IPL Photofacial To Treat Hyperpigmentation

Intense Pulsed Light Or IPL Photofacial


For many people in the Bay Area, Intense Pulsed Light, also known as an IPL Photofacial, is a very good option for treating sun-damaged, aged or hyperpigmented skin. IPL Photofacials are safe, noninvasive and use a precision light therapy to correct these types of discolorations.

Many people incorrectly think that IPL Photofacials use laser energy, but instead the IPL targets affected skin with various wavelengths of light. Also unlike other laser procedures like erbium & Co2, that treat similar conditions, IPL Photofacials affect deeper layers of skin so appearance of treatment is not obvious.

What Does IPL Treat?

IPL Photofacials are extremely effective at lightening and sometimes even removing all together dark spots and pigmentation issues such as:

  • Hyperpigmentation: age spots, sun spots, freckles
  • Redness (secondary to rosacea), dilated blood vessels and “broken” blood vessels
  • Acne scarring
  • Pigmented birthmarks
Photofacial Before After

How Does IPL Work?

Intense pulse light is NOT a laser. Instead, the IPL Photofacial technique emits quick and powerful flashes of light which penetrate the layers of skin. Using different wavelengths of light, IPL targets hemoglobin (the red blood cells in the blood vessels) or melanin (the brown pigment in freckles and age spots) that create discoloration. As the light turns into heat and breaks down the hemoglobin or melanin into tiny particles, your body’s lymphatic system will carry them away. Sometimes, the unwanted tissues rise to the skin’s surface as scabs which will naturally slough away within a few days.

IPL Photofacials are most effective for fair-skinned patients since people with darker skin tones have more melanin which is more difficult for the IPL to isolate.

Who Is and Is Not A Good Candidate for an IPL Photofacial?

At this time, For The Face – Lieberman & Parikh Facial Plastic Surgery only treats fair-skinned patients with IPL because the light can harm people with darker skin tones. Even people with naturally tanned skin should probably not get IPL as it can leave permanent scarring or unwanted pigmentation. There are other treatments such as the erbium laser and micropenning that target some of these same issues without any risks.

During your initial consultation, our medical staff will thoroughly evaluate your skin color and determine if you are a good candidate.

Many younger patients who are starting to see early signs of hyperpigmentation, minor wrinkling and uneven skin tone will find IPL attractive because of the zero downtime. Regardless of your age or the length of time you’ve had the hyperpigmentation, as long as you are fairly light-skinned, an IPL Photofacial will be effective at taking care of unwanted discoloration.

What to Expect From an IPL Photofacial

How Is an IPL Photofacial Performed?

IPL photofacial

One IPL treatment will take about 20 minutes, and while there is no downtime, the treatment can be somewhat painful. Our registered nurse, Moira Ljungquist, will apply a topical anesthetic and then place the IPL handpiece against your skin. When she fires the IPL machine, you will feel a quick snap, like someone is popping a small rubber band against your skin. Most patients say that the results from IPL far outweigh the discomfort.

Usually, an IPL treatment will cover the entire face. Working in quadrants—cheeks, chin, and forehead – our nurse will pass the handpiece across your entire face or in other cases against your hands or decolletage. Twenty minutes later, she’ll wipe off the gel and you will be free to apply makeup and sunscreen and return to your normal activities.

Is There Any Downtime With An IPL Photofacial?

One of the great benefits of IPL is that there is no downtime after treatment. Because IPL uses multiple wavelengths of light, instead of laser energy, it doesn’t adversely affect the outer layer of skin. Some people experience redness immediately after treatment but that usually fades within a few hours. Other patients will experience a slight swelling which also dissipates soon afterwards.

It is not uncommon for patients to see results after one session with an IPL Photofacial, but most people require three to five sessions, spaced one month apart, to see their optimal result. Once it is met, we recommend two maintenance sessions per year in order to keep the melanin at bay.

What Should I Do Prior to My IPL Photofacial?

Before you receive any treatment, our staff will provide detailed pre-procedure instructions, personalized to your specific skin type and health record. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • For 2-4 weeks before your treatment, avoid excessive sun, self-tanners and tanning beds.
  • Be very diligent about applying an UVA / UVB sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every morning and reapply once again in the afternoon.
  • To avoid bruising, it is recommended not to take aspirin, ibuprofen, or Aleve for one week prior to treatment, unless these are medically indicated to help prevent bruising.
  • To avoid extra sensitivity, stop using your skincare products with Retin-A, at least a week before.