IPL: Intense Pulsed Light Therapy - Tattoo Removal

Why IPL?

For those of you who have not the time to recover from, nor the epidermal capacity to withstand lasers, -- IPL (High Intensity Pulsed Light) Therapy may be for you.

This promising new procedure is also known as Intense Pulsed Light Therapy, computer controlled light therapy, Light Laser, MultiLight, Photo Laser or by various trade and service marks, FotoFacial ™, PhotoFacial ™, PhotoDerm ™, EpiLight ™, MultiLight ™, PlasmaLight, and I am sure, soon-to-be others.

What Is High Intensity Pulsed Light Therapy or IPL?

This incredible new therapy was pioneered by Dr. Patrick Bitter Jr. and is based on emitting high intensity pulses of light (not lasers) to penetrate the skin and rid you of various complaints. There are different machines for different levels or types of penetration. It is also knows as IPL Photorejuvenation. How is IPL different from a laser? Intense pulsed light is a term often used interchangeably with the term “laser” when in fact the two are very different. Lasers emit a single beam of light at a very specific wavelength (like a laser pointer), whereas IPL contains light of all visible wavelengths (more like a light bulb). As a result, the IPL is able to treat a wide range of skin conditions at a superficial level, but does not have the ability to target specific structures, especially those that are deeper in the skin.

How does IPL work?

IPL produces its effects in a manner similar to the laser, in that it targets the pigmented (or colored) portions of the skin – like broken capillaries and brown “age spots” – and eliminates them via a thermal reaction. This same thermal process also stimulates collagen production in the skin, which results in smoothing out of finer wrinkles, tighter pores and leaves the skin with an overall smoother and radiant appearance. Basically, a special, computer-controlled lamp emits light pulses in different intensities which penetrate the skin at certain depths and for certain durations. When it touches the skin cells you want removed (like hair follicles, age spots, broken blood veins, stretch marks and so on), this light is turned into heat energy which is strong enough to damage or totally destroy these cells.

With leg hair removal, for example, the intense pulsed light finds the melanin (the pigment that determines your hair and skin color), locks onto it and heats it up until the follicle is permanently destroyed. The procedure is very precise - the risk of additional cell damage is practically zero.

IPL machines have a system that allows the light to penetrate the skin in pulses (that's where the name Intense Pulsed Light therapy comes from). Professionals can apply 1 to 5 light pulses at a time and also change the pulse duration and interval from patient to patient (longer pulses are used to treat larger cell structures). With IPL machines it's also possible to choose the wavelength you need for each condition (the wavelength determines the exact depth the light will reach; for example, longer wavelengths go deeper in the skin but protect the top layers of skin). IPL can be used for tattoo removal as well, as this process can break the pigments down in your skin, can also break down the pigments in the ink of a tattoo. IPL is an alternative to laser surgery, even though they are very similar. Risks & Complications of HI Pulsed Light Therapy Although rare, blistering or slight bleeding is possible as is hypo- or hyper-pigmentation (lightened or darkened areas of skin). If pigmentation problems occur, it may be anywhere from 3 to 12 months before normal skin tome returns. This is especially so with hypo-pigmentation (lack of color). Be aware that some patients may experience permanent skin pigmentation changes. Scarring is possible although it too is a rare occurrence. Not everyone is a candidate for HI Pulsed Light Therapy. Only a qualified doctor or dermatologist can determine if you are eligible for treatment.

An ideal patient would be of white European descent with elastic, non-oily skin. Although many other types of skin are treated successfully.

If you are prone to keloids, hyper or hypo pigmentation, are dark-skinned, darkly tanned or do not react well to burns you may not be an ideal candidate for High Pulsed Light Therapy. Also, if you have ethnicity (like Greek, Italian or African American, etc.) in your biological family, you may be prone to hyper or hypo pigmentation resulting from the procedure.