When it comes to rejuvenating the skin, nothing does the trick quite like what’s offered at dermatologists’ and plastic surgeons’ offices. These doctors are privy to all the new technologies, but despite what’s groundbreaking and trendy, there’s something to be said about the tried-and-true treatments that have staying power, such as Intense Pulsed Light (IPL).
IPL is a light-based treatment (even though it’s often grouped into the laser category) that is used to erase discoloration—think freckles, sun damage and brown spots—as well as rosacea, acne, broken capillaries and unwanted hair. “Current IPL systems are very versatile, allowing us to cover a lot of the skin’s surface while treating a variety of skin conditions,” says Miami dermatologist Adriane Pompa, MD.
It’s often the weapon of choice when dealing with pigmentation issues because it targets melanin in the skin. “Melanin increases from chronic sun exposure, as do the freckles that result from it,” says Dr. Pompa. “With just a few treatments (three to five) of IPL, dark spots can improve dramatically. The treatment is able to cover a large area and there is little downtime associated with it.” Each session, according to Dr. Pompa, feels like a hot bright light on the surface of the skin, similar to a bright flash being fired. IPL is also said to feel like a rubber band snap, too. A few days post treatment, the treated areas become darker (like a coffee grind) before they naturally fall off and fade. “After about two to three treatments, the results will be noticeable, but many patients notice a difference after the first treatment.”
Because IPL relies on the power of a broadband light source plus filters, Dr. Pompa says that different molecules in the skin can be focused on to selectively treat a specific target with minimal impact on other skin structures. “That’s why it works best on benign pigmented skin lesions.”
In addition to all the benefits that IPL offers—did we mention it also stimulates collagen production—it can be used to rejuvenate the skin from a textural standpoint, too. “We’ve seen that IPL patients’ skin looks younger and tighter after treatment,” says Dr. Pompa. In the future, Dr. Pompa says IPL may be used to treat stretch marks, scars and atopic dermatitis, and even nail and plaque psoriasis.