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The Medical Spa of Baton Rouge Blog

Is IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) Therapy Safe?

Posted by Dr. Tasha Shamlin on 04/06/15

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IPL, or intense pulsed light, is a new spa treatment that is taking the world by storm. Using short, sporadic blasts of high-intensity light, this treatment promises to quickly and easily reduce the appearance of spider veins and age spots, as well as permanently removing hair. But is it safe to use?

Yes, IPL therapy is extremely safe, but only when it is being performed by an individual who has the training and experience to properly administer treatment.

The Concerns Over Use of IPL Therapy

The use of high-intensity light as part of the treatment has many people concerned over potential side effects. After all, this high-intensity light is specifically used because it damages the melanin, blood vessels, or hair follicles, which results in the desired effect of hair removal or diminishing spider veins/age spots. So, does it damage other parts of the body as well?

Some people who underwent treatments reported experiencing second or third degree burns in the areas where treatment was administered. Other people noticed a hyper-pigmentation, or a darkening, of the skin a few hours – or days – after receiving treatment.

While both burns and hyper-pigmentation can certainly happen as a side effect of IPL therapy, it is not common when the person administering the treatment is trained and experienced. Those who are properly trained will know exactly how long treatment should be administered, which will eliminate these side effects.

In the event that burning and hyper-pigmentation does occur during a session, a properly trained individual will know what to look out for and spot these problems before they become really bad.

Precautions People Can Take to Make Sure Their IPL Therapy is Safe

Even though in most cases the IPL therapy you are undergoing should be safe, it is always best to take several precautionary measures before starting treatment. Taking the time to do these things will not only protect you, but it will save you money by not undergoing a spa treatment that will hurt you.

Verify the Individual Administering Treatment Received IPL Training

Many schools that offer training to aestheticians have courses that focus specifically on educating people on how to properly administer IPL treatment. Before undergoing IPL treatment at a spa, verify that the individual who will be administering your treatment has undergone this additional training. Those that have undergone additional training in IPL treatment will often have the certification to prove it.

If you do check for certification, make sure the certification is from an accredited school and not a company that makes/manufactures the IPL equipment. Many manufacturers or sellers of IPL equipment will give a brief training session to those that will be using the equipment. While this training shows people how to use the equipment, it does not provide them with enough knowledge or training to be able to spot any problems should they arise during an IPL session.

Attend a Consultation Before Starting IPL Therapy

There are so many factors that can turn a seemingly safe IPL therapy session into an unsafe session. Tanning, skin tone, illnesses, and medications can all negatively impact an IPL therapy session and make you more susceptible to burns and hyper-pigmentation. Attending a consultation or taking part in a brief pre-treatment interview can help you avoid complications that may occur during IPL therapy.

Some questions that should be asked during a consultation or pre-treatment interview include:

  •          What medications (prescription and over-the-counter) are you currently taking?
  •          Are you taking any natural supplements?
  •          Do you tan?
  •          Is there anything that is altering your skin tone, such as makeup, burns, or a medical condition?

The answers you provide to these questions will help the spa determine if you are a good candidate for IPL therapy. Once it has been determined you are a good candidate for this type of treatment, the spa will be able to come up with a customized treatment plan to meet your unique skincare needs.

IPL therapy may be considered 'new', but it doesn't make it harmful or unsafe. It is a completely safe treatment to undergo, as long as you use caution when picking where you receive treatment. Making sure you use a spa that has a trained, experienced individual handling the IPL therapy sessions will dramatically reduce the possibility of you experiencing severe, painful complications.

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