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IPL Intense Pulsed Light Therapy

Skincare and IPL CapeMAC Dr Manoj Bagwandeen

IPL - Intense Pulsed Light

* Please note that individual results may vary. Results are not guaranteed.

IPL technology is being used by medical practitioners to safely and effectively perform various skin and body treatments for both therapeutic and aesthetic purposes. The non-specific nature of an Intense Pulsed Light is what makes the treatment such an effective, safe, reliable and practically painless method of treatment. Besides removing vascular lesions, IPL can be used to reduce vast signs of ageing and regenerate the skin, stimulate the production of collagen in the skin and improve the skin’s elasticity.
Besides all this, IPL is a very popular for hair removal or for reducing hair growth. Intense Pulsed Light machines were one of the first to be FDA approved in 1995. Since then, they have grown rapidly in popularity and are now found in salons and clinics worldwide.

What conditions can IPL help with?


Intense Pulsed Light has an important place in treatment of the skin as it can diminish or remove a wide range of dermatological conditions including:
•    Unwanted dark facial and body hair (hair removal)
•    Vascular Lesions (small blood vessels/broken capillaries)
•    Pigment lesions (age spots/sun spots, freckles, liver spots and birth marks)
•    Uneven skin colouring
•    Skin Redness
•    Uneven skin tone
•    Acne Vulgaris
•    Large pore size
•    Photo Ageing/Sun damage
•    Fine lines
•    Rosacea
•    Dyschromia
•    Melasma
•    Bowens Disease (squamous cell)
•    Actinic Keratosis
•    Basel Cell Carcinoma
•    Sebaceous gland hyperplasia

* Please note individual results may vary. Results are not guaranteed.

How does IPL work?

Intense Pulsed Light is based on the principle of “selective photothermolysis”, photothermolysis being Greek for “destruction from heat caused by light”. The IPL machine produces high intensity light during a very short period of time, releasing rapid high energy pulses, or flashes of light, onto the surface of the skin that is being treated. In the skin, very specific structures are targeted, such as pigment, redness, dark hair, etc., which will absorb the Intense Pulsed Light in the form of heat and get destroyed without damaging the surrounding tissue. The body recognises these absorbed pigmented structures as waste and expels them.

IPL - Questions frequently asked by Patients

What are the Benefits of a treatment with IPL?

•    IPL effectively removes unwanted pigmented “particles” in the skin (vascular lesions, pigment lesions, dark hair)
•    IPL can penetrate deep into the skin
•    IPL is gentle on the skin, less painful, with less discomfort
•    IPL has a smaller risk of damaging surrounding tissues than laser treatments
•    IPL has a high treatment speed: it can cover large areas of skin quickly
•    IPL  has a reduced risk of hyper pigmentation
•    IPL requires virtually no downtime
•    IPL has fewer side effects than?
•    IPL is reliable and safe to use
•    IPL offers fantastic results *

What is the difference between Laser and IPL?

The main differences between Laser and IPL for medical aesthetics treatments lie in the technology used to generate the light and the different properties of the light being used.

Laser produces a single colour wavelength. This allows it to target exactly one specific structure in the skin and hence one condition at a time. It is very effective for that particular condition but it is limited in its range of applications. IPL produces many different coloured white light wavelengths: As opposed to other lasers, IPL technology is based on a broad spectrum light source, which is very unique. With IPL, various treatment-specific filters are commonly used to filter out unwanted light. This  narrows the light spectrum to the desired frequency and ensures  controlled and confined energy delivery into the tissue. Thus, making IPL work in as precise a way as lasers.


As a result, one attractive feature of IPL devices is their ability to treat various targets with the same device by applying different filters. Apart from the wavelength, other treatment parameters such as the duration, the sequence and the delay time of the pulses can be customised on most devices, allowing for greater versatility and precision.

Fundamentally IPL and Laser have a similar mechanism of action (photo-thermal).  The burst of light to the hair causes damage to the follicle in the same way as a laser. However, two significant benefits of IPL are: more speed and less  discomfort.

  1. (1) IPL treatments are faster: IPL machines have larger hand-pieces, which means IPL technology can cover large areas of skin, quickly and perform procedures up to ten times faster than lasers
  2. IPL treatments are less painful: IPL machines come with active cooling  hand-pieces, making the sensation of IPL far less intense. IPL is gentler  on the skin, has fewer side effects and is the safer option.

Am I a suitable candidate?

Not everyone is a suitable candidate for IPL as not all skin and hair colours are suited for IPL. Fair hair, for instance, may not respond to the light as well as darker hair and  darker skin is prone to absorbing more light than lighter skin types due to the high concentration of pigment. So patients with fair hair, tanned skin or olive or darker skin tones are often not suitable candidates.
In addition, individual medical conditions can affect the reaction of a patient’s skin to IPL. It is safest to avoid IPL, if the patient has any history of reactions or sensitivity to light based treatments. Patients, who are prone to developing hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation, or red raised keloid scars or other forms of excess scarring, should also consider alternative treatment options. The same applies if the patient has diabetes, as this disease may affect the body’s wound-healing ability. IPL should further be avoided if the patient suffers from epilepsy, during pregnancy, breast feeding or menstruating, after recent tanning or extensive exposure to sun, or the recent use of Retin-A or other sensitising products. Remember to mention any medication you are using to your practitioner.
Always make sure you discuss your candidacy with a qualified and well-trained Practitioner. They will examine your skin and any scars you might have and determine which treatment option and which setting and mode is safest and most effective for your skin type/condition. For your safety, they will also perform a  patch test a few days prior to the first IPL session to see  how your skin reacts.
Should IPL turn out  not to be the safest or most effective option for you, do not worry, there are usually good alternative options to IPL therapy.

Which areas can be treated with IPL?

IPL treatment can be administered on almost any part of the body. It is, however, best to avoid the extremely sensitive parts of your skin, such as areas directly around the eyes, lips, nose and ears.

Is IPL treatment painful?

Each person has different sensitivity levels. Some of our patients find our treatment virtually pain free; some patients feel a slight sting, like the snapping of a small rubber band. During the IPL treatment, the cooling gel ensures that the treatment is comfortable. We also provide numbing creams for those patients that are more sensitive. And you will get to try the IPL treatment with the free test patch, before coming in for the first full IPL session.

What is the cost of IPL therapy?

Use our “Prices” section for price ranges for aesthetics treatments at CapeMAC. Always remember: It is not always possible to give you accurate treatment prices for aesthetic procedures without properly assessing the extent of the problem and determining the most effective treatment/s for the problem.

How do I best choose the right practitioner/practice for my treatment?

Your decision as to which practice or practitioner to choose should be based on the practitioner’s reputation, the practitioner’s apparent skill and the practitioner’s experience. In addition, the practitioner’s ability to communicate with you in a manner that is professional, sincere, unhurried and that makes you feel comfortable is of utmost importance. Please also see the information on “How to choose a Medical Aesthetics Practitioner”. We hope this helps you make the right choice.

Do I need to do another test patch if I have already done IPL before?

Yes. The different areas of a body can react differently to the same treatment or a different machine may cause a different reaction on the same patient, even if the same type of treatment is being performed. For your benefit as well as your safety, we, at CapeMAC, require a test patch for every area that you want to treat with the IPL machine.

What precautions should I take before the IPL treatment?

Once you are deemed an appropriate candidate, your doctor will devise a treatment plan for you. You will be instructed on what (and what not) to do before your first treatment. This might include staying out of the sun or avoiding certain medication, such as Aspirin or Ibuprofen, which may increase bleeding. For further information, please see our Patient Information Leaflet for IPL treatments.

How is the procedure done?

Fast, simple and easy. The patient’s skin will be cleaned, any oil or deodorant removed, and a small amount of cooling gel will be placed on the  area being treated to prepare, protect and cool the skin. We will protect your eyes with special goggles and make sure you feel relaxed and comfortable. We can also apply a topical anaesthetic to the area being treated if you are a bit sensitive. The smooth glass surface of the hand piece is then gently applied to your skin and pulses of light will flash onto the area being treated . You may feel a very slight sting, like the snapping of a small rubber band. Once the desired treatment is complete, the cooling gel is removed and the treated area is cleaned and good moisturiser and sun block will be applied to your skin for protection.

How long is one IPL session?

IPL treatment sessions can take anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes (depending on the area and treatment being done).

How many IPL sessions will I need?

You will receive several treatments. A series of between 6 to 8 treatments is usually required to achieve the desired outcome (depending on the area and treatment being done) with intervals of 3 to 4 weeks.

What is the Recovery and Downtime?

There is no downtime with IPL. The patient can return to normal activities immediately after the treatment. There are usually no blisters, burns or long recovery periods. You might, however, experience minor visible side effects after the treatment, such as a little redness to the skin and it might be a bit sensitive after a treatment.
Blistering or slight bleeding might occur after intense pulsed light treatment. This is very rare though. Other potential risks can include pigment changes and scarring. For fast and easy recovery, patients are advised to apply strong sunscreen after treatments with Intense Pulsed Light to protect their skin.
For more information on the recovery process after an IPL treatment, please consult with our Doctor at Cape Medical Aesthetics Centre.

What results can I expect from the treatment?

For more information on the results you can expect from your treatment with Intense Pulsed Light for a specific condition, please consult with our Doctor at Cape Medical Aesthetics Centre.

We hope that this helps you understand a little more about IPL – Intense Pulsed Light therapy – and assists you in making a better choice for your aesthetic treatments. To find out if  IPL treatment is the right facial rejuvenation option for you, please contact us at Cape Medical Aesthetics Centre. If you still feel anxious about the use of IPL therapy, Dr Manoj Bagwandeen will be glad to discuss any queries and questions you may have about the use of IPL for yourself.

* Please note individual results may vary. Results are not guaranteed.

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