For the few that don’t suffer from skin discoloration of any type, lucky you! For the rest of us that struggle with dark spots? You already know it’s a constant uphill battle of trying to lighten them or cover them up until they’re camouflaged.
Like most skin concerns, the sun is the #1 bad guy when it comes to dark spots. But hormones, acne, inflammation and damage are other culprits.
So, we know what causes dark spots. Now how do you get rid of them? The answer for most of us is good home care and regular IPL laser treatments. Want to know more? Here are some of the questions my patients ask me the most when it comes to banishing dark spots once and for all.
What is an IPL treatment?
IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light. It’s a procedure which targets brown and red pigments that deviate from your skin’s normal tone, revealing brighter, more evenly toned skin in 7-14 days. Used for the treatment of sunspots and rosacea, IPL is also commonly referred to as a photorejuvenation treatment or ‘photofacial’. Don’t let the word ‘facial’ fool you though – IPL can be used to treat other areas of the body, like the neck, chest, or hands. You can also hone in on hyper-targeted problem areas – like those pesky little red capillaries around the nose.
What can I expect during my IPL?
The procedure itself takes about 20 minutes. A handpiece with a cooling tip is placed on the skin and delivers a series of light waves to the underlying tissues. It feels like little ‘zaps’ – my patients describe it as more ‘annoying’ than painful. Immediately following the treatment, you may see a little pinkness, and your skin may feel slightly warm (like a mild sunburn), but NO downtime is actually required.
Within the first few hours, any sunspots or freckling will become darker. Fast forward a week and the spots will either fade out or slough off completely, revealing skin that is more even in tone. For best results, a series of treatments is recommended, with each treatment spaced apart 3-4 weeks.
Remember – your browns will darken before they shed out completely, so IPLs should not be scheduled in the week before any important events like weddings or graduations. Instead, schedule your IPL two weeks before so that your new glowing skin can shine for your pictures!
What should I do before and after my treatments?
In short? Stay out of the sun – both before and after your treatment. The biggest danger to your skin health is prolonged, unprotected sun exposure. You should plan to mostly stay out of the sun (i.e. no jetsetting to an all-inclusive beach resort) for two weeks before your treatment, and for one week after.
How long will my results last?
This is always a tricky question. It’s kind of like asking how long your beach body will last after a diet. The answer in both cases depends on how well you maintain it.
If you wear a good zinc-based sunscreen, and use good skin care products, your results can last for well over a year. However, if you are out in the sun a lot and accumulate new damage, you may want to get another IPL treatment sooner. For example, I like to rock climb, and no matter how good I try to be about sunscreen, when you are climbing for 8 hours at 13,000 feet, you are going to develop some sunspots! Because of this, I get an IPL every fall to clear out the damage that accumulated over the summer.
The other thing that can extend the life of your IPL is good medical grade skin care. This can get complicated, but the basic rule is everyone who has sun damage (and who doesn’t at our ages?) needs to be on daily Retinol and Vitamin C. Not sure what’s right for your skin? Come in to Restor for a consult or take our free Skin Analysis to find out!
Is an IPL Laser treatment the right choice for me?
As with most things medical, the answer is “it depends”. In the case of IPL treatments, the answer depends on what kind of browns and reds you have, and what type of skin you have. You can read more about types of browns here – but a basic rule is that IPLs are amazing for spots caused by sun or acne, but less effective for melasma.
In terms of skin types – IPL works best when there is the most contrast between your background skin tone and your brown spots. If your browns are close in color to your skin tone, it can be difficult for the laser to “see” the difference and effectively remove your browns. Not sure if you are a candidate? Come in to Restor for a complimentary consult to fund out!
See Before and After pictures of IPL Laser treatments