Intense pulsed light, or IPL therapy, is a highly effective treatment for aesthetic and therapeutic concerns regarding aging and discoloration of the skin.
IPL therapy can be used for removing hair, eliminating skin pigmentation, broken blood vessels, minor scars, reducing sun damage, and alleviating skin diseases.
Over time, and constant exposure to the sun, our skin incurs ‘photoaging’ – mainly on our face, necks, backs of the hands and upper chest, and other areas of your bodies that are all regularly exposed to the sun. IPL therapy can reduce the appearance of this damage and restore youthful, evenly toned skin.
Although IPL is a non-surgical procedure, the skin becomes highly sensitive after an IPL treatment session, and as such, patients must avoid the sun for a number of days post-treatment. This is why, particularly in a place such as Jackson, Mississippi, which has such variance in day length between summer and winter months, winter is a perfect time to get IPL therapy. During the winter, we spend more of our time indoors and protected from the sun. This makes it the perfect time of year for those looking to improve their skin tone, skin pigmentation, and body hair with IPL in Jackson, MS.
Lets first take a look at what IPL therapy is and how it works. We can then understand why we need to stay out of the sun for a period of time following IPL therapy.
What is IPL Therapy?
IPL, or intense pulsed light therapy, is a non-surgical, dermatological treatment that improves skin color and texture by exposing the skin to a spectrum of different light wavelengths.
The treatment itself is similar to a rapid series of intense camera flashes aimed at a particular area of your skin. IPL penetrates through to the second layer of the skin, the dermis, without having an impact on the top layer (the epidermis).
The treatment is performed using a handheld device that is calibrated to the necessary wavelengths that will best address the different issues clients have with their skin.
How Does IPL Work?
Unwanted spots in the skin, such as sunspots, freckles, moles, areas of skin pigmentation and coloration, and even hair cells, are effectively targeted through IPL treatment.
These discolorations may form for a number of different reasons, such as growths in the cells and normal functions of the skin, but the leading cause is damage caused by ultraviolet rays from the sun. IPL uses unique wavelengths of light energy to target and destroy these cells that have become darkened and aesthetically unpleasing.
When the skin is exposed to the intense flashes of light from IPL, pigments in the dermis absorb the light energy in the form of heat. This heat, when applied in exact doses, can precisely target and destroy these pigmented cells, leaving the surrounding cells undamaged.
What Can IPL Treat?
Skin blemishes, such as freckles, sunspots, and even some wrinkles, are composed of cells that develop different coloration, or pigmentation, due to the presence of melanin. Melanin is deposited in response to the sun damaging the skin over time.
Once formed, melanin in these cells remains in the dermal layer of the skin. In most cases, melanin-filled cells are harmless, but some can potentially grow into malignant cancerous skin growths. For these reasons, it is essential to consult a trained, highly experienced medical practitioner before getting any skin treatment to address pigmented skin.
In these cases, IPL is targeted at the melanin pigment, and via the conversion of light energy into heat energy, the melanin pigment is destroyed, thus eliminating freckles, sunspots, and other forms of skin discoloration.
For many people, the occurrence of blood vessels close to the surface of the skin gives rise to ‘spider’ or ‘thread’ veins. The part of blood that gives it its’ red color, hemoglobin, is a red pigment. Like melanin, it can be targeted with specific wavelengths of light energy.
IPL therapy targets the red-pigmented hemoglobin cells and eliminates superficial blood vessels.
Many patients use IPL to remove unwanted hair from various parts of their bodies, such as under their arms, face, neck, back, chest, legs, and bikini line.
Hair growth is initiated from a cell within the skin called a hair follicle, which synthesizes hair cells from nutrients absorbed from the bloodstream. The visible hair grows outward and away from the follicle and stops growing once it reaches a certain length, then detaches from the hair follicles, and the hair follicle begins building a new hair.
This cycle of hair growth and regrowth is why we must keep waxing or shaving hair where we don’t want it – because the hair follicle is continuously producing new hair cells. By directly targeting the hair follicle, IPL therapy destroys the ‘production center’ or follicle of the hair, thus preventing any new hair from growing.
What Does IPL Therapy Involve?
Prior to your treatment, your dermatologist will thoroughly explain the procedure and what results you can expect. It is crucial that your dermatologist has correctly identified the cause of your skin discoloration to ensure the effectiveness of the therapy.
Your dermatologist will likely advise you of what to do leading up to the procedure. This mainly includes;
- Limiting sun exposure during the weeks leading up to the treatment
- Getting proper nutrition and moisturizing your skin to prepare it for optimal healing
During the procedure, your dermatologist will apply a cold gel on your skin to reduce the sensation of heat. The treatments generally last only 20 minutes, after which time you can return to work, provided you stay out of the sun.
Most patients can expect to require four-six sessions spaced three to six weeks apart to achieve optimal results.
Are There Any Side-Effects Associated With IPL?
When done by a properly trained, certified, and experienced dermatologist, such as the team at Faces PLLC in Jackson, MS, intense pulsed light therapy is a safe, effective treatment. If done incorrectly, however, the treatment can lead to worsening of skin discoloration, aggravation of existing skin disorders, and even skin bleeding.
The skin also becomes sensitive to sunlight after the treatment, which is why your dermatologist needs to be experienced and honest enough to discuss the best times to get the procedure performed.
Why Should Patients Stay Out of the Sun?
As we have discussed, the leading cause of discolored, or pigmented cells, is the enhanced production of melanin in skin cells brought on by damage inflicted by prolonged exposure to direct sunlight.
When your skin is exposed to UV radiation, it can take a number of days for the melanin to fully reveal itself and show the extent of the sun damage. For this reason, patients must stay out of the sun for the weeks leading up to the treatment to ensure the dermatologist can see the full extent of the sun damage and accurately offer an effective solution to the problem.
Following treatment, the area targeted by the IPL may be sensitive and a bit red. Patients will not feel any significant amount of discomfort, but many of our past patients liken the sensation to a mild sunburn. This feeling is due to the heat energy targeted at the skin, and the skin reacting to that stimulus. While the underlying dermal layer heals from the heat damaged inflicted by IPL therapy, it is in a sensitive and vulnerable state.
By exposing the skin to the sun during this time of healing, patients risk incurring increased levels of photodamage due to the vulnerable state of the skin cells. This may lead to a greater occurrence of cell pigmentation and melanin recruitment to the area, which is the exact opposite of what we want from IPL therapy.
Patients considering IPL therapy now know that they should stay out of the sun for a minimum of two weeks prior to commencing IPL therapy and that any useful IPL therapy course will take anywhere between four-six weeks.
This means that patients should restrict their time in the sun, and in fact should keep it to a bare minimum, for at least two months while they prepare for, receive, and recover from IPL therapy. As such, the winter season offers patients the ideal time to get IPL, due to fewer hours of sun and natural changes in our behavior and habits during colder, shorter days.
First and foremost, during winter, the sun is less powerful and prominent than during summer. In Jackson, Mississippi, for example, winter days have almost five hours of daylight less than during the summer days. Temperatures also fluctuate considerably, causing us to change how much we naturally cover our skin through clothing.
The temperature and length of the day alone are enough to indicate that people will be naturally spending less time in the sun during the winter months. What’s more, most people find themselves spending more time exercising indoors during the winter months, jogging on the treadmill instead of outside, for example.
Patients looking to maximize their results from IPL can do so by taking advantage of these natural changes in behavior as influenced by the weather. Moreover, the ferocity of the sun during the summer months makes skin more sensitive to photodamage, meaning it is harder for the skin to prepare and heal fully from IPL therapy.
Ready for IPL Therapy?
IPL therapy is an increasingly popular treatment for a variety of skin conditions and discoloration.
People of all ages are noticing the anti-aging benefits provided by an IPL treatment course, and more people are also becoming aware of the benefits that synchronizing our behavior with the seasons can have on our lives.
By capitalizing on the natural cycles of sunlight, darkness, temperatures, and our behavioral responses to these environmental factors, we can learn to make the best possible improvements to our lives by taking these factors into account.
Because the skin needs a reprieve from the sun during IPL treatment, it makes perfect sense to choose IPL during a time of reduced sun exposure.
For this reason, as you consider IPL therapy in Jackson, MS, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Faces PLLC on (601)-607-3033 or fill out our online form to arrange your one-on-one consultation to arrange your winter IPL therapy treatment, to have your skin looking vibrant and perfect for the upcoming summer.