Photofacial/IPL questions answered

Photofacial/IPL Information 

IPL (Intense Pulse Light) Photo Facial is a popular, minimal downtime treatment for the correction of pigment changes and redness associated with facial flushing and rosacea. IPL works by using light energy from a combination of wavelengths to penetrate the dermis while leaving the epidermis (outside layer of skin) untouched. There is no damage to the skin’s surface and patients have only minimal redness and slight swelling immediately after the procedure.

IPL treatments can be performed on the chest, arms and hands as well as the face.


  • Reduces hyperpigmentation, sun damage, age spots, freckles, liver spots, pigmented acne scars, and birthmarks.
  • Reduces redness from rosacea, spider veins and broken capillaries.
  • Improves skin texture and pore size.
  • Stimulates collagen production minimizing fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Can also help reduce acne.

Usually 2 to 4 treatments are recommended to achieve maximum effectiveness, depending on your skin type and color. After your treatment, you may notice the sun/age spots darken and a slight reddening of the surrounding skin. This redness typically subsides within a couple of hours. Then, over the course of 5 to 10 days, the darkened spots will fade and flake off. Using sunscreen of SPF 35 or more will minimize sun damage and prevent the appearance of new sun spots.



Your tech will assess your skin and review your medical history to determine if an IPL laser facial is right for you. Some patients start their first IPL facial treatment on the same day as their initial consultation. The treatment typically takes about 15 – 30 minutes depending on the size of the area being treated. Typically, 2 – 4 treatments are required for optimal results. Treatments can be done every 4 weeks.

Immediate after-effects, if any, are minor. They may include redness and swelling, which disappear in a short time. The darkened pigmented lesions will remain on the skin for approximately 1-2 weeks until they flake off. After each treatment, patients are usually able to return immediately to their daily activities, within limits. Make-up can be applied to the skin to cover the darkened lesions.

Does IPL laser treatment hurt?

This treatment has minimal discomfort, like a rubber band snap and a little heat.

What should I expect after an IPL photo facial treatment?

After treatment, the brown spots and sun damage that were targeted will darken for approximately 1-2 weeks before flaking off. Patients can apply make-up to the area to cover the dark spots. There is no post-treatment care, besides following your aftercare instructions, however, it is recommended to avoid significant sun exposure, exfoliation and Retin-A use for 1 week after treatment.

How should I prepare for a laser facial treatment?

Avoid tanning or significant sun exposure of the areas to be treated. Tanning decreases the color difference between the pigmented areas and the surrounding skin, making the treatment potentially more challenging, less safe, and less effective. Also avoid the use of photosensitizing medications (such as tetracycline or doxycycline) before a treatment, as this may exaggerate the skin response to treatment. It is also recommended to discontinue skin care products (such as Retin-A or Salicylic Acid) one week prior to treatment, as this may make your skin more sensitive.

Other than the face, what parts of the body can be treated with IPL?

The treatment can be performed on any area of the body. The most common areas are those most exposed to the damaging effects of sunlight. Other than the face, the most popular areas are the neck, hands, chest, and shoulders.

Are there any areas that should not be treated?

IPL treatments should be avoided in hair bearing areas of the face in men, since the treatment may also lead to unintended permanent hair reduction.

How many treatments will I need?

The number of laser facial (intense pulsed light) treatments depends on the area treated and the severity of sun damage. Typically, 2-4 treatments are required, although patients with more extensive pigmentation may require more treatments.

How soon should I expect results?

Most patients start to see some results after the first treatment. While many patients see great results after the first session, it still takes 2-4 treatments to obtain the results you desire.

Can I use a spray or cream tan between treatments?

You should absolutely refrain from any tanning or self-tanner products during treatment. The lighter the skin in comparison to the color of the pigmentation, the more effective the light is at targeting the pigment. Tanning of the skin, within 4 weeks before or after the treatment can cause unwanted side effects. Always apply sunscreen daily (with an SPF of 35 or higher) during treatments, even if you are not directly out in the sun.

Side effects that may or may not happen.

  • Mild swelling – Usually goes away the day of or the day after treatment.
  • Redness – This is fairly common and generally goes away after a few hours but can last for a couple of days.
  • Brown spots – If you underwent the procedure to treat dark spots and are suddenly faced with darker ones, don’t fret. This is normal. The dark spots may last for up to a week but will then fade.
  • Crusting – Some of the dark spots you’ve treated will grow hard and begin to flake. This is normal and temporary.
  • Bruising – This side effect is uncommon and mild when it does occur.
  • Tiny blisters – Reminiscent of sun blisters, they too fade with time.

Remember that it will take several weeks (and several treatments) before you start seeing truly significant results.

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