The use of light to treat skin conditions (or phototherapy) is a tried and true concept. The way that light is delivered can treat different conditions and a common application of phototherapy is called intense pulsed light treatment (IPL).
IPL therapy uses pulses of light energy to target pigment in skin. IPL treatment uses multiple, varying wavelengths of light in rapid succession, helping balance skin tone and color. IPL is often used for photorejuvenation, a cosmetic process by which light therapy helps reinvigorate, smooth, and even out the aging effects of sunlight and other conditions on your skin.
The main thing that differentiates IPL from laser therapy is the type of light used. IPL is not a laser beam. Laser technology uses stimulated radiation to amplify light into a steady beam of hyper-focused energy. As a result, laser skin therapies treat smaller areas and are more aggressive than the controlled pulses of IPL. Laser therapy and IPL treat many of the same conditions, but work in different ways. While laser therapy is very effective, it does not offer some of the unique benefits of intense pulsed light treatment.
Laser therapies are limited mainly by their focus, but IPL can treat a much broader area to produce the same results in a fraction of the time it takes a laser to do the same. For things like hair removal, acne and its, rosacea, aging skin, and a number of other conditions, IPL brings a lot more to the table.
When you consider all of the conditions that IPL can effectively treat, it’s a bit surprising that it isn’t more popular. The biggest complaint about IPL is that it sometimes requires more follow up visits than laser therapy. While this is sometimes the case for IPL, its pros far outweigh the cons of laser therapy. Laser therapy is more effective in things like hair removal because lasers use a stronger concentration of light. As a result, however, the pain associated with treatment is often reported to be more intense. Additionally, redness and skin peeling are often more pronounced after laser therapy treatment.
IPL can be combined with vacuum technology to actually treat acne, sanitizing and destroying whiteheads and cystic acne while they’re still developing. Laser therapy can treat acne, but it cannot be used in the same while your breakouts are happening. Both procedures don’t have much in the way of recovery time, but the side effects are often more pronounced and visible after receiving laser therapy. Age spots, differences in skin pigmentation and broken blood vessels can be treated by both forms of phototherapy, but IPL can target more surface area in less time.
In the end, IPL is growing in popularity. It requires less energy use and devices for IPL are more affordable than laser therapy setups. IPL is also a safer, quicker, and less painful procedure than laser therapy.
There are trade-offs with IPL, the main one being that more treatments are usually required to reach desirable results. But when you factor in the time, energy, and comfort spared by IPL, the scales might tip in its favor.
Dermatologists continue to offer both treatments, and they are more than willing to discuss what will work best for you. Reach out to a New England dermatologist you can trust, and explore the many uses for intense pulsed light treatment.