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Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)

1.What is "Intense Pulsed Light" (IPL)?
IPL, or Intense Pulsed Light is similar to a laser, but it has some noticeable differences. First of all, a laser usually specifics one type of area whether it be skin, or blood, or water. The Intense Pulsed Light, or IPL targets many different parts of the body, and can be used effectively in different cases such as hair removal, photo facials, or even taking care of small spider veins. The IPL machine is used very commonly in a Medi-Spa, and there are a variety of reasons. One, it's safe, effective, and has many uses, and two, depending on your state, sometimes a doctor is not required to actually use the IPL machine. That's different with a laser. In many states if you're going to have laser machines, or any laser treatments, they need to be done by the physician. In many states, the IPL machine is not considered as an actual laser, so the treatments can be performed by either an aesthetician or someone else in the spa.

2.What is the difference between intense pulsed light treatments and traditional laser therapy?
Lasers have been around for a longer time than the IPL machine, and the difference is that the laser usually targets one small area of light to treat a specific part of the body, whether it's hair or veins or skin. It can be very invasive, and doctors do need to use the lasers. The IPL machine uses a broader spectrum of light, is not as invasive, and will cover a broader area of treatment options. Whereas you may need one laser for hair, one laser for skin, and one for veins, an IPL with different hand sets can treat all of those different areas. The other issue is that because the IPL is not a true laser, the regulations of who can and cannot use the IPL machine are a lot different, and state-to-state dependent.

3.What are the risk factors for IPL?
What's good about IPL, is it doesn't have the invasiveness of a typical laser, which means the concerns about bleeding and scarring are significantly less. On the other hand, for any patient that is undergoing this treatment, you need to make sure that you don't have the risk of either hyperpigmentation, which is darkening of the skin, or hypopigmentation, which is lightening of the skin. Specifically, African Americans or dark-skinned patients, you need to be very careful before you use an IPL machine. In fact, there are very few instances where you want to use an IPL machine. So the risks are almost entirely pigment changes. That's why it's important, if you're going to a medi-spa, that the doctor examines you before anybody does any treatment.

4.Who is authorized to administer IPL?
An IPL machine is not a laser. In many states and in many spas it is important, and it's regulated, that the doctor perform the laser treatments. Again, you're going to need to check your state. With an IPL machine, because it's not a laser, the regulations are really a gray area. So again, state to state it depends who can use an IPL machine. It can be either your doctor or the aesthetician or somebody in the MediSpa who uses the IPL machine. In any regards, each IPL machine should have its own registration accreditation where whosever is using that IPL machine should know how to use it. And you should ask in the MediSpa to make sure that those accreditations to use an IPL machine, that certificate is available.

5.How many procedures are available with IPL?
What's made Intense Pulse Light or the IPL machine so effective is the fact that it's one machine with a variety of different hand pieces which allow it a variety of treatment options. Depending on the machine, it can do hair removal, it can do photo-facials, or skin rejuvenation, it can do spider veins, it can also take care of acne. Again, some of that depends on the actual machine and the hand pieces. But that's why people like IPL because it has many different options.

6.What is IPL acne treatment?
One of the more exciting treatment options with the IPL or Intense Pulsed Light machine these days is its treatment within the acne regimen. Now for many years the only way acne was treated was with topical agents or with Accutane. More recently, and with the development of the Intense Pulsed Light machine, acne is now treated by IPL treatments. How does it work? Specifically the IPL targets the sebaceous gland where the oil is secreted and really just zaps that area. By getting rid of the sebaceous glands and the oil, obviously the acne is diminished. Now, it's not going to permanently get rid of all of the acne glands. It probably lasts about three or four months, but for patients that either have adult acne or don't want to take Accutane it's a nice treatment that we can offer now.

7.Can I receive IPL treatments if I am on medication?
There are a few medications where I and other doctors should have concern. Certainly if you're taking a skin bleaching or changing agent for your skin, you need to be careful before you have IPL or any treatments. The other area is whether or not you're taking Accutane, that's the drug perscribed for persistent acne. It's important that you stop taking Accutane before having IPL or any other laser treatments.

8.What pre-treatment is required before receiving IPL?
There's really no pre-treatment that goes into IPL, or Intense Pulsed Light. However, you need to be careful about going into the sun prior to the IPL treatments because the sun can obviously either lighten or darken your skin. And the IPL machine can either lighten or darken your skin. So you really need to be careful about being tanned before having an IPL treatment. You should check with your MediSpa and check with your doctor in terms of how long they'd like you out of the sun prior to the IPL treatment.
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