Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Treatments
What is Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Treatment?
IPL is a non invasive medical technology that uses light therapy for multiple cosmetic uses in clinics. These include:
- Permanent Hair Reduction
- Removing Age (liver) Spots
- Sun Spots
- Freckle Removal
- Regulate Pigment (colour) on the Skin (Dyschromia)
- Vascular Treatments (including spider veins)
- Treating benign vascular lesions
- Rosacea Treatments
- Acne Treatments
How does IPL work?
Like laser, IPL works on a similar principal where light energy is absorbed into certain targeted cells with chromophore (colour) in the skin. The light is then converted to heat, which damages the target cells, rederring it incapable of performing its regular duty (perhaps producing hair or colour). This action is limited to the target site only and the surrounding skin is unaffected.
Why and how do wavelengths affect light?
Light at different wavelengths are capable of reaching different depths within the skin. You may have previously heard or read about UV when discussing the sun. What we REALLY are meaning is the different wavelengths that the sun produces, there are 3:
- Ultra Violet A (UVA) - (Long wavelength) causes premature aging and wrinkling of the skin and is a cause of skin cancer.
- Ultra Violet B (UVB) - (Medium wavelength) is more dangerous than UVA and is the leading cause of skin cancers, sunburning and cataracts.
- Ultra Violet C (UVC) - (Short wavelength) is extremely dangerous but does not reach the earth's surface due to absorption in the atmosphere (ozone layer).
As sunlight passes through the atmosphere, all the UVC and 90% of the UVB is absorbed by ozone. Therefore, the UVR that reaches the ground is mostly UVA, with some UVB. UVR is also given out by solarium light and by other artificial sources such as arc welders and fluorescent, mercury vapour, metal halide and quartz halogen lamps.
As you can see above, all the different types of UV have a different wavelength. These wavelengths determine how deep and how strong the energy will penerate, with long wavelengths (like those found with UVA) being capable of deep penetration, but with less energy strength, compared to the shorter wavelength (like those found with UVC) that can only penetrate very superficially, however can really pack a punch when they do, making them highly damaging to whatever they come into contact with, more importantly, highly dangerous when it is in the hands of an under qualified therapist.
IPL produces slightly different wavelengths over a number of ranges. These wavelengths are measured in nanometers (nm) and all target different regions within the body, as illustrated in the pictures below:
Whilst there are different ranges required to treat specific issues , with IPL we have a broad spectrum of light (this is what differs IPL to laser) this broad spectrum gives a range of target areas making it highly efficient on multiple areas of treatment.
Who is suitable for IPL?
Most people may be treated with IPL, if you have a health concern however, your doctor should determine if your health is suitable for IPL treatments. If this is the case, we will required a doctors certificate prior to commencing any treatment. People with darker skin types are also suitable to utilise IPL at our clinic, this is due to the improved technology available from the system we use, however, you should be aware that people with darker skin types often take longer to achieve desired results.
All patients wanting to undertake a course of IPL will need to come in for a consultation, there we will conduct a through consultation, taking into consideration past medical history, along with current treatments you may also be having to determine your suitability for treatment and if any preparation may be required PRIOR to treatment commencement.
Who CAN'T have IPL treatments?
Whilst many people can undergo treatment with no issue whatsoever, unfortunately, some patients will simply be unable to have this treatment . This can be a temporary situation, when a particular health issue arises or in some cases they are completely excluded from treatment. Below are a range of conditions that may impact your suitability for treatment:
- Cancer (either present or past history)
- Keloid Scars (a thickened, raised scar)
- Any tanned skin - yes, even a fake tan!
- Hairs that are white or grey (they simply cannot be detected by the beam, sorry!)
- Anyone who is on a medication that makes you more sensitive to light. Doctors often refer to this as being 'photo sensitive'. Ask your doctor about any medications you may be taking, but many will tell you if they are prescribing something for you that is photo sensitizing.
- Anyone taking an oral retinoid, such as Ro Accutane - even if you have ceased the medication, we won't be able to treat you for the following 12 months.
- People with hormonal issues - such as Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome - you will need to see to the hormonal issues and have them regulated BEFORE undergoing a course of treatments, otherwise, it simply is ineffective and a waste of your money
- FOR HAIR REDUCTION TREATMENTS ONLY - If you have waxed or plucked your hair in the treated area in the past 2-3 weeks. As the IPL is targeting a coloured area (in this case the hair under the skin) when you wax or pluck the hair it removes this, therefore the IPL has nothing to focus in on. You will need to wait until the hair bulb reforms to have your treatment.
Does IPL hurt?
Many patients report that they feel a slight pinch, such as that of a rubber band snapping onto the skin but for most people and most treatments, no pain medication is required. In many cases as treatment continues, the level of discomfort reduces, due to there being fewer target sites (such as hair, pigmentation or vessels) to treat each time.
Are there any side effects from having this treatment?
Generally, no. However, you may experience some short lived effects from the treatment. These may include:
- Slight erythema (redness) of the skin in the area treated
- Slight odema (swelling) of the skin in the area treated
When treating the skin for pigmentation, the treated area will darken over the coming days after treatment, before beginning to fade.
Is there any 'down time' or restrictions to my activities after having IPL?
Short answer? Yes. Whilst most people can return to work after their treatment, there are some things you need to remember:
- No hot steamy showers for the next 24 hours
- No gym sessions for the next 24 hours
- No strenuous activities (eg: anything that works up a sweat) for the next 24 hours
- No pools, spas, saunas for the next 24 hours
- No sunscreen on the treated area(s) for the next 24 hours
So if you are a gym instructor, lifeguard, gardener, construction worker or any other occupation or activity that will have you sweating up a storm or out in the hot sun - then NO you WILL NOT be able to go straight back to work. Other than that, its relatively simple and easy. If in doubt, just ask or call us, that's what we are here for.
Whilst you cannot use sunscreen for the first 24 hours after the treatment (as the barrier function of the skin is compromised) it is IMPERATIVE that throughout your treatment course that the areas treated are kept protected from the sun. 30+ SUNSCREEN IS MANDATORY. This information will be strongly conveyed to you at your consultation and at your treatments as well as being provided in an aftercare sheet (which can also be found HERE). Failure to heed this warning can result in possibly irreversible events, that will be solely your responsibility. Should you be someone who cannot refrain from sunbaking, using a solarium or refusal to use adequate protection, you SHOULD NOT have this treatment.
How many treatments are required and how often are they done?
- Permanent hair reduction - 6 to 12 treatments - usually 4 to 6 weeks apart
- Pigment treatment - 3 to 6 treatments - usually 2 to 3 weeks apart
- Vascular (vein) treatments - up to 4 treatments per site - usually 2 to 3 weeks apart
- Acne treatment - 4 to 6 treatments - usually 1 to 2 weeks apart
- Skin rejuvenation - 4 to 6 treatments are recommended - usually 2 to 3 weeks apart