Skin rejuvenation using Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)

A popular rejuvenation technique for improving damaged and ageing skin is Intense Pulsed Light (IPL). A high intensity beam of light is generated by passing an electrical current through a chamber filled with (xenon) gas. Deeper elements in the skin absorb this specific light, causing them to heat up, while the outer skin surface is not disrupted. This allows all the photo-rejuvenation (light therapy) action to occur deep in the skin dermis.

Heating the skin causes skin cells to release their pigment, which rises to and is shed from the skin surface. Inflammatory responses are also triggered aiding the removal of old or damaged collagen, and replacing it with new healthy matrix. This leads to at least partial replacement of the skin volume lost with age.

The same IPL device can simultaneously treat several kinds of skin problems. It can be used for pigmented areas (eg age spots, sun spots, freckles, rosacea or unsightly broken capillaries), as well as acne and wrinkles, though the effects on wrinkles are somewhat less dramatic. For more details on this procedure click on Skin Rejuvenation with IPL.

At Shine Clinic in Brisbane we use Elos IPL; the first and only technology that combines light and radio frequency energies to effectively, safely and gently restore and rejuvenate the skin’s appearance.

Who can have this treatment?

Deep wrinkles do not respond well to IPL, its not successful in treating this issue. This procedure may also not be suitable for those with a susceptibility to excessive scarring. As well, it is less effective for women with dark skin as there is a risk of pigment changes. IPL is not suitable for some people who are taking photosensitising medications.

What should I expect during treatment?

Preparation is minimal but important, including avoiding excessive sunlight and artificial tanning agents for at least two weeks prior to treatment.

An anaesthetic cream may be applied to numb the area 30 minutes or so before treatment. A cooling gel is also applied. It protects the skin and improves the efficiency of light delivery into the deeper dermis.

Since there is heating (and cooling) occurring, a warm to hot sensation is felt like being flicked with a hot elastic band. Treatments last between 10 and 30 minutes, and any discomfort soon disappears after treatment without residual effects. The treated area will feel hot like a sunburn for up to 1–2 hours.

It is essential to avoid all sun exposure both before and after all treatments. An effective sunscreen is recommended long term as this will minimise the appearance of further pigment in the future. Avoid exfoliating agents after the treatment.

Gradual and cumulative improvement of skin tone and texture, with increased softness is typically achieved in five treatment sessions. Treatment areas include face, neck, arms, hands, and larger areas such as the upper back. A complimentary skin assessment and patch test is required prior to treatment.

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Are there side effects or risks involved?

Recovery is rapid after the procedure, and you may return to work soon after. Most IPL side effects are minor and subside within 24 hours. Temporary itching and redness may be experienced, but is easily covered with makeup. There may also be some skin peeling for a few days after the IPL treatment. Occasionally a cold sore breakout may occur if the Herpes simplex virus affects you. This can be prevented by taking an antiviral medication.

Dark areas treated may temporarily get a little darker instead of lighter, this is not cause for concern. It will quickly settle after old skin cells are pushed to the surface and peel off. Applying a moisturiser twice a day speeds up the process. Protect the treated area from the sun for at least two weeks to minimise any risk of pigment changes. Preferably use a broad-spectrum sunscreen, every day, regardless of weather.

Complementary Treatments

Micro-dermabrasion between treatments will enhance the shedding of old skin cells. This accelerates the process of evening out transient skin discolouration. Injections of botulinum toxin combined with IPL have also been shown to be more effective on wrinkles. Sometimes, IPL is combined with 5-ALA in a treatment referred to as photodynamic therapy (PDT). This increases the intensity of the treatment and focuses more on all sun damage including pre-malignant sunspots.

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