Brighten Your Skin with Intense Pulsed Light


The use of light to treat various medical conditions has been around for centuries.The  Egyptians, Romans and Greeks all practised light therapy in various forms.

However, Danish physician Niels Finsen, known as the father of phototherapy, received the noble peace prize in 1903 when he developed the first artificial light to treat skin condition Lupus.

Since then many devices had been developed, including lasers, intense pulsed light (IPL), infrared devices and Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) .

The modality of  Intense Pulsed Light was first listed as a medical device in 1994, so it has been well over 20 years in clinical use and one of the most popular devices for skin rejuvenation.


Both Laser and IPL use the same principle of selective photothermolysis to treat the skin.  By selective photothermolysis we mean that light energy is selectively absorbed into certain areas of the skin and the light energy is converted to thermal energy. The selective heating of a specific target in the skin will destroy that target without affecting collateral tissue.

Light consists of a spectrum of differing wavelengths - IPL covers a broad spectrum of these wavelengths  whereas laser light consists of a single wavelength of light.  Particular wavelengths of light are absorbed by certain colours within the skin. For example, one wavelength of light is absorbed by the red colour of blood vessels whereas a different wavelength of light is absorbed by brown-coloured pigment in the skin. Given that a laser delivers only one wavelength of light, a specific laser needs to be used for treating pigmentation (eg the alexandrite laser) and a laser of a different wavelength (eg pulsed dye laser) to treat redness and blood vessels in the skin.

Intense Pulsed Light, on the other hand, delivers a broad-spectrum of wavelengths of light so we can treat red and brown colour in the skin simultaneously. Brown pigmentation, age spots and freckling  in combination with broken capillaries and loss of skin elasticity are the hallmarks of sun-damaged skin and aging skin. Intense Pulsed Light is an effective way of targeting all these features within the same treatment.

IPL is a great first line treatment to improve the colour changes in sun-damaged skin. Occasionally very deep vessels and pigmentation require a specific laser treatment  and can be addressed after the initial treatment with IPL.



Intense Pulsed Light  treats freckles, age spots, pigmentation, redness and visible capillaries all during the same treatment. This technique is referred to as photorejuvenation.

IPL cannot be used on tanned skin or darker skin types as the light will also be absorbed into the brown colour of tanned skin and will no longer be selective in treating abnormal pigmentation. It can also create a risk of striping or footprint marks on the skin and can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation in darker skin types.

IPL will not treat skin cancers or raised moles or lesions on the skin.


I use the Ellipse Flex IPL, a model only sold to medical practitioners, and I perform all photo rejuvenation treatments myself. Although many clinics and beauty salons use lower powered IPL device requiring multiple treatments , I find that most of my clients require only one to two treatments one month apart for photorejuvenation with the Ellipse Flex IPL device.

Due to the nature of sun damage to skin cells , people do continue to develop further pigmentation over time, so although IPL is very effective for treating the pigmentation and vessels ,  a further treatment may be required a few years later if new pigmentation has arisen in the skin.

After IPL treatment, not only do my patients notice an improvement in clarity of their skin, they notice that their skin texture improves and appears more radiant within a few weeks of treatment. So it not unexpected that many of my patients return once a year during the winter months to refresh that radiant look with IPL.


During IPL treatment , heat is generated in the skin. A local anaesthetic cream is applied to the surface of the skin for a half hour prior to treatment to make the treatment as comfortable as possible and reduce the sun-burnt hot feeling which typically occurs for an hour after treatment. Cool aloe vera gel applied to the skin after treatment also helps to sooth the hot feeling.

After applying eye pads and a cool clear gel on the surface of the skin , the IPL device is set up for your skin type and the skin condition which needs to be treated. It is very important that your operator has the knowledge of the parameter settings on the machine to achieve the desired results and minimize any risk during treatment.  The light is administered in pulses over the entire surface of the skin with a full face treatment typically taking  15 to 20 minutes.

The skin may appear a little flushed or red directly after treatment. Aloe vera gel and cool packs can help to remove any residual heat in the skin.


Within  a few hours after treatment some individuals develop a darkening of their freckles and pigment.  This usually occurs in first time treatments and in people with a predominance of  superficial pigment. This " dirty milo grain " look to the skin can last one to two weeks and is usually coverable with make-up.  Resolution and fading of pigment can take 2 to 3 weeks in total.

Some individuals with deeper pigmentation may not experience an darkening of their pigmention the initial phase, but rather just a gradual fading of their pigment over a few weeks.

Blood vessels tend to shrink and disappear over 2 to 3 weeks and redness in the skin reduces over this time frame.

A radiant more vibrant look to the skin is often noticed by patients within a month of treatment.


I offer a complimentary consultation to assess your skin and discuss whether you are a candidate for IPL treatment and how many treatments you would require to achieve the desired results. I've been using the Ellipse Flex  IPL at Cosmetique Solutions since 2004 and it is still  my most favourite treatment for skin clarity and rejuvenation.

Call us at Cosmetique Solutions on 5575 5644 to schedule an appointment or book yourself in with me through our online calendar.