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Intense Pulse Light (IPL) facial: or getting rid of the milky way on my face

This picture is me the day after my IPL.

My forehead looks a little like I fell off my bike and got road rash. Seriously. But everyone at the spa keeps smiling really big when they see me, and getting excited. In fact, our owner said to one of our aestheticians, I want you to make me look like Beth!

Are they all insane?! I asked , Why does everyone keep smiling when they see my face?!!

The answer? Because they know how good you’re gonna look in just a few days.

This past Tuesday I got an IPL treatment. Intense Pulsed Light. A friend of mine had come in and gotten an IPL and I saw him a week later and it looked like ALL his sun damage was gone. It was honestly amazing. So I thought, I gotta try this! I didn’t even think I had that much sun damage. I don’t see a lot of the signs of sun damage on my face: the brown spots, freckles, or splotches. But I did notice, last time I spent a whole day at the beach, that when I looked in the mirror that evening, I thought: Holy crap!! What is on my face! Underneath my tan was like the whole milky way…every freckle that’s ever existed and also what looked like old age spots. Gobs of them. SO maybe the sun on my face for 39 years has gotten to me after all.

Although there are many ways to reverse damage from the sun, I chose IPL. Intense Pulsed Light is a broad spectrum light source that can be filtered to narrow the light spectrum to target (and fade or eliminate) the specific structures in the skin that absorb color.

The whole treatment took about 20 minutes. I guess I’m always a little concerned about whether or not a procedure will hurt. Seems silly worrying about whether a skin treatment will hurt when I have large tattoos and have given birth…and then suddenly the thought of a small needle or a laser or light energy coming at me makes me concerned!

She covered my eyes to protect them from the light, and told me what to expect: the light will be really bright and come in bursts. She said it can often make people feel jumpy, especially when it is near your eyes. She started on my jawline and gave me fair warning before starting. It IS very bright and it is, indeed, a short pulse of bright light. It felt a little bit like being snapped with a rubber band. And while that doesn’t exactly sound pleasant, it is still a short-term procedure with long-lasting results. No problem sitting through a little bit of uncomfortable for a lot of clear skin!

When we were done she said my face may feel hot for about an hour, as if I had a sunburn. And she also told me what to expect: any places that were darker from sun damage will get even darker for several days and then those patches will slough off, leaving much clearer skin underneath. And no direct sun after an IPL! My face did feel hot for about an hour, and walking to my car in the 100 degree heat right after treatment made my face feel even hotter.

For me, now 6 days out from my treatment, most of my darker patches of sun damage that were very apparent after treatment have sloughed off. The worst part was my forehead, and there is still a patch above my right eye that hasn’t gone away. It feels a little rough, almost like small scratches. But soon it too will slough off and my skin will be completely gorgeous apparently!

I saw friends this weekend and they actually complemented me on my skin actually. So it seems the rest of my face, where the sun damage has come off, looks pretty good! I think it’s hard to tell when you see yourself multiple times a day.

IPL treatments should be done one month apart and one to six treatments are recommended, depending on your amount of sun damage. After that, only maintenance sessions are needed – about one or two each year. After a series of treatments, most of what is going to come up out of the skin has come up, unless you get new sun damage; but even then, that can be removed in your annual maintenance sessions.

IPL can also help with rosacea, spider veins, and appearance of pore size. The heat from the laser treatment can shrink (almost like cauterizing) the vessels that cause the redness with rosacea and spider veins. Redness is less visible with each treatment. For pores, IPL helps clear oil and debris from inside the pores, diminishing their appearance, but pores do not actually shrink. IPL can also be used on most areas of the body.

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