IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) is a relatively easy and mainly painless way to remove splotches, blotches and redness from the skin. Think of it as a way to wipe a window clean. If you have redness on your face from capillaries or rosacea, or brown spots from sun damage or aging, this may be what you are looking for. If you are looking to improve the texture of your skin, this isn't the right treatment.
Two weeks ago, I opted to undergo IPL (also called photorejuvenation) at La Papillon Spa to finally attack the sun damage that peels and potions would not fix. I've gotten some results with peels, micro needling and creams, but they haven't been able to go deep enough to get to the root of the problem. Photorejuvenation is a way to reach deeply into the skin without disrupting its surface. Because the surface of the skin isn't damaged, you'll have virtually no downtime, almost zero discomfort and, in a few weeks, clear, fresh skin will be revealed.
Sounds great, right? There are a few things you should know before taking the leap into IPL. There are different lasers of different strengths used by different people, which will yield different results. A medical director should oversee the facility that does the IPL. Less expensive lasers, that lower customer costs, may not give you the same results you would receive if the process was done by a medical professional. Think of it as the difference between a $10 haircut and a $100 haircut.
Especially in this case, cheaper isn't better. I urge you to research where you opt to get this done before making a decision. You should also skip this treatment if you have any injuries to the face or are planning a special event in the near future. Your skin will look slightly worse before it gets better, so you'll want to plan accordingly. Here is my face the day before I had my IPL appointment.
(My face under a daylight lamp, the day before IPL)
(More photos of my face the day before IPL, shot under the same day light lamp.)
I turned to La Papillon Spa in Timonium, Maryland for my photorejuvenation treatment. La Papillon works with Dr. Noelle Sherber, a Harvard- and Hopkins-educated board-certified dermatologist. After explaining what to expect from the treatment, we got busy with the laser.
We started by cleansing my face to make sure all of my makeup was removed. Dr. Sherber then examined my skin closely. We discussed what areas I wanted treated to make sure we didn't get rid of any freckles I considered beautiful. She then added a thin gel to my face to help the laser target the skin. This was not a numbing cream - I didn't use one. Next, I was asked to put on special (read: sexy) goggles to protect my eyes from the light the laser emits. Then the zapping began. I was given two squeeze balls to hold on to, just in case I needed to squeeze something.
Dr. Sherber began treating the areas on my left cheek. She was careful to make each treated circle slightly overlap to avoid the dreaded tracks effect, where spots are missed because the person doing the treatment doesn't evenly target the affected areas. The first laser zap was a little surprising, as I didn't really know what to expect. It felt like a little static electricity zap to the skin, or like a rubber band snap.
(One cheek down, one to go! Plus a forehead and chin...)
It wasn't painful, but I wouldn't do it for fun on a random Sunday afternoon. I was thankful that the laser we were using, by Palomar, gets rid of both brown and red spots in one pass. I would not have been happy if we had to go over each area treated twice.
(Getting ready for a nose zap. I didn't particularly care for those. By this time, my cheeks were starting to feel sunburned and the ice packs felt lovely.)
While I didn't find the procedure painful, I will give you a little warning about the areas around the nose; specifically where the nose meets the face. That area is a little more tender than the rest of your face. That said, I am certain that not having capillaries showing through my makeup will make me very happy in the long run.
My total treatment took less than thirty minutes, from start to finish. IPL may not give you perfect results after one treatment and you may need to return a few weeks later for another session. Of course, I'm hoping for very noticeable results with this treatment, fingers crossed!
(Moments after finishing the treatment.)
My face was red immediately after, but otherwise I was fine. It did feel like I had a bad sunburn for a few hours, but it was such a minimal thing I almost stopped at Sephora on the way home to pick up a peach blush I have had my eye on.
(Four hours after the treatment, dark spots are emerging on my face. They will all be lessened in a week or two.)
The next morning, my face was a tiny bit swollen and the sunspots were much darker than ever before, a sign they will start getting lighter very soon. I put a cool washcloth on my eyes for a few minutes and the swelling was basically gone.
(Moments after I rolled out of bed I was a little swollen. Five minutes later, I was fine.)
Madeleine, the owner of La Papillon, sent me home with a skincare regimen that was really simple. I asked if I could wear makeup on my skin to cover the darkened bits and she suggested wearing a mineral makeup.
After cleansing, I applied Josie Maran Sunscreen with 40+ SPF to help quell the dry skin that can sometimes be a side effect of IPL treatment. I then let my skin "dry" and got ready to do my makeup. I prefer to wear liquid foundation lately and haven't really touched my BE Matte Foundation in more than a year. I am fortunate that I don't usually have to do a lot of concealing, but I do own BE's Bisque. I figured I would give it a try, not expecting great results.
(A CU of how I looked 45 minutes after the above early morning photo above. Pretty good!)
Because I am hyper-concerned about protecting my skin from sunlight, especially while I'm driving, I used BritePrepFX by Cover FX (FCP 50) and then concealed all of my dark spots, which were starting to look a little like Morgan Freeman in Robin Hood. I used the Bisque by BE to conceal (SPF 20) and finished up with BE's Matte Foundation (SPF 20). I followed up with BE's Mineral Veil. When you include the SPF I applied initially, I think it's safe to say I was protected from the sun!
(This is me about 45 minutes after the above slightly swollen photo.)
I got to work where I sit in an office with two other women who knew I was having the treatment done. Not only did they forget, they didn't notice that anything looked different, other than I wasn't wearing "any makeup".
(The darker spots now look like coffee grounds and will basically dry up and fall off.)
I was prepared for the darker sections of my face (sun spots, capillaries, etc) to get darker and eventually end up on the surface of my face, appearing like coffee grounds, where they will then fall off, revealing new skin. I have to be consciously careful not to pick at my skin, which will be really hard. However, knowing that picking at the "coffee grounds" could result in scarring, I'm going to try really hard to avoid picking.
The next day, I had to go to a Karma Dogs event and used the same skincare/makeup regimen to get great looking skin, despite the appearance of the "coffee grounds".
(36 Hours after IPL, on my way to volunteer with Karma Dogs BE's Matte Foundation did an amazing job!)
So after one week, here is my progress so far.
(The left side is after. The right side is before.)
The dark areas under my eye and along my cheek bone are much lighter and a decent amount of the redness in my cheek hollow is also gone. My skin is still healing, so I am hoping some of the spots will continue to lighten. My broken capillaries are not yet completely healed, hence the slightly darker spot. You can see that the overall tone is lighter and that many of the darker patches have been broken up and lightened.
(The before is on the left. The after is on the right.)
Here is the other side of my face. You can't quite see it, but there is a freckle in the before shot (bottom of my chin) that literally fell off of my face and is no longer there. This side of my face also shows some lightening of age spots. This is my "driving side", which has more damage than the "non-driving side". Some of the spots on the after side are still darkened from the IPL treatment and are still in the healing process.
Here is a look at my skin two weeks after having IPL at La Papillon Spa.
(My non-driving side is looking dramatically improved.)
(This is my driving side. Even it is looking much better after two weeks.)
(You can even see the improvement on my nose. That little red bit on my upper lip is a blemish, btw.)
I am thrilled with the results so far. My skin looks creamy and fresh in a way that it hasn't in several years. I am told to expect my skin to continue to improve and I will happily post pictures for you in an update. In the meantime, I am curious to find out if a second treatment would give me additional results or if this is essentially as light as I can expect my melasma to get.
Have you considered this before? Was your experience similar? Tell me in the comments!
If you live in the Baltimore area and are interested in learning more anti-aging procedures or actually having a treatment like IPL, contact La Papillon for more information. They often have seminars to inform people interested in learning about anti-aging treatments and are a great resource for information. Be sure to follow them on Facebook as well for info on special events and deals!
La Papillon provided the treatment in exchange for my opinion.
Subscribe and never miss a thing! Disclosure/Disclaimer Statement.