IPL, or intense pulsed light therapy, is a popular cosmetic treatment for skin rejuvenation and hair removal. It works by using a medical device that emits pulses of intense light to target and destroy unwanted cells in the skin. If you're considering IPL treatment, you might be wondering how long it takes to work, and what you can expect from the results.

What is IPL treatment?

IPL treatment is a non-invasive medical procedure that uses intense pulsed light to treat a range of skin conditions. It can be used for skin rejuvenation (sometimes called a photofacial), hair removal, and the removal of brown spots, pigmentation, and wrinkles. IPL is often used as an alternative to laser treatments, as it can be less harsh on the skin and requires less downtime.

How long does it take for IPL skin treatment to work?

The length of time it takes for IPL to work depends on the specific condition being treated and the individual patient. Typically, patients will need several sessions of IPL treatment, spaced a few weeks apart, to achieve optimal results. The number of sessions needed will depend on the severity of the condition being treated, the size of the treatment area, and the patient's skin type.

In general, patients can expect to see some improvement in their skin after the first session of IPL treatment. However, the full results may take several weeks or even months to become visible. This is because IPL works by targeting the underlying structures of the skin, such as collagen and blood vessels, and stimulating the body's natural healing processes. As a result, the skin will continue to improve over time, even after the treatment sessions have ended.

When you should expect to see results

  • Small blood vessels, angiomas, telangiectasia: Small blood vessel lesions (angiomas or spider naevi) often respond after a single treatment session. Effects can sometimes be visible within several days, although it make take weeks for the skin to absorb the pigmentation that results from treatment.
  • Removal of freckles/age spots and pigmentation: Most large dark freckles and other brown spots will appear lighter after a single treatment. Normally a course of three or more treatments over several weeks is recommended for maximum effect.
  • Rosacea: The inflammation and redness of rosacea may improve after a single treatment, but usually a course of up to 5 or 6 treatments is required. Treatments may need to be repeated in future years since rosacea is a long term condition and symptoms often return. IPL treatments for rosacea should be performed under medical supervision, since other medical treatments such as prescription cream or antibiotics may be required in combination with IPL treatment.
  • Larger blood vessels: Vessels with a wider diameter, as sometimes seen around the nostrils, can sometimes be resistant to IPL therapy, since the intense light may not penetrate deeply enough to affect the entire vessel. Resistant blood vessels often respond well to laser treatment.
  • Hair removal: IPL hair removal must be performed in multiple sessions since it's most effective when hair follicles are in an active growth phase and not all hair follicles are in this phase during any given treatment. Some people with dense hair or with darker skin types require 6 or more sessions to achieve maximum hair removal. However, sparse, dark hair on fair skin may resolve with fewer treatments.
  • Wrinkles and lax skin: Treating wrinkles relies on stimulating collagen production in the skin. This is a repair process after gentle damage to the cells caused by the heat of IPL therapy. As a result, it can take several months of repeated treatments to get a noticeable result. The effect of treatment is usually better if IPL therapy is combined with other treatments such as prescription-strength topical medication and collagen-inducing treatment such as microneedling.
  • Photofacial treatment: An improvement in facial appearance occurs over time. Obvious pigmentation and small blood vessels may improve after a few weeks. However it takes several treatments to achieve smoother and clearer skin in general. For long-lasting effects, repeated maintenance treatments (once or twice per year) are recommended.

How to speed up the healing process after IPL therapy

After undergoing IPL therapy, patients should take extra care to protect their skin from the sun, as it can cause damage and slow down the healing process. Patients should also avoid using any harsh skin care products or exfoliants for several days after the treatment. It is also important to keep the skin moisturised and hydrated to help promote healing.

What to avoid after receiving IPL therapy

In addition to avoiding the sun and harsh skin care products, patients should also avoid hot showers, saunas, and other activities that may cause excessive sweating for several days after IPL therapy. It is also recommended to avoid picking at the treated area or exposing it to any trauma.

Getting the best results from your IPL skin treatment

To get the best results from your IPL treatment, it is important to choose a qualified and experienced dermatology professional, such as a dermal therapist, nurse or doctor. People providing IPL or laser treatments should have a laser safety certificate.

An experienced practitioner can help determine the right number of sessions and settings for your skin type and condition,. The treatment area should be medically reviewed after your therapy to ensure that optimal results are achieved with maximum safety.

Patients should also take good care of their skin before and after the treatment, by avoiding the sun, staying hydrated, and using gentle skin care products.

IPL treatment is a safe and effective way to improve the appearance of the skin, remove unwanted hair and blemishes, and promote skin rejuvenation. While the results may take several weeks or even months to become visible, patients can expect to see a lot of improvement in their skin after a few sessions of IPL treatment. By following the recommended aftercare tips and choosing a qualified medical professional, patients can ensure they get the best possible results from their IPL treatments.