Intense Pulsed Light Treatment – Everything You Need to Know

An image of 2 faces of the same person before and after taking Pulsed Light Treatment

What is IPL?

IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light. You may have also heard of this treatment referred to as BBL or Photofacial. It’s all the same 🙂

IPL is non-ablative which means it doesn’t peel the skin like something like CO2 resurfacing does. IPL is less invasive and is an amazing option for evening out the skin tone and reducing rosacea or hyperpigmentation for which sun is the number one cause!

Everyone has hyperpigmentation to some degree it just may not be clearly visible for many. Even exposure through car windows can cause sun damage and hyperpigmentation, and those “freckles” you’ve had since you were little are also sun damage. No baby is born with freckles!

How does IPL work?

A bright light laser travels through the skin and picks up on that darkened pigment. It can differentiate between the pigment from sun damage and your actual melanin. It is for this reason IPL works best on lighter skin types. The lighter the skin the darker the spots will appear so the laser can target better, yielding better results.

What to Expect During An IPL Treatment

At the start of the treatment, I numb the entire face with a topical numbing cream which will help to mitigate any pain. During the treatment you will feel little zaps that are similar to a rubber band snap but with the numbing cream, it is honestly not bad at all. I laser the entire face to bring up sun damage while also stimulating lots of collagen production. IPL can also be used to target and reduce vascularities, like small broken vessels and redness during which we would only target the affected areas.

The treatment is quick and lasts about 10 minutes from top to bottom. We can endure anything for beauty for less than just 10 minutes right?! After the laser portion, we’ll gently apply sunscreen over the skin and you’ll be on your way!

Aftercare for an IPL Treatment

When the treatment is over, the skin is just slightly pink and there is zero residual pain. Now the fun part! For the next 5-7 days, the sun damage and pigment will begin to surface on the skin. You will see those pesky brown spots (and spots that were deep within the skin that you never knew were there!) begin to surface. The cool thing is that those deeper pigmented area would come out eventually, so why not get it out while you are ahead. As the pigment surfaces, it looks like little coffee grounds or pepper flakes. It will continue to surface and fall off over those first few days. The good news is that this treatment requires little to no true downtime. You can even wear makeup on the very same day. With minimal swelling and the ability to cover most of the surfacing pigment with makeup, most patients do not feel the need to take time off work or smaller social events but of course, I wouldn’t recommend you do this or any cosmetic treatment the week of your wedding or any major life events!!

By day 7, all of your pigment has shed and your skin is left more clear, even, and glowing. This treatment has very high satisfaction! I recommend a series of 1-3 for the first time and then treating as often as every 3-4 months for maintenance moving forward. The first treatment you ever do will be the most dramatic as we are removing years of sun damage. Subsequent treatments will have less pigment surface – and this is a good thing! Your maintenance treatments will get easier and easier!

I also always recommend getting started on medical-grade skincare afterward to help maintain the results and protect your investment. As well I make everyone PROMISE me that they will get in the habit of wearing an SPF every day 😉


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Racquel Frisella

Board Certified Nurse Practitioner & Aesthetic Specialist based in Saint Louis, Missouri

I work as a cosmetic injector and skincare specialist with 12 years of experience in the Aesthetic Industry. I see patients both in-office at Racquel Aesthetics for treatments as well as online for customized, complimentary skincare plans. I focus heavily on preventative and corrective injections, treatments, and skincare.  My career is my passion and I love to help people feel like the very best version of themselves. I am a wife and a mother of 3 beautiful children under the age of 3. I love all things beauty, fashion, and fitness. I am creating this site as a place to share my expertise on beauty, anti-aging, and skin while also giving a glimpse into my lifestyle as a mom, wife and lover of fitness!  


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