Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) use filtered non-coherent light to selectively destroy pigment cells, blood-filled capillaries and hair roots in a process called Selective Photothermolysis. Selective Photothermolysis brought about the development of a whole new field we now call “photo-rejuvenation” in the late 90’s.
IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) has become an indispensable tool in any aesthetic practice. Moving beyond just Photothermolysis, the future for IPLs is in selective killing of diseased (various pre-cancerous lesions), aged (actinic keratosis) or infected cells (acne vulgaris) in Photodynamic Therapy when used with 5 ALA. Even low powered IPLs, when used with 5 ALA is again powerful in treating acne, pre-cancerous skin lesions and even Rosacea
Intense Pulsed Light(IPL) devices work on the principles of Selective Photothermolysis. That is, causing thermal damage to target chromophores (pigments) by using light of appropriate wavelength in pulses that exceeds the chromophores’ thermal relaxation time but sparing normal skin by limiting the pulse width below the thermal relaxation time for skin. A fine line really, if you think about it, between the treatment having no effect, and setting the power too high and causing burn injuries. But the technology has come a long way from its early days… nowadays we can achieve clear skin in just one, or at most two, treatments. The trick is to produce a very uniform power throughout the pulse width.
CONDITIONS THAT Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) TREATS
IPL is great for lightening pigmentation (freckles, Solar Keratosis, Lentigenes etc)
IPL is moderately good for removing fine capillaries and hairs
IPL is almost useless for general skin rejuvination (collagen production)
At our clinic, we do not use IPL purely for wrinkle or acne scars where collagen synthesis is paramount over pigment destruction. For this purpose, we use the Ulthera, Thermage, Cooltouch or various combinations of these. We do not use IPL for Hair Reduction or Vein (Spider Veins or Broken Capillary) destruction. We use Super Hair Removal or Coolglide for these 2 conditions. Therefore we use IPL only to treat freckles, solar keratosis, lentigenes, and associated superficial pigmentation problems.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Up to seventy percent of objective (measurable) lightening of pigmentation was shown in a recent study. However one can expect a slight darkening of freckles, age spots, liver spots etc, and slight ecchymosis “dirty skin discoloration” over burst fine capillaries immediately after each treatment. These would then fade after 1-2 weeks to reveal a much clearer complexion. During the usual follow-up visit at 7-10 days, many patients can see how much clearer their skin have become. We follow-up all our IPL treatments at 1 week for microdermabrasion to remove any “crusts” left behind. Maintaining the clear skin involves vigilantly applying sun block and good pigment lightening creams.
PIGMENTARY CONDITIONS IN ASIAN SKIN
Asian women around 40 years of age will have several kinds of pigmentation on the face. IPL effectively lightens age-spots and sun-induced pigment spots but not Melasma. Melasma is hard to remove as they are deep. Against a clearer background, the Melasma stands out more prominently after IPL. This can be rather upsetting!
Fortunately, there are very effective creams that can suppress Melasma from showing up too soon. Alternatively, there are peels that are good at clearing the pigmentation.