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What is IPL – Intense Pulsed Light?

Intense pulsed light, commonly abbreviated as IPL, is a technology used by beauty studios and medical practitioners to perform various skin treatments including hair removal and photo rejuvenation.
The technology utilises specific wavelengths of light to target various chromophores in the skin.

Intense pulsed light describes the use of intense pulses of non-coherent light distributed over a range of wavelengths from 500 nm to 1200 nm, for removal of hair and other purposes.

A related but distinct technique is laser hair removal; the primary difference is that laser treatment uses laser-generated coherent and monochromatic light.
Regulations governing IPL and laser hair removal vary by jurisdiction.
The two techniques are often confused. There are many names used for intense pulsed light treatments. IPL and equivalent treatments are referred to as I2PL, UPL, VPL, SPL, SPFT, SPTF, SIPL, PTF, CPL, AFT, E-Light, ELOS, M-Light, and other names. The name “Intense Pulse Light” is not known to be a registered trademark.

A distinction is sometimes made between beauty-grade and medical-grade machines. This distinction is mainly to get around regulations. Under the CE system no such distinction exists, it is all seen as medical devices.

IPL systems work on the same principles as lasers in that light energy is absorbed into particular target cells with colour (chromophores) in the skin.
The light energy is converted to heat energy, which causes damage to the specific target area. IPL systems are different to lasers in that they deliver many wavelengths (or colours) in each pulse of light instead of just one wavelength. Most IPL systems use filters to refine the energy output for the treatment of certain areas. This enhances penetration without using excessive energy levels and enables targeting of specific chromophores (these are skin components that absorb light).

IPL therapy is considered a non-ablative resurfacing technique, which means that it targets the lower layers of skin (dermis) without affecting the top layers of skin (epidermis). The results are not as dramatic as ablative resurfacing where both the dermis and epidermis are injured to produce a much more noticeable overall outcome. The advantage of IPL therapy is its minimal downtime – a patient can often have the procedure done in their lunch break and return to work immediately afterwards.

Things To Be Aware of With IPL

IPL can also be used to remove hair.

IPL CANNOT get rid of tattoos and should be kept away from any tattoos you have and want to keep.

You can still get get burned with IPL if the operator is not knowledgeable and careful during the treatment.

Things to look for in an IPL Treatment

The operator has an intake form and discusses your concerns before any treatment.

The operator has some kind of license and specific IPL training by an outside accredited source, beyond just the company that sold them the machine. Preferably the person is an esthetician. As with lasers, it’s an unregulated field and most states don’t require a license. Absten says that making sure a doctor or nurse or an esthetician is not necessarily a guarantee, because it comes down to the integrity of the person.”

“It’s not that hard to learn,” he says. “But whether the person is a doctor, a phD., or a tech, they have to take the time to learn, they have to care what they’re doing, and they have to have the ethics to know when not to treat something. Those are the safest people in the world because they stick to their limits.”

If the operator is an esthetician, I would get a regular facial first before trusting them to give me an IPL treatment. The training and the ethics of the person giving you the treatment is the most important thing to look for. You can burned with an IPL if the operator doesn’t know what they’re doing.

The operator uses googles to protect your eyes, though this is not as critical as it is with lasers.

Questions To Ask Before You Get a IPL Treatment

“Why am I a good candidate for IPL, and how does it work?” This gives you an idea of how knowledgeable they are.

“What licenses do you have, and what’s your training on IPL?” This tells you whether they’re a skin care specialist or someone who was hired off the street, and what kind of special training they have.

“How long have you been doing this?” This gives you an idea of their experience level — but people have been known to lie. You can say you only want someone who has been doing it for at least two years.

“Do you have insurance?” This applies both to the spa that is giving the service and the individual.

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