contrast between the two allows the IPL to target the hair follicle safely without heating, burning, and scarring surrounding skin. Darker skin types may also be treated in many cases but risks do increase.

What Can I Expect?

Skilled doctors can treat small, single spots, but most IPL treatments are intended for broad areas, so it’s best to talk to your board-certified dermatologist to see what she or he recommends.

IPL therapy usually lasts 15 to 45 minutes, and target areas can include the face, neck, chest, hands, arms, or legs. Skilled doctors can treat small, single spots, but most IPL treatments are intended for broad areas, so it’s best to talk to your board-certified dermatologist to see what she or he recommends. Because IPL is a non-ablative therapy, there is no bleeding or scabbing and recovery downtime is minimal, including some temporary redness and darkening of spots before they fade.

Depending on the area and the severity of the skin issue, patients can expect a total of one to three treatments scheduled about a month apart. IPL can treat a wide variety of skin issues, including age spots, sun damaged-skin, freckles, spider veins, and rosacea, but the effectiveness of the treatment depends on your skin type, your level of tan, and the particular issue. For example, sun spots may fade in two weeks (although you’ll experience noticeable darkening initially), whereas melasma is much more difficult to treat due to the natural complexity of the issue, and may in fact worsen with treatment.

The normal aging process can give rise to a number of common aesthetic skin concerns, including enlarged pores, lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone, redness, broken capillaries, spider veins, acne scars, and more. Laser and intense pulsed light treatments can help to reduce these conditions quickly and with minimal healing time. At Art of Dermatology in New York City, Dr. Krant offers a number of laser and IPL treatments to help you achieve the smooth, youthful look you want.