IPL – Frequently Asked Questions

Intense Pulsed Light
Laser Treatments

  • Hair Removal
  • Skin Rejuvenation
Frequently Asked Questions
  1. What is IPL?
  2. What is the difference between IPL and Laser?
  3. Permanent Hair Reduction: How does it work?
  4. Skin Rejuvenation: How does it work?
  5. How often will I need treatments?
  6. What happens at my appointment?
  7. Is it painful?
  8. How will I look after the treatment?
  9. Important: Before Care.
  10. Important: After Care.
  11. Adverse reactions.
  12. Can dark skins be treated?

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1.  What is IPL?
Intense Pulsed Light is a technology where light is converted into heat energy.
Treatments are like a very powerful camera flash lamp being held against your skin.
The selected light waves target chromophores (colour pigments) such as melanin in brown spots and freckles; and such as haemoglobin in broken or diffused blood vessels.  The light waves can also target specific protein molecules in acne bacteria and in collagen.  IPL treats all conditions without disruption to the skin’s surface.
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2.  What is the difference between IPL and Laser?
Lasers have been used in surgery for years.  The IPL is an adaptation of the laser, more suited to the beauty industry.  The biggest difference between laser and IPL, as far as treatment is concerned, is the coverage.   The laser beam is very narrow, only covering a small spot at a time, while IPL coverage is several times the area, and therefore treatments are much quicker.  The surface area of the Chromolite IPL applicator head is 7.5 square cm – one of the largest on the market.

Lasers produce light from one specific wavelength, or colour, for a very specific target.  The light emitted from the IPL is composed of a spectrum of colours from different wavelengths, enabling selective photo-absorption (light absorption) to different targets.  In other words, using the IPL is like using a group of lasers in a single treatment.
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3.  Permanent Hair Reduction: How does it work?
Intense Pulsed Light targets the colour pigment (melanin) in the hairs. Therefore white hairs can not be treated. Dark hairs on fair skin have the best and quickest results. Fair hairs will require extra treatments with lesser results. Caution is required when treating hairs on darker skins; this is explained below and would be discussed more fully during your consultation.
The hair growth cycle:
Hairs grow in constant cycles:  Firstly hairs are actively growing, then they become dormant (resting), and finally they loosen and shed, only to be replaced by more new, actively growing hairs.
Only hair follicles in the active growth stage are disabled by IPL treatments.
Hairs in the dormant stage of the growth cycle normally remain anchored in the follicles for weeks or months, depending on their location, but their follicles and associated hair germination cells are not disabled by IPL treatments.  These follicles will be treated in subsequent sessions.   This is why you need repeated sessions.  Hair growth becomes sparser with each session.   All treated hairs should shed within about two weeks.
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4.  Skin Rejuvenation: How does it work?
–  Skin Tone and Re-texture
-  Pigmentation
-  Vascular Lesions
-  Acne & Rosacea

Skin Rejuvenation is also known as photo-rejuvenation – the non-invasive, non surgical face lift.
The Intense Pulsed Light is absorbed by colour particles which are present in blood and in melanin.
The IPL also treats the propioni-bacterium in acne and protein present in cells which produce collagen.

Pigmentation marks slowly come to the skin’s surface and are shed naturally.
Vascular lesions dissipate into the lymphatic system for excretion, just as bruises do.
Enlarged pores, minor pitting and scarring diminish and fade.
Fine lines and wrinkles are softened and may virtually disappear.
Collagen & elastin production increases.

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5.  How often will I need treatments?

a. PERMANENT HAIR REDUCTION
A course of 5 to 10 treatments is usually required to treat hairs at all stages of the hair growth cycle, at 3 to 6 week intervals; which varies depending on hair type and colour, and the location being treated. Fair hairs will require extra treatments. White hairs can not be treated.

A maintenance session may be necessary from time to time, due to the development of new hair growth appearing, as our hormonal balance continues to change with age, or due to the influence of stress, illness, disease and drugs i.e; steroids or contraceptive pills.

b. SKIN REJUVENATION:
It is difficult to predict the number of sessions required, as it depends on the nature of the lesions to be treated and their size, plus the client’s skin type, condition and colour.  Some conditions may require maintenance treatments from time to time.  This will be discussed during your consultation.  Different types of skin rejuvenation require different numbers of treatments.

The following is a guide only:
SKIN TONE & RE-TEXTURE:
Fine lines & wrinkles, enlarged pores, minor pitting & scarring,etc
2 to 4 treatments usually recommended, at 4 to 6 week intervals.

VASCULAR LESIONS:
Facial redness, broken capillaries, spider veins, etc
2 to 6 treatments usually recommended, at 2 to 6 week intervals.

PIGMENTATION MARKS:
Freckles, sun spots, flat birthmarks, etc,
2 to 8 treatments usually recommended, at 4 to 6 week intervals.

ROSACEA AND ACNE:
Results are profound, but these hormonal conditions may return.
2 to 6 treatments usually recommended, at 1 to 3 week intervals.
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6.  What happens at my appointment?
Consultation and Test Patch:
Your first appointment will be a comprehensive consultation to answer all your questions and to check that there are no contra-indications to IPL treatments, such as medications which cause photo-sensitivity, and to ascertain the degree of recent sun or UV exposure on the area to be treated.
The colour of your skin and the condition to be treated must be assessed, then a calculation is made to determine the appropriate setting.  A patch test will be applied and we must wait to see the outcome.   Some conditions only require a few minutes wait, while others will require a separate appointment of up to 48 hours after the test patch.   It is very important to be honest about medications and your recent sun or UV exposure.  Clients with photo-sensitivity problems may develop some adverse reactions such as blistering or mild burning sensations.  Your first test patch flash will be set on a low setting in order to avoid this.  The setting may be raised if appropriate.
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All Treatments:
The treatment area is re-assessed, wiped with a mild antiseptic lotion to remove all traces of oils, etc., and ultrasound gel is then applied.  Both the operator and the client will wear glasses to protect their eyes from the bright flashes of light, then treatment may commence.  The flash light lamp at the head of the hand piece is held against the client’s skin and the intense light is pulsed at the trigger of a button.   The lamp is moved to cover the entire area, with a minimum of 2 seconds between each flash.   Once the treatment is completed the gel will be wiped off and a cooling gel will be applied, plus sun block where appropriate.
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Hair removal treatments:
If your appointment is for hair removal; in areas of course hair growth the treatment area is obvious, but sometimes it is not so obvious, so it is therefore appropriate to allow the hairs to grow just a little, so that the operator may clearly see the area needing treatment.  This area will then need to be shaved before your IPL treatment begins, because it is imperative that the light is targeted down the hair shaft to the bulb. We don’t want to treat (and heat) hairs on the skin’s surface.  Where the treatment area is obvious, you may shave the hair yourself before you arrive for your appointment.
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7.  Is it painful?
Some treatments have little or no sensation at all, but for other treatments, clients may feel a slight sting, similar to the flick of a rubber band against your skin.  It is certainly not unbearable, and we can always reduce the intensity if you feel the need.  Immediately after some treatments you may feel a mild heat for a few minutes, or a couple of hours, but after most treatments you will feel next to nothing at all.
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8.  How will I look after the treatment?
Immediate Response:
In most cases there is no visible reaction and you would be expected to be able to return to work and resume your normal activities immediately after your appointment.  However, IPL causes heat in the target tissues; therefore it is quite acceptable for the area to be slightly reddened immediately after treatment, but this  would normally dissipate within half an hour.  It is possible for the skin to appear slightly red for a couple of hours and up to 24 hours.   If a reaction is visible after 48 hours it is imperative to contact your IPL operator for further advice.   For those people concerned about wearing make-up immediately after treatment; provided there is no adverse reaction, (which is very rare), we can apply a mineral foundation to your face after your sun block.  After hair removal treatments is also common to see a slight swelling at the mouth of each hair follicle, similar to goose bumps.  This appearance should disappear within the same frame time as with reddening.

Please note: In darker skinned people, these responses may be delayed for up to 24 hours.  See notes below in Question 12.
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9.  Important Before Care.
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Sun exposure and tanning:
You can NOT be treated if you have had ultra violet (UV) exposure from the sun or sun beds within the past 4 to 6 weeks.  Therefore prior to your treatments you must cover well with clothing and hats and sun block to prevent extra activity of the melanin cells in your skin.  Melanin cells are responsible for tanning.  Your tan slowly ‘wears off’ as those cells reach the surface of your skin in the normal skin- shedding activity, known as skin renewal.
Fake tans stain the outer skin cells, and this colour will intensify the IPL heat at the surface of the skin, therefore we cannot treat with IPL for at least two weeks after a fake tan application.

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Waxing, plucking, threading:
For hair removal treatments, allow the hair to grow just a little, ( 2 mm is enough) immediately prior to your treatment day.  Please refer to the ’Hair removal treatments’sub-heading above.   It is advisable to shave between appointments, as waxing or plucking would remove the hairs that we are hoping to target in your next session.

SHAVING DOES NOT CAUSE FUTURE HAIR GROWTH TO GROW MORE RAPIDLY OR TO BECOME COARSER.  Only the actual shaved hairs will become coarser, but they will shed, and new growth will be normal.
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Bleach or depilatory creams:
These products should not be used for at least one week before IPL treatments.
AHA Creams, Glycolic or Salicylic Peels:
These products should not be used for at least one week before IPL treatments.
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10.  Important After Care:

For 24 hours after each IPL treatment:

  • No sun exposure or UV exposure of sun beds
  • Wear sun block with both UVA and UVB protection
  • No depilatory,  AHA, glycolic or salicylic creams
  • No very hot baths or showers – tepid water only
  • No heat treatments e.g. sauna
  • No swimming in chlorinated pools or spa baths
  • No deodorant – if underarms treated
  • No perfumes, highly perfumed soaps or lotions, etc.

Long term After Care:

  • Always wear a good sun block with both UVA and UVB protection
  • Avoid excessive sun or UV exposure.  Cover up and be sun-safe.
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11.  Adverse Reactions:
 

  • Redness and swelling of the skin are normal.  They are harmless effects which usually disappear within half an hour, but can occasionally be visible for two to thirty hours. Tightening of the skin can sometimes be felt for one or two days.

In extreme cases blistering may occur, which heals in a few days.  Cooling, healing gel or ice-packs should be applied frequently to alleviate discomfort.  Treat this situation as you would for sun burn.

  • Scabbing is possible after blistering.  It is extremely important NOT to pick scabs off the skin, as they are protecting the underlying skin while it heals itself.  If you pick a scab off, the healing process will stop and you could be left with little pock marks.
  • If any signs of redness and swelling are still present after 48 hours of treatment, please contact the IPL operator for further advice.  If your IPL operator cannot be contacted, a doctor, pharmacist or naturopath should be able to give you appropriate advice.  In the mean time, treat as sun burn.
  • Blanching or hyper-pigmentation will only occur if strict guidelines regarding settings for the different skin types and colours have not been adhered to; OR if the client has not disclosed all contra-indications, medications. or the full extent of their sun or UV exposure during the month prior to treatment.  Usually blanching or hyper-pigmented scars will heal and fade over weeks or months, but in extreme cases, especially on darker skins, they could be permanent.
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12.  Can Dark Skins Be Treated?
Light produced by laser and by IPL is absorbed by the colour pigment, melanin, which is present in our hair and skin.  Caution is required when treating people with dark skins, Asian skins and some other skins which tan very easily.  Hyper-pigmentation or blanching of the skin is likely to occur if there is too much melanin present in the skin.  It is possible to treat medium to medium/dark skins on a low intensity.  The consultation process and a test patch, will determine whether each individual can be treated.  Strict guidelines must be adhered to, when treating darker skinned people, using only low levels of intensity at each session, and therefore more treatments will be needed to achieve a result.  Skins such as Negroid, Melanesian and some darker Indian skins are not treatable – for both skin rejuvenation and for hair removal.  Electrolysis is an option for these people, but it too, must be administered with caution, on a low intensity, due to the possiblility of hyperpigmentation or blanching.
There is some more intersting information to read regarding hair growth, on my ‘Electrolysis’ page and my ‘Waxing’ page.