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Is IPL right for me?
Skin Institute
March 30, 2017

Did you know the L in IPL isn’t laser? IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light. At Skin Institute, our expert Appearance Medicine nurses and advanced skin therapists commonly use this versatile technology to reduce signs of sun damage such as brown pigmentation and red veins, and for long-term hair reduction. Read on to find out how light based treatments can benefit your skin.

What can IPL do for me?

Our Skin Institute research in June 2016 found that 50% of our clients are concerned about pigmentation (skin discolouration or uneven skin tone).

IPL is one of our most effective treatments for skin discolouration, reducing brown pigmentation, sun spots, rosacea and unwanted hair. It can also diffuse redness, restoring the skin to a healthier, refreshed appearance.

As an added bonus, multiple treatments with IPL also stimulate collagen production – that’s the substance beneath our skin that provides strength and structure – often improving the texture of your skin.

IPL vs Laser

Sometimes IPL is referred to as IPL laser treatment. This is misleading as the light produced by IPL is a broad spectrum light and does not involve lasers. IPL machines produce a wide spectrum of wavelengths (like a lightbulb) and cannot be focused to a concentrated beam. The different wavelengths of light reach different depths within the skin. This makes IPL a versatile technology that can improve the skin in multiple ways.

IPL for skin rejuvenation

IPL can rejuvenate the skin by improving pigmentation and fine blood vessels. We perform treatment by passing our medical-grade handheld flashgun across your skin, delivering quick, powerful flashes of light. The light energy penetrates below the skin’s surface, where unwanted brown pigment (melanin) lives. The heat breaks down this pigment into tiny particles, which then either rise to the skin’s surface as a crust (which naturally falls off 7-14 days later) or gets carried away by the body’s lymphatic system. Facial veins are sealed when the red haemoglobin pigment inside is heated. New skin cells and collagen are produced during the healing process.


Photo above showcasing after 7 IPL treatments for port-wine stains, with the result – reduced appearance of port-wine stain on facial area. Skin appearing a lot clearer and cleaner.

IPL for hair reduction

You might be surprised to discover that the lighter your skin, and the darker and thicker your hair, the better IPL works for hair reduction. Why is this? IPL light energy is absorbed by the brown melanin pigment in growing cells at the base of the hair follicle. The light energy heats and ‘cooks’ these cells, stunting their growth. Darker hair absorbs more light, so is heated and damaged more easily. Red and white hair don’t have melanin to absorb light, so don’t respond to IPL. Only growing hair cells are damaged – dormant follicles aren’t affected. Therefore, several treatments are needed to treat hair follicles as they progressively enter their growth phase.

How many and how often are treatments required?

Brown pigment responds quickly, usually within 1-3 treatments. Diffuse redness and facial veins lie deeper in the skin and may need 3-6 treatments. Longer courses are needed if facial redness is caused by rosacea, a chronic condition where skin is inflamed and flushes easily. Hair reduction requires 4-8 treatments. Treatments are usually spaced 4-6 weeks apart to allow full skin recovery between sessions, or in the case of hair removal, for sufficient hair to grow.

Who is suitable for IPL?

Not everyone is suitable. Some darker skin types are not suitable as they have too much melanin to treat safely and we cannot treat you if your skin is tanned – the winter months are best for treatment. We cannot treat you if you’re taking medication that makes you sensitive to light, such as Accutane. The best way for you to find out if IPL is right for you is to book a consultation with one of our experienced Appearance Medicine nurses. They will listen to your concerns and explain the best way to achieve your goals.

Does it hurt and what do I look like afterwards?

Most people find IPL treatment tolerable, with the sensation likened to a flicking of a rubber band. Immediately after treatment the skin looks red and feels hot, brown pigment is darker and if you’ve had hair reduction, there may be swelling around each hair follicle. As IPL does not break the surface of the skin, you can immediately apply makeup to cover redness. Brown pigment will go very dark the next day, and can make your skin look ‘dirty’ as it comes to the surface, flaking off 7-14 days later to reveal fresh, new skin. Occasionally treated facial veins can release blood into the skin, resulting in a small bruise lasting 7-10 days.


To prevent side effects during or after IPL treatments, it is imperative that treated areas are kept protected from the sun by wearing a hat, staying in the shade and applying zinc-based sunscreen on exposed skin every day, throughout your course of treatment. Check out our range of sunscreens and skin care products , available in clinic and online at the Skin Store.

We also recommend you stop using skin care with active ingredients, like Vitamins A, B and C, on the treatment area for one-week after treatment.

When is the best time to start?

Winter is the best time to undertake your IPL treatments, as skin is paler and better protected from the sun.

Get summer ready today. Book an appearance medicine consultation with one of our experienced and highly trained Appearance Medicine nurses, who can assess your suitability and provide you with individualised recommendations.

Call 0800 SKIN DR or click here to request an appointment now.

Give Skin Institute a call on 0800 SKIN DR (754 637) or book online to arrange an IPL consultation.