IPL treatment for rosacea

7 Mar

Light-based treatments such as intense pulsed light (IPL) and laser are a fast and effective way of treating redness and visible blood vessels on the face caused by rosacea. A series of treatments usually results in marked improvement of redness and blood vessels on the face.

What is intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment?

Both intense pulsed light therapy and laser devices use a series of very high energy brief flashes of light which can destroy unwanted tissue.

Spot Check Clinic uses broadband light (BBL) a relatively new form of IPL which allows fast treatments with no downtime.

The difference between intense pulsed light and laser is that IPL uses a range of light frequencies where laser uses just one. Some lasers can penetrate deeper and treat more destructively than IPL. Specialised vascular lasers are sometimes required to treat resistant blood vessels in rosacea, but in the majority of cases IPL is effective and has fewer post-treatment side effects.

In practice, the term “IPL laser” is often used, because of the similarities in the treatment technology, equipment, experience and effects.

How does an IPL laser help rosacea?

IPL and lasers can specifically target skin structures of a specific colour by emitting light of selected wavelengths. For example, a wavelength of 532nm is absorbed by red structures. In the skin, this means blood and the vessels containing it.

Cross section of skin showing absorption of 532nm light by haemoglobin in blood vessels

The light absorbed by the target is converted into heat which destroys the target structure but not the surrounding tissues.

How does it impact the skin?

IPL and laser impact the skin by eliminating coloured structures in the skin. Depending on factors such as wavelength, intensity and duration of flashes of light, the effect of IPL treatment on the facial skin could be:

  • Improving rosacea appearance by reducing visible blood vessels and redness
  • Improving rosacea inflammation by reducing the number of Demodex mites on the facial skin
  • Reduction of pigmentation, clearing of freckles
  • Rejuvenation effects: clearer, brighter skin. Reduction in wrinkles and tightening of saggy skin
  •  “Laser hair removal” effect due to targeting the pigment in hair follicles

IPL treatments on other parts of the body can treat signs of sun damage and ageing skin as well as achieving other cosmetic effects:

  • Chest: freckles, pigmentation, redness and blood vessels
  • Hands: freckles and “age spots”
  • Back, legs, armpits and other areas: reduce hair growth

Are there any side-effects to pulsed light therapy?

Immediately after treatment, there is redness of the face and a mild sunburn-like sensation which lasts a few hours

A small number of people experience mild puffiness under their eyes on the day after treatment.

After repeated treatments to the beard area, there may be a reduction in hair growth.

There is a small risk of burns in the affected area.

Eye injury is possible, but rare due to the use of safety goggles during treatment.

If you have a history of cold sores, IPL treatment may trigger an outbreak.

Due to the intense flashing light, people with epilepsy or light-induced migraine should not be treated.

What does an IPL treatment feel like?

With BBL, the form of intense pulsed light treatment we use at our clinic, your treatment will normally incorporate “in motion” treatment, where the BBL handpiece glides across the treatment area. During this treatment, the handpiece gives off very brief flashes of extremely bright light, three or four times per second. This light is bright so you will need to wear goggles during your treatment.

The flash of light feels hot briefly — a fraction of a second —and the sensation settles almost instantly.

Larger blood vessels require more concentrated “corrective” treatments. The nurse or dermal therapist will hold the handpiece over the area of concern and treat it with a single (or for a long vessel more than one) strong flash of light. This treatment feels similar to traditional laser or IPL treatments. It can be painful — similar to the flick of an elastic band — but the pain settles quickly due to a powerful cooling system in our IPL device.

No pain relief is required.

After treatment, the treated area often feels warm with a mild sunburn-like sensation. The treating nurse or dermal therapist will apply a soothing balm to help settle this discomfort, which usually lasts a few hours(usually less).

IPL for rosacea before and after photos

 The following photos are provided by Sciton Inc. All photos show patients before and after treatment using BBL (broadband light), the form of IPL used at Spot Check Clinic.

Mild rosacea, before and after one treatment with BBL intense pulsed light
Severe rosacea, before and after 5 treatments with BBL intense pulsed light
Moderate rosacea, before and after 3 treatments with BBL intense pulsed light
Moderate to severe rosacea, before and after 3 treatments with BBL intense pulsed light
Moderate rosacea, before and after 3 treatments with BBL intense pulsed light

How many treatments will I need for my rosacea?

An initial course of three to five sessions will usually be sufficient to clear most of the facial redness and vessels in mild to moderate rosacea. The number of sessions varies from person to person and would normally be discussed with your doctor or the registered nurse administering the treatments.

Avoiding rosacea triggers and using suitable skin care products will help keep rosacea under control, but rosacea is a chronic condition, and redness of the face and dilated blood vessels are likely to reappear in future. Most people benefit from further maintenance IPL laser treatments every 6 months to 2 years.

Are there any alternative treatments?

Rosacea responds best to a combination of treatments and skin care.

Skin care in rosacea

Avoiding rosacea triggers and keeping the skin clean and moisturised are the most important part of ongoing rosacea treatment.

Everyone with rosacea should have a skin care routine incorporating daily cleansing, moisturising and sunscreen, often together with products containing niacinamide, vitamin C or other ingredients that settle inflammation of the skin.

Medical treatments

Medical treatments include topical creams and oral medications. These are useful for settling symptoms of inflammation, flushing and dry scaly skin. These symptoms sometimes don’t respond well to laser or IPL treatment

Low level light therapy

Low level light therapy is a gentle form of light without any major side effects. It has been shown in some cases to reduce facial inflammation caused by rosacea, as well as having skin rejuvenation effects.

This treatment has not been widely studied in the treatment of rosacea, but it might be recommended for people unable to tolerate IPL or prescription medications (such as pregnant patients).

Deciding if an IPL treatment is right for you

IPL or laser treatment is highly effective in treating visible blood vessels and redness due to increased blood flow through the face.

It has variable effect in treating rosacea papules (lumps) and skin symptoms such as sensitivity or dryness.

IPL is more expensive than prescription medications and is not covered by Medicare.

The decision to undergo IPL or laser treatment is best made in consultation with your doctor, registered nurse or dermal therapist. These treatments could be suitable for you if:

  • you are having it as part of a combination of treatments including prescription medication, avoiding triggers, and a skincare routine involving anti-rosacea moisturiser, cleanser and other skin products
  • you want rapid results without having to apply a cream or take tablets for many months
  • your rosacea mainly causes a red face and prominent blood vessels
  • you want other aesthetic results such as facial rejuvenation, treatment of pigmentation, freckles, age spots or angiomas
  • you have had an unsatisfactory response so far, using prescription medications or anti-rosacea skin care products

IPL treatment for rosacea at Spot Check Clinic

Spot Check Clinic offers rosacea assessment by a doctor with qualifications in primary care dermatology. You don’t need a referral to visit the clinic.

Because we are able to provide a range of treatments including prescription medications and BBL intense pulsed light, we can develop the rosacea treatment plan that best suits you.

More information…