Frequently Asked Questions
How Does IPL Work?
Specific frequencies of light are targeted towards the pigmentation and turn to heat on contact with the skin. This heat destroys the unwanted pigment and temporarily suppresses the melanin-producing cells which are responsible for the production of the pigmentation. Fresh, younger looking skin will be revealed once any old pigmentation has fallen away.
What Happens During My Consultation and Patch Test?
Your initial consultation, with one of our experienced practitioners, is structured so that a detailed assessment of your current health and past medical history can be obtained. This appointment is the ideal opportunity to discuss the treatment process in full: how IPL will work for your specific pigmentation, what you can expect from having the treatment, any associated risks and whether it is suitable for you. If you then decide that this treatment is something you would like to have in order to target pigmentation, we will need you to sign a consent form and have a patch test, so that the correct treatment parameters can be established for your particular skin type: we need to ensure that your skin does not react negatively. Your patch test can be carried out during this consultation. But alternatively, you may wish to go away and think further about whether or not this treatment is something you wish to pursue.
What Happens During a Treatment?
Any makeup will be removed and a water-based gel applied to any areas to be treated. Safety glasses will be provided and the IPL machine settings adjusted accordingly. The IPL handpiece will then touch the gel and administer a flash of light. Your practitioner will repeatedly check the treatment area, and your comfort levels, throughout the treatment. In order to get the best results possible it may be necessary to safely increase or decrease the original treatment settings, and this will be determined by your skin's response and your comfort. At the end of a treatment the skin will be cooled, and post-treatment balm or SPF applied if necessary. Aftercare advice will be discussed with you and any subsequent treatments can be booked before you leave the clinic. In the days following treatment you can contact the clinic at any time should you have any questions or concerns.
What Should I Do Before Treatment?
- The area to be treated needs to be free from all makeup, perfume, fake tan and face creams
- Avoid waxing, hair removal creams and bleaching for at least 72 hours before each treatment
- Stop using retinoids and any AHA/BHA serums for 7 days before treatment
- Minimise your exposure to the sun and stop using tanning beds for at least 4 weeks before treatment
What Should / Shouldn’t I Do After My Treatment?
After a patch test or full treatment with IPL it is important to follow the aftercare advice of your practitioner. This will also be sent to you by email for reference away from the clinic.
But important things to note are that:
- if the treated area feels hot following treatment it can be cooled with a flannel or cool pack
- if sensitivity is present, avoid strenuous activities, saunas or steam rooms, hot baths and massages
- makeup can be applied several hours following treatment
- you should wear SPF30+ and protect from sunlight as much as possible, between treatments and for one month following each treatment. Failure to do this can lead to sunburn and hyperpigmentation in the treated areas
What Should I Expect to See Following Each Treatment?
Immediately following treatment, any targeted pigmentation may initially appear darker. It is also common for some localised redness to occur, similar to mild sunburn. This will usually settle within 2 - 24 hours. Any heat can be calmed with a cool cloth. The treated pigmentation will scab slightly over the next few days, and any excess pigmentation will flake away after 1-3 weeks. Large treatment areas (cheeks for example) can appear ‘puffy’ for a few days following treatment due to localised swelling. Bruising, although very rare, can also occasionally occur.
Do I Need to Come Back for Follow up Appointment?
It is not fully possible to state exactly how many treatments you will need for the successful removal of any pigmentation. The number is conditioned by the severity and colour of the pigmentation and your skin's response to the settings used during the treatment. As a general rule, some results will be noticeable following just one treatment, though some people may need up to 6 treatments for maximum results. The first three sessions are typically 3 - 4 weeks apart and any subsequent treatments should be spaced at intervals of 4 - 6 weeks. Your practitioner will give you advice on this. Maintenance sessions may be required every 3 - 6 months dependent on lifestyle factors and on the basic nature of your body’s physiology.
How Long Does IPL Take to Work When Treating Pigmentation?
Pigmented lesions on the face, neck, hands, décolletage and other parts of the body frequently respond well to IPL. Reduction in the size or severity of pigmented lesions can often be seen after 1-3 weeks. Denser areas of pigmentation may take more than one treatment to achieve maximum reduction or complete removal.
Who Is Not Suitable for IPL Treatments for Pigmentation & Melasma?
Patients with a skin type of 1 - 5 on the Fitzpatrick Scale (the scale which defines how much your skin reacts to the sun) are generally treatable with IPL. However, there may be reasons why IPL is not currently suitable for you. These include, but are not limited to:
- Unprotected sun exposure or sun bed use 4 weeks prior to treatment
- A planned sun holiday or increase in sun exposure in the 4 weeks following potential treatment
- Recent sunburn
- If you are pregnant or are a nursing mother
- If there are active or healing cold sores in the treatment area
- If you have severe dermatitis or eczema within the treatment area
- If you have other active skin infections
- A dark skin tone (Fitzpatrick skin type VI)
- If you have used Roaccutane use in the last 6 months
Photosensitising medications are also best avoided before treatment.
If you are unsure, contact the clinic or book an appointment for a consultation to discuss things further.
How Long Do the Results From IPL for Pigmentation Last?
The duration of the results depends on the initial severity of the pigmentation being treated and on the lifestyle of each patient - a speedy return of pigmentation will occur if you undertake IPL pigmentation treatments but do not change relevant aspects of your lifestyle.
Is IPL Safe?
IPL is considered safe. Any harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation generated by the IPL is filtered out by blocking wavelengths below 500nm.However you should always ensure that a suitably trained and experienced practitioner is carrying out your treatment.
Is IPL Painful?
During treatment, a mild-moderate sensation of heat and skin tingling is usually experienced. This sensation of heat usually settles immediately after each flash. Any residual heat which may return later in the day may be calmed with a cold cloth.
How Can I Prevent Getting More Pigmentation in the Future?
- Wear sunscreen SPF30+ every day. Even on wet, cloudy days the sun's UVA rays can penetrate the skin and accelerate the ageing process
- Do not use tanning beds. Frequent use of tanning beds has been shown to deliver up to 12 times the level of UV radiation from normal sun exposure
- Avoid prolonged sun exposure anyway, especially at peak times of day
- Wear hats, loose clothing and cover the skin whenever possible
What Are My Other Options to Get Rid of Unwanted Pigmentation?
Other options at Serenity, for both pigmentation removal and repairing sun damage, include AlumierMD chemical peels (link), AlumierMD medical grade home skincare (link) and SkinPen Precision microneedling (link). Your practitioner will discuss your best options with you at your consultation.