Everything You Need to Know About Eliminating Sun Spots & Rosacea with IPL Photofacial


When you look in the mirror, do you see splotchy redness, brown spots, or broken capillaries? 

Do you hesitate to leave the house without makeup? 

If your answer was yes, you aren’t alone. You’re a perfectly normal human being dealing with common skin hiccups.

Don’t get us wrong—sun spots and redness are annoying. That’s why we love the IPL Photofacial. IPL can eliminate the unwelcome spots that take up residence on our skin. It can treat:

  • Discoloration
  • Diffuse redness
  • Dullness
  • Uneven skin tone

What is IPL Treatment?

Most clients who receive IPL treatment come in looking for a solution to blotchy, uneven skin. IPL is a non-ablative procedure (which means it doesn’t create physical injury to the surface of the skin) that can eliminate age spots, sun damage, and redness in the skin. It can treat the face, neck, chest, and even the backs of the hands.

What Does IPL Do?

Simply put, it treats unwanted reds and browns that dull your complexion. 

What are some examples of these unwanted reds and browns? We thought you’d never ask.

  • Sunspots
  • Melasma
  • Acne scars
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
  • Rosacea
  • Spider veins
  • Broken capillaries 
  • Liver spots

Clients who receive IPL treatment often use the words botchy, uneven, and muddy to describe their skin. Other patients come in because they have just a few spots that annoy them. People who deal with broken blood vessels in their faces complain about the spider web or the veiny appearance of their skin. In all of these cases, IPL treatment is a great option. It can eliminate these problems with basically no downtime (thanks to being non-ablative). 

Although it isn’t the primary purpose, IPL also stimulates collagen production.

How IPL Works

Asking, “what does IPL stand for?” gives us a clue to how IPL works. IPL is short for Intense Pulsed Light (you may hear people refer to it as IPL Photofacial or BroadBand Light). 

At its most basic breakdown, IPL sends out intense pulses of light that break up pigment and zap away broken blood vessels. Irregularities in the skin, like dark spots, broken capillaries, etc., absorb the light energy from the IPL device, killing off their damaged cells. Once these damaged cells die off, your body will flush them out. The result is clear, even skin that glows. 

IPL is a non-ablative laser; it doesn’t resurface the skin. That being so, most people require three sessions of IPL to achieve ideal results. However, it varies from person to person. Some clients come in to treat a few relatively new spots while others seek help after years of sun damage and build-up—the number of sessions their skin requires will differ. 

So What Does an IPL Treatment Look Like?

The good news is that an IPL Photofacial is a simple, quick treatment. After assessing your skin and discussing your goals, your nurse will set the IPL device to a specific strength and frequency that is correct for your skin type. The goal is to set the device to your skin’s sweet spot: the appropriate amount of energy to maximize your results while maintaining skin safety. 

You’ll be given protective glasses to put on. The device is then passed uniformly across your skin in a specific pattern, delivering impulses of light energy to the treatment area. If your nurse deems it necessary and safe, they may pass over certain areas a second time.

Does IPL Hurt?

Patients compare the sensation of IPL light pulses to a small snap of a warm rubber band. This sensation is slightly uncomfortable rather than painful. Areas with prominent facial hair will feel a stronger sensation because hair follicles absorb some of the light energy. 

Although our patients tolerate the treatment very well with minimal discomfort, we still like to offer an iced facial roller for anyone who may want it. 

Some patients come in very nervous and ask whether we can numb the treatment area. Unfortunately, we don’t apply topical numbing cream with IPL because it interferes with the laser’s effectiveness. 

After the Treatment

Part of IPL’s appeal is that there is no downtime. It doesn’t damage the surface of the skin, so there is no wound care or peeling, and you can wear makeup and other topical products post-treatment.

Your skin may look pink post-treatment like you have a mild sunburn, but you will be able to resume your daily activities without issue. Some patients are only pink immediately after treatment because it completely subsided within an hour. 

Following an IPL Photofacial, you can expect brown spots to look darker for a few days (we call them coffee grounds because they often resemble finely ground espresso dusted across the treatment area) before sloughing off. Larger and darker areas may take more than one treatment to completely disappear, but they will lighten with every treatment.  

When targeting red areas, the skin will initially look rosier for one to three days. In some cases, facial veins may look a little bruised or swollen before resolving. 

It generally takes three to five IPL sessions to achieve maximal results. Melasma can be a particularly stubborn condition and may require additional sessions. We like to pretreat melasma with medical-grade skincare products because we’ve seen the greatest results this way.

Are IPL Results Permanent?

The results you’ll achieve with IPL are permanent. But IPL cannot stop aging, the normal hormonal process, or sun damage, so it’s important that you take steps to prevent and mitigate further damage. We recommend yearly IPL maintenance treatments in conjunction with proper skincare and a healthy lifestyle. (Psst—our estheticians can create a personalized skincare routine tailored to your skin’s needs. #shamelessplug)

Is IPL Safe?

IPL is a safe and trusted treatment. The first IPL device was approved by the FDA back in 1995; it has a long track record and is backed by many patient testimonials and clinical studies. If you’d like to see some real-life before and after photos of IPL results we’ve been able to get our clients, visit the IPL Photofacial treatment page.

Can IPL Burn Your Skin?

Although IPL is a safe and trusted treatment, it isn’t the right option for everyone. If you’ve done your homework, you will have read some horror stories in which IPL treatment burned someone’s skin. Unfortunately, this is possible for a few reasons, the first being the melanin content in your skin. IPL light energy heats up the skin, so it is not recommended for dark skin tones with a high melanin content. IPL is best for fair to medium skin tones (Fitzpatrick skin types 1-3).

Which Fitzpatrick type are you?

The second reason is that the IPL device is in the wrong hands. Because IPL heats up the skin, an untrained or inexperienced provider can burn you. The most important thing you can do is make sure to see a licensed and trained medical professional.

Do you want to finally feel confident going out the door without makeup?

Are you wondering whether IPL is just the thing to get you there?

Then you need to sit down with one of our skilled medical staff for a free consultation. Call 916-941-9400 to book now.

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