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Would I benefit from IPL? Also... what is IPL?

Updated: Oct 13, 2022

What is IPL? And what is it used for?

IPL, or Intense Pulsed Light, is a type of light therapy used by medically qualified practitioners to target specific colors in the skin. We can use IPL technology to our advantage and target the color in areas of the skin that have sun damage, age spots, spider veins, birthmarks and freckles, hair, and acne. IPL is particularly great for brown tones. IPL treatments generally take about 20-30 minutes.

How does IPL work?

Broad spectrum light is delivered in pulses through a continuously cooled applicator that is gently placed over the skin. Filters in the handpiece change the range of wavelengths, optimizing it for different applications and skin types. The light penetrates the tissue and is absorbed by the relevant chromophores and damages them. A chromophore is the target molecule that is absorbing the light, for example, a blood chromophore is the target when treating vascular lesions and a melanin chromophore is the target when treating pigmented skin lesions. Once the light has been absorbed by the chromophore, there is a transfer of energy that then destroys the target, and then the body’s natural processes clear the debris.

What is the difference between a laser treatment and an IPL treatment?

Both laser treatments and IPL treatments are based on the principle of selective photothermolysis-- targeting the chromophores in specific tissues or in a specific area and knowing the specific wavelength of light that is absorbed by the chromophore.

The difference between a laser treatment and an IPL treatment is:

  • Medical laser treatments emit a focused, single wavelength of light to target a particular area. Laser treatments affect a very small area with, again, a single color of light.

  • IPL treatments emit multiple wavelengths of light. IPL affects a larger area in a more diffused way. As a result, IPL gives off less energy and is gentler than a laser treatment.

What are the benefits of IPL?

There are several key benefits of IPL skin treatment: it’s quick, there is no downtime, so you can be back at work or whatever else you choose to do straight away, and no-one will need to know where you have been. Another great benefit? IPL boosts collagen and elastin production, so results can be incredible, leaving you with clearer, even-toned, fabulous skin.

Who does IPL work best on?

IPL works most effectively on very light skin as darker skin tones absorb more of the light’s energy, which can lead to skin damage. However, there are now various different types of machines available that can be used on darker skin tones too. So, it’s always a good idea to have a consultation with a medically qualified practitioner who will be able to tell you whether you are a good candidate for the treatment or refer you to a facility that has the capability of treating your concerns.

How often do I need to have IPL therapy?

For best results, your practitioner may suggest having a course of treatments. This could be 3-6 sessions, but really depends on your individual skincare needs and how effective the treatment is on you.

What should I avoid before and after IPL?

In the week leading up to your IPL treatment, and the days following, you will want to avoid tanning (i.e., tanning beds, saunas, and direct sunlight) in the treatment areas. As always, you should take measures to cover your sun-exposed areas with good, high-quality SPF. We also recommend avoiding waxing, chemical peels and any products containing vitamin A (which includes glycolic acid or retinol).


But wait! There’s more.

Tell me about 2-D Facials.

A 2D facial, sometimes referred to as “2D skin rejuvenation:”, consists of two different treatments: an IPL photo facial and a Laser Genesis treatment. As we just mentioned, an IPL treatment sends pulses of light to red vessels or brown pigments in the top layers of the epidermis or dermis of the skin. The heat from the light pulses destroys the targets but also stimulates some collagen production to help with tone. In our last blog post about Laser Genesis, we discussed that this treatment penetrates into the deeper layers of the skin to help smooth fine lines and wrinkles, shrink pores, improve the appearance of rosacea and acne scars, and stimulate collagen and elastin. IPL and Laser Genesis together provide a complete treatment for all skin layers and over time, giving you a more vibrant, younger-looking appearance.

At Cardona DPC and RefineMD, we use Cutera’s LimeLight handpiece for IPL treatments and Cutera’s Xeo ND:Yag handpiece for Laser Genesis. Complimentary consultations for IPL, 2D facials, or Laser Genesis treatments can be scheduled by calling our office 904.551.4625 or visiting our website


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