Intense Pulsed Light


Laser is an acronym that stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.  Intense Pulsed light, although often mistaken for Laser, is similar to laser but utilizes a variable wavelength of light versus a set coherent wavelength.  Think of a laser pointer as a coherent wavelength of light or an example of laser.   A flashlight has more variability and a broader array of light and is more similar to Intense Pulsed Light.

Intense Pulsed Light treatment is often referred to as foto-facial or light therapy.  This treatment uses an intense burst of light in a pulse by pulse pattern to treat brown and red pigmentation in the skin.  We often develop brown sun spots from ultraviolet sun exposure and from trauma to the skin, such as post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation from acne blemishes.  We may also develop broken capillaries in our skin from trauma or from excessive sun exposure, or from a condition called Rosacea.  Intense pulsed light therapy is very effective for treatment of both red and brown irregular pigmentation on the skin. Intense Pulsed Light may also help minimize minor imperfections in the superficial texture of the skin, making the skin reflect light more evenly.  This gives the skin a more rejuvenated and youthful appearance.

The treatment is typically done on the full face, neck, chest or hands and takes about 30 to 60 minutes to perform.  Once the area/s are treated, the skin will appear slightly pink in color and may feel like a minor sunburn for 1 to 2 hours.  The day after the treatment brown spots will initially appear slightly darker, with a coffee ground appearance to the surface.  This pigment will remain for 5 to 7 days until the pigment becomes dry and flakes off the skin, revealing a more evenly pigmented and refreshed appearance.  Red capillaries or vessels typically become redder initially, but after a few days, the body’s macrophages will start to digest the treated vessels and gradually reabsorb them.  This causes a gradual lightening of vessels over a few weeks of time.

Intense Pulsed Light treatment is often done in a series of 3 to 5 treatments performed monthly to achieve optimal results.  At that time often patients elect to continue treatment on a maintenance schedule of 1 to 2 times a year depending on their lifestyle and outdoor exposure.

In preparation for the treatment, we recommend to avoid sun exposure prior to treatment and to wear a sunscreen daily to protect the skin.  If the skin in tanned from sun exposure, this may cause the Intense Pulsed Light to be absorbed into the tanned skin versus the pigmentation.  This may cause delayed healing and a less effective treatment.  After the treatment is performed we also recommend daily sunscreen usage, but also encourage patients to wash with a gentle cleanser and use a gentle moisturizer for the initial few days post-treatment.  Make-up may be applied the day post-treatment to aid in camouflaging the coffee ground appearance to the skin.

Intense Pulsed Light is a very effective and beneficial treatment for the skin with minimal to no recovery time.  Most patients love the results of treatment and return regularly for additional benefits.