We Tried an IPL Treatment…Here's What Happened
Our Social Media Manager Noelle got an IPL (Intense Pulse Light) treatment at Dr. Dendy Engelman’s office. Below, we’re answering all of your questions about an IPL treatment, including potential side effects and length of recovery time!
What Is IPL?
In our quest to understand IPL, we went straight to the source and asked Dr. Engelman exactly what an IPL treatment is. As it turns out, IPL stands for Intense Pulse Light, and according to Dr. Engelman, it’s a broad range of light—not a laser. The treatment involves a light-based device that can help address the appearance of hyperpigmentation, broken capillaries, and skin redness. Each treatment can be completed in a matter of minutes, but Dr. Engelman explains that you’ll likely need more than one session to reach your desired results—typically two to five in total.
If you’re wondering whether the treatment is painful, Dr. Engelman says, “It feels like a little snap of a rubber brand.” For some, the worst part of the whole treatment could be the bright light emitted by the device. While the light itself doesn’t hurt, it “tends to make you jump,” Dr. Engelman says.
Can Anyone Try IPL?
Engelman often gives IPL treatments to brides or those attending weddings or reunions, when they’re in need of a skin refresh or simply want to help minimize the appearance of sun damage. That said, IPL treatments aren’t recommended for everyone. Dr. Engelman shares that IPL is more dangerous for darker skin types. In some instances, chemical peels can be used as an alternative.
To be sure IPL is right for your skin, you’ll want to consult with an IPL provider who is licensed and certified.
What Is the Recovery Time?
One of the most exciting things we learned about IPL is that the treatment doesn’t require a long recovery time. According to Dr. Engelman, a general rule of thumb is that if a treatment requires a lot of downtime, you’ll need fewer treatments.
As for just how little downtime there is, Dr. Engelman says patients can go back to work immediately after, so it’s no surprise that many like to schedule a treatment during a lunch break. Immediately after treatment, patients should notice their skin actually looks better, according to Dr. Engelman.
However, patients with very dark spots should know that their spots may appear darker after treatment. During this time, makeup can be applied to cover the spots. A few days post-treatment, the spots will eventually flake off. And don’t be tempted to pick them off, Dr. Engelman strongly discourages picking as it can leave a more persistent, long-lasting dark spot.
What Aftercare Is Required?
While IPL doesn’t require downtime, aftercare is necessary. Follow these steps to take care of your skin in the days after receiving IPL:
1. Wear sunscreen. Sunscreen should always be part of your daily routine, but sun protection can be especially important after a skin treatment. Even when there isn’t a break in the skin, Dr. Engelman says you don’t want to expose unprotected skin to the sun.
2. Use a vitamin C serum. Dr. Engelman always recommends that her patients use a topical vitamin C after IPL. She suggests applying five drops every morning to give antioxidant protection against free radicals, which can wreak havoc on skin cells. Dr. Engelman recommends using the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, one of her favorite vitamin C serums. If C E Ferulic is out of your budget, Dr. Engelman suggests reaching for drugstore-favorite Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Serum, which is formulated with hyaluronic acid in addition to vitamin C.
IPL Treatment Review
Our social media manager, Noelle, had no trouble admitting her nerves prior to getting an IPL treatment with Dr. Engelman. “I have very sensitive skin,” Noelle says. “I was mostly concerned that my skin would react badly to the IPL.” Much to her delight, the treatment went smoothly. On a pain scale of 1 to 10 (1 being no pain and 10 being incredibly painful), she marked her IPL treatment as a 6. “The pain was definitely present, but it was tolerable,” she says.
As Dr. Engelman warned, some dark spots did take on a more pigmented appearance. For Noelle, these clusters of dark spots appeared on her forehead area. “They looked like little freckles,” Noelle says. “They didn’t hurt at all, and weren’t noticeable unless you looked at my skin up close.” After a few days, Noelle reported that the spots flaked off without issue.
So, was it all worth it for the results? Noelle says yes without hesitation. She mentioned that her skin looked and felt better immediately after the treatment and in the days after. That said, she reiterates Dr. Engelman’s point and urges anyone getting an IPL treatment to be diligent with sunscreen use while outdoors.