Intense Pulsed Light

(Photofacial, Broad Band Light, (BBL))

  • “IPL” is a word that is viewed commonly in media and advertising these days in association with beauty treatments such as hair removal and skin rejuvenation.  The benefits of a good IPL treatment include:  removal of sunspots, spider veins, hair, and facial redness.  It can restore radiance to the skin, and bring about very beautiful refined skin texture.  It is excellent for people with Rosacea as it reduces the redness, veins, flushing, sensitivity, and blemishes.
  • Terms for this therapy are multiple and include:  “IPL”, “Intense Pulsed Light Therapy”, “Photo-rejuvenation”, “BBL”, “Photofacial”, “Non-ablative Rejuvenation”.   
  • There are two very relevant considerations for the consumer:
    •    The worth of the instrument
    •    The skills of the operator
  • Not all IPL’s are “equal”.  There are progenitor devices that were engineered as medical devices, studied in clinical trials with the data submitted to both Health Canada and FDA.  This device must prove the claims of “removal of brown spots, hair, redness and veins.  If the regulatory bodies see the proof in the data, then clearance is obtained for those particular claims for that particular device.  There must also be proof of safety.  In other words, the progenitor manufacturer put out mega dollars to develop, refine, study and complete the application for “Clearance” through the regulatory bodies.  Once that instrument is approved, then the claims may be made for that device.  The manufacturer/distributors/operators may advertise the proven benefits in “removal of brown spots, hair, redness & veins.”  The may claim that the device is safe.  (Minor side effects would be disclosed).        
  • Then there are other devices that meet the criteria of “IPL”, but their lamps are weak, not meeting the criteria for medical device.   Accordingly they don’t have to pass through regulatory bodies.  There is no research, so there is no proof that they meet the claims that they make.  They are generally safe because they are of lower power. They are purchased at low cost, and marketed with the same claims as the progenitors.  Usually the treatments to the public are sold in packages in one “up front” payment.  Even the high power devices may occasional yield a “no response”, but the odds go up as the device is shorter on power.  
  • IPL therapy has generally proven itself in terms of long term safety, but side effects do occur with the more powerful units.  This is where operator skills come in.  An excellent skilled operator is very important when using a high power device to reduce the incidence of scabbing or blistering.   Nirvana technicians have years of experience and thousands of patient treatments to draw on.  We follow up with our patients and hear directly next day how they experience their treatments.   Practice does not make perfect, but it helps.   
  • The experience of a potent IPL device like the Vasculight is described as “hot for about a half second, then completely gone”. It is quite tolerable for about half of the patients who elect no topical anesthetic (numbing cream).  The other half find it very comfortable when numb with topical anesthetic. The sensitive red faced crowd are typically the ones who need the anesthetic.         
  • It should also be pointed out that heat and not “cold” is the first in a cascade of steps that leads to proliferation and building in the skin, ending in visible attractive changes.  Selective controlled heating is the key.       
  • One of the greatest advantages of the IPL is the “no downtime” aspect.  It is true that even a high power device, such as Vasculight, gets the job done without any side effects in the majority of cases.  
  • It is also true that the patient with plenty of coloured target such as brown spots and redness/veins, there may be some swelling of the skin and some darkening or crustiness to the brown spots, even though the entire skin remains intact.  In a day or two the crusty brown sunspots will peel off.  The swelling will resolve fully within 1 - 4 days.  Soon after, it will be noticed that the facial redness subsides steadily over the next month.  Veins will fade.  Sensitive Rosacea skin will soothe.  The results are long lasting.  
  • There is no “after pain” in situations of swelling or crustiness, but the self-conscious person might feel embarrassed about going to work with swelling or brown spots.  This person should do the IPL on a Friday night before the weekend.  There will be no missed work this way.  
  • The others won’t mind going to work the day after even if it were obvious that there was a treatment.  You will feel 100% but look 90%.  Others might be interested in your treatment and then you will all get back to work.  For them there is “no downtime”.  
  • For the majority of people who have zero side effects, there will be no missed work, only gradual firming, brightening, clarity and smoothening. They won’t miss a beat in their lifestyle after their rejuvenation session.  In beauty circles, this is referred to as “Non Ablative Rejuvenation”.          
  • A typical treatment takes approximately 30 – 40 minutes for the 300 pulse package.  The first session might take longer due to the MD consultation and testing.  If topical anesthetic is applied, there may be an extra 30 minutes to wait.  Bring a book.
  • IPL is usually done as a short series separated by one month intervals.  (3 – 5 treatments).  However, those with brown spots may be quite happy to see their spots peel off after their first treatment.  They might stop at one treatment.  Rosacea people might want to complete 2 – 4 to diminish the redness, flushing, veins, and sensitivity.  And, the “Refresh the Skin” crowd might do 3 – 5 sessions to achieve their goal of glowing, refined, even-colored skin.  You make the call on satisfaction.
  • There is a plethora of scientific studies that substantiate long lasting rejuvenation benefits which accumulate over a series of such non ablative IPL treatments.   
  • Red Face is a prevalent problem.  In some cases the red face is a symptom of Rosacea, associated with red/purple facial veins, excessive and intense flushing episodes, skin sensitivity, skin burning and itching, blemishes, and hot swollen spots.  There is still plenty that scientists don’t understand about Rosacea, and there is also considerable misunderstanding among the general population as they hold the “Alcoholic – Rosacea” myth.  Indeed, many people with red face avoid alcohol because their face will flush intensely in the drinking social.  They avoid embarrassment, they avoid alcohol.  They also realize that a one night indulgence in a wine or other spirit will cost a week of worsening of the Rosacea symptoms.  Is it worth it?  However, it is also true that a person with Rosacea, who does drink regularly and indulgently, will be more likely to suffer a severe case.  Alcohol exacerbates Rosacea.  
  • There is no “cure” for Rosacea patients.  Topical or oral meds usually control, at best, they will remit.  Lights and lasers can’t claim a cure either, although long lasting remission without medications is a realistic outcome after IPL therapy coagulates the vascular lattice in the skin.  And the results are even better when combined with Photodynamic Therapy.