Everything You Need To Know About Photofacials (IPL)

February 16, 2021

By Matthew Pruitt

Our skin care experts at Skin Bar NYC have performed thousands of Intense Pulse Light (IPL) treatments on our New York City members and clients. IPL also referred to as a Photofacial, uses Broad Band Light (BBL) to safely remove sun damage, improve uneven skin tone and redness all in one treatment.

The BroadBand Light of IPL works differently than other lasers. While most work on one wavelength of light, IPL releases many light wavelengths that target conditions like freckles and hyperpigmentation, hair follicles, and even the blood vessels called capillaries. Your personal goals will determine the wavelength for treatment.

What skin conditions can IPL improve?

IPL effectively treats a long list of skin conditions including, sun damage, rosacea, broken capillaries, laser hair removal, fine lines, skin laxity, and texture. I can tell you after years of experience that IPL works best on three specific skin conditions. They include sun damage, rosacea, and broken capillaries.

Intense Pulse Light is a safe treatment for any area of the face, neck, and body with too much exposure to the sun. Whether sun exposure has lead to blotchy skin, freckles, or brown spots, IPL is like an eraser for your skin. The results are incredible to see. The light released from IPL converts into heat targeted at darker sites, causing the pigment to break apart in the lower layers. The result is a smooth, even skin tone and a more youthful complexion.

Is Photofacial safe for everyone?

No. IPL is not safe for dark skin members and clients. That’s because IPL targets darker pigment. If you have tanned or dark skin, the wavelength can’t tell what skin is healthy and what is damaged. This indiscriminate absorption of light can lead to a burn.

So, what’s dark skin? In a diverse city like New York, that is an important question. Scientifically, anyone darker than a Fitzpatrick 4 is not a safe candidate for IPL Photofacial. If you don’t know what a Fitzpatrick 4 is, don’t worry; I’ll explain.

Almost any white person can have IPL as long as they are not tanned. Most light and moderate skin-toned Latin New Yorkers, whether Mexican, Puerto Rican, Dominican, or otherwise, are also candidates for IPL. But, darker-skinned Latinos and African Americans are usually not safe candidates for this treatment.

The best way to find out if you are a candidate for IPL is to schedule a Skin Strategy Session where a licensed skin care expert can determine what is right for your skin type and personal goals.

What should I expect before, during, and after IPL?

Before IPL, you should not have been on any antibiotics for two weeks. No sun exposure for two weeks. And do not use Vitamin C, acids, or retinal products for a whole week before your treatment.

A typical IPL treatment at Skin Bar NYC takes about 45 minutes. First, we do a gentle cleanse, then a light layer of cooling gel is applied to the treatment area. This gel acts as a barrier between the epidermis and the laser head that releases intense light pulses. It helps make the treatment more comfortable for our clients.

Most people want to know how IPL treatment feels. Basically, they want to know if it hurts. IPL is not an uncomfortable treatment, but the pulse can feel like a zap at higher settings. Similar to a rubber band snapping your skin. At my skin clinic, our IPL machine has a cooling device built into the unit. This cooling device, combined with the gel, significantly reduces any discomfort. I have had several Photofacials, and I would say the IPL rates a three out of ten on the pain continuum. And I’m a baby when it comes to pain.

There is no downtime with IPL. Most of our members who live and work in Midtown go right back to work from our clinic. You may experience a little redness immediately after treatment. Redness can last a couple of hours. You can apply makeup after the treatment, but we don’t recommend it.

As each day passes after your IPL, you will notice clearer, brighter skin. It can take a week for the heat to break up the pigment and remove it. Broken capillaries respond to IPL very quickly. You should see fewer blood vessels in a matter of days.

One exception to the rule is for clients with freckles and superficial sun damage. These clients see the most dramatic results. In these cases, sun damage might turn darker and then flake off over several days. In this case, there might be a day or two of social downtime. Your skin care expert can tell you what to expect at your skin strategy session.

How do I maintain my results?

It is essential to stay out of the sun for at least two weeks after your IPL treatment. If you decide to invest the time and money into IPL to correct sun damage, redness, or broken capillaries, you have to reconsider your relationship with the sun. Just like the muscles in our body have a memory, so does our skin.

My team and technology can remove all the damage caused by the sun over the years and decades, but if you don’t protect your skin from the sun, all that damage will return over time.

Many of my members love the sun and won’t give it up, so we perform IPL in the safer winter months to remove any new sun damage that might have accumulated over the summer. Then in the summer, we focus on exfoliation and hydration to protect against further sun damage. That’s how consistent skin care works at Skin Bar NYC.

Matthew Pruitt

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