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Intense Pulsed Light

What is intense pulsed light and how can it be used to rejuvenate the skin and treat redness and pigmentation?

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Intense Pulsed Light, or IPL, uses high-intensity pulses of visible light to improve the appearance of pigmentation, redness and prominent blood vessels it is also used for skin rejuvenation. Unlike lasers, which employ a single wavelength of light, IPL works with a broad spectrum allowing the treatment of multiple skin concerns in a single pass.

There are different IPL systems available with many designed to be operated by non-clinical staff and achieving only very minor degrees of improvement. The Lumenis M22 system is widely regarded as the Rolls Royce of IPL achieving results that can match or surpass laser treatments for specific indications. It has seven different ExpertFilters™ which allows fine-tuning of treatment for different skin types and conditions. The M22 system also incorporates Lumenis' proprietary Optimal Pulse Technology (OPT™) which ensures consistent and precise energy delivery throughout the treatment.

How Does IPL Work?

The principle behind IPL therapy is selective photothermolysis. This means that it uses light (photo) to induce heat (thermo) and break down (lysis) selected targets. In the context of dermatology, the targets can be melanin (the pigment in freckles and age spots), hemoglobin (found in blood vessels), or hair follicles.

The IPL device emits light pulses, which are absorbed by these targets. The light's energy converts into heat, destroying the undesired pigment or structure without harming the surrounding skin tissue. Over time, this process promotes a more even skin tone and clearer complexion.

What Conditions Can IPL Treat?

  • Photorejuvenation: IPL stimulates collagen production, which can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, leading to a more youthful look.

  • Hyperpigmentation and Sun Damage: IPL can treat sun spots, age spots, and other forms of hyperpigmentation by targeting melanin in the skin.

  • Rosacea and Redness: By targeting hemoglobin, IPL can reduce redness and treat the visible blood vessels often associated with rosacea.

IPL can also be used for acne and hair removal where other options are not available, however I favour the Elite laser for hair removal and the AviClear laser for acne.

What to Expect During IPL Treatment

IPL treatment with the M22 system is typically quick, usually taking 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the area being treated. Prior to treatment, a cooling gel is applied to the skin to help maximize comfort. As the device is moved across the skin, you will feel a stinging sensation, often compared to the snap of a rubber band. The device's built-in cooling feature works to minimize discomfort and protect the top layer of skin.

Post-treatment, patients may experience temporary redness or swelling, which typically subsides within a few hours. It's important to avoid sun exposure and use sun protection following treatment, as the skin may be more sensitive to UV rays.

For the best results, a series of treatments is usually recommended. The exact number varies based on the specific condition and individual patient characteristics.

What to Expect After IPL Treatment

Post-treatment, it is normal to experience some redness and mild swelling, similar to a slight sunburn. These effects typically subside within a few hours to a couple of days. In the case of freckles or age spots, they will often darken and temporarily become more noticeable before they fade and flake off over the following week.

It's crucial to avoid sun exposure and wear SPF 30 or higher after treatment, as your skin will be more sensitive to UV rays. A series of treatments, typically three to six sessions, are often recommended for optimal results, spaced about a month apart.

The M22 IPL system from Lumenis offers a safe, versatile, and efficient option for patients looking to improve their skin health and appearance. While IPL therapy can provide excellent results, it's important to remember that results vary, and it may not be suitable for everyone. Always consult with a board-certified dermatologist or skin health professional to determine if IPL treatment with the M22 system is right for you.


IPL is generally a safe and effective treatment. I find it of particular value for rejuvenating the appearance of lighter skin types where there is a combination of sun damage, redness, prominent blood vessels and pigmentation.


 What skin conditions can be treated with IPL?
 How does IPL compare to laser treatments?
 Is IPL treatment painful?
 What are the risks or potential side effects of IPL treatment?
 How many IPL sessions will I need to see results?
 How long does each IPL treatment session take?
 What can I expect during an IPL treatment?
 Is there any downtime after an IPL treatment?
 Can IPL treatments be used on all skin types?
 How should I prepare for an IPL treatment?
 Can I use IPL treatments if I have a suntan?
 Are the results of IPL treatments permanent?
 What care should I take after an IPL treatment?
 Can IPL treatments be combined with other treatments?
 What is the cost of an IPL treatment?
 Can IPL treatments cause scarring or pigment changes?
 How soon can I expect to see results after an IPL treatment?
 Are there any individuals for whom IPL treatment is not recommended?
 Can IPL treat hair-bearing sites?
 Can IPL be used for other sites apart from the face?
 Can pregnant women undergo IPL treatments?
 Will IPL treatments affect tattoos?
 Can IPL treatments cause cancer or other long-term health issues?

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