IPL, or intense pulsed light, is one of my favourite treatments.

Why? I have 2 big problems: lots of sun damage and lots of redness in my skin.

I was always freckly. Cute freckles when you’re young turn into age spots in your 30s and 40s (and beyond). That’s sun damage. And even if you have protected your skin faithfully for 10 years the damage will work its way to the surface of your skin and give you a mottled complexion.

The redness comes from 2 sources. Some of it is environmental damage in the form of broken capillaries. I remember when I was a 25-year old intern working in a dermatology clinic and the dermatologist pointed out (loudly!) to someone that I already had broken capillaries (except he used the term telangiectasia) in my cheeks.

The other source of the redness is rosacea, a chronic inflammatory condition of the skin that can include excessive flushing, acne-like blemishes, rhinophyma (think of W.C. Fields’ nose) and eye involvement.

IPL is the perfect treatment for me because it specifically targets pigments, the melanin in the brown sun spots and the hemoglobin in the redness of flushing and broken capillaries.

Here’s an example of how IPL eradicates sun damage:



I don’t know if you’ve noticed in the media lately how everyone seems to have a perfect pale complexion. Of course, makeup plays a role but a large part of it is IPL treatments.

Here’s an example of how IPL improves redness:



IPL works on redness from many different causes such as acne blemishes, hemangiomas (little round red spots), dilated capillaries and diffuse flushing. The principle is the same for all: the red pigment, hemoglobin, absorbs the flashes of intense light and becomes heated up. The heat will either shut down the vessel, in the case of dilated capillaries, or alter the hemoglobin molecule. The body recognizes that the hemoglobin molecule is no longer normal and cleans it up.

OK, so IPL is a great treatment but I have to tell you that people who are prone to melasma, a familial predisposition to developing brown pigmentation on the cheeks, upper lip, forehead and nose, can actually become darker with an IPL treatment. These people need to be on good skincare, usually including retinoids and skin lighteners. IPL can be done only after the tendency to darken the pigment has been suppressed with skin lighteners.