Skin rejuvenation describes any of several different treatments used to give the skin an unblemished and youthful appearance. When a person reaches their late 20s or early 30s, their body starts to produce less collagen, which is a protein that gives skin — along with other parts of the body — its structure. That decline in collagen production gradually causes the skin to become less supple and firm, so it starts to sag and become wrinkled.

The aging process, along with exposure to the sun, can also cause the skin to develop blemishes and discolorations like age spots or redness. Skin rejuvenation treatments stimulate the production of collagen, so the skin regains its firmness. They also improve the skin’s tone and texture by reducing blemishes or making the skin smoother.

Skin rejuvenation treatments can be ablative or non-ablative. An ablative procedure is one that removes the topmost layer of the skin. Laser resurfacing is an example of an ablative procedure. While it does work, the patient will typically need both a local anesthetic and a sedative to keep them comfortable during the procedure. The recovery can take weeks, and the patient may need to use pain relievers and ice packs to ease their discomfort.

Non-ablative procedures don’t affect the skin’s surface. Instead, they affect the layers underneath by stimulating collagen production and thus producing healthier skin. IPL skin rejuvenation is a non-ablative treatment.

What Is IPL?

IPL stands for “intense pulsed light.” Like a laser, IPL is a device that emits a beam of light. While a laser emits just one wavelength of light, IPL emits several. Those wavelengths are less focused than that of a laser, and they harmlessly bypass the epidermis or topmost layer of the skin. They travel to the dermis and affect the cells there.

An IPL machine emits several different wavelengths that have different effects. Some of the wavelengths are long enough to reach the fibroblasts in the dermis. Fibroblasts are cells that can help the skin recover from injury. They also produce collagen. IPL machines can also emit green and yellow wavelengths that can be absorbed by blood cells. IPL can thus be used to reduce or eliminate broken capillaries, rosacea, or similar conditions.

In addition to stimulating collagen production, IPL can destroy hair follicles to prevent unwanted hair from growing. Similarly, it can destroy pigment cells and thus eliminate spots like freckles. Both hair follicles and pigment cells will absorb the light from the IPL and convert it into heat, which then destroys them.

IPL also provides the following benefits:

  • IPL has existed since the 1990s and thus has a good track record in safety and effectiveness
  • IPL causes few side effects
  • IPL’s effects last a long time because it stimulates healing within the body
  • IPL is versatile and can be used to treat many conditions including rosacea, spider veins, stretch marks, sun spots, enlarged pores, acne, and fine lines and wrinkles
  • IPL treatments are short enough that they can be done during lunchtime, and they have a minimal recovery period

IPL skin rejuvenation is sometimes also called “photorejuvenation.” When applied to the face, it can be called a “photofacial.”

What Happens during a Treatment Session?

Before starting, the provider would program the machine to fit the patient’s needs and apply a cool gel to protect the treatment area. They will also give the patient a pair of protective goggles to wear. Even though an IPL treatment does not cause damage to the skin, our team will make sure you are as comfortable as possible before starting the device.

During a skin rejuvenation session, the provider will place the handpiece or wand against the patient’s skin. When they pull the trigger, the handpiece emits a light burst with multiple wavelengths. That light harmlessly bypasses the epidermis and is absorbed by pigmented cells within the dermis. The light heats up those cells and damages them. That damage stimulates the body’s healing mechanisms which in turn start producing collagen, elastin, and new skin cells that eventually replace the damaged cells. In the process, the new cells smooth out wrinkles, fill in scars and reduce discoloration.

IPL causes little discomfort. Some people experience a tingling sensation during treatment, while others feel as if a small rubber band were snapping against their skin. The extent of the discomfort depends on both the area being treated and the patient’s tolerance for discomfort. Many patients find that their tolerance for the sensation caused by IPL increases with subsequent sessions.

As mentioned earlier, a treatment session is usually under an hour. Most people will need four to six sessions to get the desired results. Each session will be three to six weeks apart. That amount of time will allow new skin cells to grow, and the provider will be able to check the patient’s progress. Going several weeks between treatments will also allow the patient to fully recover.

Spots caused by brown pigment like freckles or age spots will actually appear darker for three to seven days after treatment. After that, they will start to fade. Similarly, discoloration caused by red blood cells will initially appear darker or more purple right after treatment, and it may take as long as a month to fade. Most patients will see improvements in their skin before it’s time to get their second treatment.

IPL skin rejuvenation treatments can be done on the face, neck, chest, or the backs of the hands.

How Should the Patient Prepare for IPL Skin Rejuvenation?

Since IPL works by targeting pigment, the patient must stay out of the sun to keep their skin as light as possible. The pigment in tanned skin would absorb too much of the light from the IPL device and thus lessen the treatment’s effectiveness. If the patient does have to go outside, they should wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Their sunscreen should also protect them from both UVB and UVA rays.

During their consultation, the patient should tell the provider about any drugs or supplements they are taking, prescription or otherwise. Some medications can affect the skin’s sensitivity to the IPL.

The patient should stop using any type of Vitamin A product on their face for at least two months before the procedure. That includes Retin-A, alpha-hydroxy acids, Accutane, glycolic acid, and retinoic acid. The patient should not use depilatories or bleaching creams on their face for at least a week before treatment.

On the day of treatment, the patient should not wear cosmetics, perfume, or moisturizers. If they wear contacts, they should bring the case and solution with them, for they will need to take the contacts out before undergoing treatment. They should also bring sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, for they will have to apply it before leaving.

Does the Patient Need to Do Anything after the Treatment?

The patient should basically treat their skin as if they have a mild sunburn. For example, they should avoid direct exposure to the sun during the entire series of treatments and for the next month after the last treatment session. If they need to go outside, they should use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 for at least the next month after treatment. If they don’t, they could suffer complications resulting in damage to their skin.

They should avoid hot baths and hot showers for at least the next two days. They should not scrub or rub the treatment site. Similarly, they should not scratch or pick at the treatment site; they will risk infection otherwise.

The patient should not apply powder make-up or foundation immediately after treatment, but they may use other types of make-up. On the other hand, they should moisturize their skin frequently.

The patient should avoid vigorous exercise for at least a day after treatment, and they should not drink alcohol for at least two days. The patient should continue not using Accutane, Retin-A, and any other skin care product containing Vitamin A.

How Does IPL Skin Rejuvenation Help Someone with Acne?

In addition to stimulating the body’s healing processes and production of collagen and elastin, IPL also kills the bacteria that cause acne. The extra collagen produced by the treatment can help fill in any acne scars and thus make them less visible.

How Does IPL Skin Rejuvenation Compare with Other Treatments?

IPL skin rejuvenation has the large advantage of being non-invasive. Unlike a conventional facelift, it does not involve surgery. It has a much shorter recovery time than do facelifts, laser skin resurfacing, or the more aggressive chemical peels. Unlike laser skin resurfacing or chemical peels, IPL skin rejuvenation does not involve actually removing the topmost layers of the skin. Nor does it cause the lingering swelling or redness seen after laser skin resurfacing or deep chemical peels.

Photorejuvenation also has the advantage of versatility. Microdermabrasion, another treatment that does not involve surgery, works well on wrinkles and other flaws. Unfortunately, it is less effective against redness, rosacea, or broken capillaries. IPL rejuvenation, by contrast, works on all three of those problems.

Since an IPL machine produces several different wavelengths of light, the provider can program the machine to produce the light wavelengths that will be most beneficial to the patient. By contrast, a laser device produces only a single wavelength of light. Consequently, an IPL machine can treat several different conditions at once, while a laser can treat only one problem.

For example, a patient with acne scars, reddened skin, and age spots could get a series of IPL treatments. The provider would program the IPL machine to emit the light wavelengths that would be most useful in treating their condition. By contrast, a laser treatment would be able to handle one of those blemishes at a time, so the patient would need three different lasers and many more treatments.

Who Is a Good Candidate for IPL Skin Rejuvenation?

The ideal candidate will be in good overall health and have realistic expectations. They will also have light and untanned skin that still has some elasticity. They should not have taken Accutane within the past six months.

By contrast, people with dark skin, tans, or recent sunburns are not good candidates. People who have used tanning beds or not used any sunscreen while outside need to wait at least a month before undergoing photorejuvenation.

People with skin problems like active infections, eczema, or inflammatory acne are not good candidates. People with vitiligo or other hypopigmentation disorders are not good candidates. People with a history of keloids are not good candidates. Women may not undergo IPL rejuvenation if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.

People who have a pacemaker or surgical pins or plates in the treatment site are not accepted as candidates. People taking medication for diabetes are also not good candidates. Patients who take St. John’s Wort need to stop at least three months before treatment. Similarly, patients who use any type of blood-thinner or a medication like ibuprofen that causes similar effects need to stop taking it for at least a week before treatment.

Other conditions that make a person a poor candidate for IPL skin rejuvenation include cancer, lupus, and seizure disorders. People who have had an outbreak of herpes simplex within the treatment are also not good candidates.

How Long Will the Effects Last?

The patient’s skin will continue producing collagen for another six to twelve months after the last treatment. As a result, many patients will have a touch-up treatment about once a year to keep their skin wrinkle-free. Many dermatologists recommend getting that touch-up during the winter in order to treat any sun damage caused by being outside during the summer.

The cosmetic effects will last longer if the patient takes good care of their skin and avoids a lot of exposure to the sun and other sources of ultraviolet rays. Going outside a lot without sunscreen will cause blemishes like age spots and wrinkles to return.

Nothing, however, stops the aging process, no matter how careful the patient is. That is yet another reason to get a wintertime touch-up after completing the initial treatments. If you would like to learn more about this treatment, the educated staff at Refresh Evolution would be more than happy to help. We are conveniently located in Pitt Meadows and Port Moody. Contact us today to schedule your consultation!