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What Exactly is a Photofacial? Everything You Need to Know About IPL Facials

Wait, What Exactly is a Photofacial? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

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Main Image – LightfieldStudios/Adobe

In the quest to achieve that coveted radiance and tackle pesky skin imperfections, we often find ourselves exploring a myriad of innovative treatments, creams, scrubs, and serums.

Enter the IPL photofacial, a revolutionary technique that promises to be the secret weapon in your skincare arsenal!

With its ability to adjust wavelengths, this non-invasive procedure is customisable, ensuring that it caters to your unique skin type and your desired outcome.

And we’ve got the expert advice. LTG HQ spoke with dermatologist and founder of FACET Dermatology Dr Geeta Yadav, dermatologist and ayurvedic nutritionist Dr Asmi Sanghvi, and dermatology nurse practitioner and co-founder of Aion Aesthetics Akis Ntonos to get the lowdown on *everything* IPL photofacials.

Get ready to unlock the door to radiant skin and embrace the confidence that comes with a flawless complexion. It’s time to step into the limelight with IPL photofacials – your secret weapon for skin perfection!


What Exactly is a Photofacial? Everything You Need to Know About IPL Facials

Image – JacobLund/Adobe


What *exactly* is a photofacial?

So, what *exactly* is an IPL photofacial?

IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light, and this innovative procedure utilises the power of light to target a range of common skin issues, leaving you with a smooth and glowy complexion.

Dr Yadav tells us that a photofacial, also known as a IPL facial, “is not a facial that you’d get at a spa with serums, masks, and extractions – it uses a device that emits Intense Pulsed Light to deliver quick blasts of light to break down surface layer skin cells, helping them shed off naturally.


Image – Tatyana/Adobe


“This helps correct uneven texture, but IPL is known especially for its benefits regarding hyperpigmentation. The light can specifically target melanin, which is why IPL devices can also be used for laser hair removal.

“Additionally, the energy from the device can help stimulate the collagen fibres in the skin to help firm them, creating a tauter look.”

Mayo Clinic Health System backs this up, saying “Intense-pulsed light treatment is used for treating melasma using a broad spectrum of light to generate heat to target and remove pigment.”

Think of it as a magical camera filter for your face, erasing the signs of sun damage, age spots, fine lines, and even acne scars. Sounds amazing, right?


The benefits of a photofacial

The result? You can bid farewell to uneven skin tone, redness, and pesky pigmentation woes, revealing a more even, smoother, and vibrant complexion.

The light-based technology used in photofacials is non-invasive and is *perfect* for “skin problems such acne, rosacea, sun damage, hyperpigmentation, age spots, freckles, and uneven skin texture,” Akis tells us.


What Exactly is a Photofacial? Everything You Need to Know About IPL Facials

Image – LightfieldStudios/Adobe


“The intense pulsed light (IPL) or light-emitting diode (LED) device is used to give precise pulses of light to the skin during a photo facial. Certain skin pigments, such as melanin, which causes pigmentation and haemoglobin, which is present in blood vessels, absorb the light energy.”

Akis explains, “the heat and damage caused by the light energy activates the body’s natural healing process, and blood vessels, redness, and uneven pigmentation can all be diminished with the use of this technique.”


What areas can be treated?

Essentially, areas that are frequently exposed in public can be IPL treated. However, photofacial treatments can be performed on any part of the body except the eyelids and the area just above them.

IPL light therapy can be used on the face, neck, chest, shoulders, back, arms and legs “to help rejuvenate the skin,” Dr Sanghvi tells LTG HQ, and the treatment leads to “a variety of benefits including a more even skin tone, decreased pigmentation/blemishes, and decreased redness.”


What to expect before, during and after the treatment

Firstly, this is a “Very quick treatment, with most lasting only 30 minutes,” Dr Yadav tells us – now that IS a fast facial!

Before the treatment, expect a consultation with a skilled dermatologist who will assess your skin and discuss your goals. Sun worshipper? You need to be tan-free for the light to be able to detect the specific blemishes that you want to address and avoid burns.

You will be provided with dark glasses to protect your eyes from light exposure. During the procedure, a cool gel is smoothed onto the skin and a gentle light is applied using a handheld device that targets pigmentation, age spots, and pesky blood vessels, leaving you with a rejuvenated complexion.


What Exactly is a Photofacial? Everything You Need to Know About IPL Facials

Image – BeautyAgent/Adobe


Don’t worry too much if you experience a mild tingling sensation, it’s completely normal!

“There’s minimal downtime with this procedure – it could appear like you got a mild sunburn immediately after treatment, but most people find that this redness fades within several hours,” ensures Dr Yadav and, in the following days, your skin will gradually reveal a radiant, youthful glow.

Your skin may be extremely sun sensitive following IPL treatment though, so you’ll need to be prepared to slather on the SPF 50- whatever the weather- for at least 6 weeks following your facial.


Does IPL hurt?

The *burning* question on lots of skincare fans lips is whether IPL light treatments hurt.

While sensations may vary, you can expect to feel some slight pain and discomfort – some people say there’s no beauty without pain – but is it more pain than gain?

Likened to a rubber band being snapped on the face, or a similar sensation to insect bites or getting a tattoo, the sensation you will feel during your IPL is that of heat as it zaps away your imperfections.

Got a low pain threshold? Your technician can apply a topical numbing cream to make the process more tolerable.

It really is essential to go to an experienced, reputable and certified IPL technician “Because it can target melanin, it’s best avoided by those with very deep skin tones, as the technology may cause hypopigmentation, especially when administered by an unskilled provider,” warns Dr Gadav.


How many treatments will you need?

The intense nature of the IPL photo facials light pulses allows it to be absorbed deeply, meaning you won’t need to book tens of appointments OR spend all of your hard-earned cash!

Typically, “you need 3 treatments to see a significant improvement,” advises Dr Sanghvi. Over the following days after just one treatment, you can expect your skin to look and feel more radiant with a youthful glow.

Want to prolong your results? The solution to this is to avoid sun damage. This means limiting direct sun exposure, wearing sunscreen, and using high-quality moisturisers to keep your skin in tip-top condition.


What Exactly is a Photofacial? Everything You Need to Know About IPL Facials

Image – LiubovLevystka/Adobe


Should you get a photofacial?

Ok, first off, who shouldn’t get a photofacial? Since the treatment “involves quite a bit of heat, and is not suitable for tanned skin or skin recently exposed to UV radiation, and should not be used in darker skin types,” Dr Sanghvi advises.

“There is a high risk of burn, blistering, or swelling in those with these contraindicated skin types.”

However, *loads* of models, a-listers and regular Joes SWEAR by IPL photofacial treatments, and “Anyone looking for brighter, more even skin with improved texture and tone can benefit from this treatment,” advises Dr Gadav.

There are several specific conditions that are *perfect* for IPL photofacial treatments, including the following:

  • Broken capillaries (blood vessels)
  • Rosacea
  • Acne scars
  • Large pores and uneven skin tone
  • Sun damage (sun spots)
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Spider veins
  • Freckles
  • Fine lines


The takeaway

So, are IPL photofacials right for you?

Let’s be clear, IPL photofacials are serious business that must be provided by a specialist, and it’s not meant to treat intense or severe skin conditions.

Unfortunately, IPL isn’t for every skin type, and you should definitely avoid this treatment if you have a deeper skin tone, skin diseases such as lupus, if you are on blood thinning medication, if you suffer from hypertrophic scarring or keloid formation, and if you intend on continuing sun exposure.

This treatment is great for those of us with fine lines, freckles, acne scars, spider veins, hyperpigmentation, sun or age spots, and broken blood vessels.

Still unsure? Head to a dermatologist and have them assess your skin!



Meet the experts

Dr Geeta Yadav is a world-renowned board-certified dermatologist and the founder of FACET Dermatology in Toronto, Canada.


Dr Asmi Sanghvi is a board-certified dermatologist at Mount Sinai Health System with a passion for skin, beauty, and integrative wellness. She is currently the only dermatologist & ayurvedic nutritionist Merging East-West to heal your skin and unlock your beauty potential.


Akis Ntonos, FNP-C, is a dermatology nurse practitioner and injectable specialist, (a.k.a. Facial Architect) and co-founder of Aion Aesthetics, New York’s premier injectables clinic.



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Senior Beauty Editor

Laura Kemp started her journalism career as a news reporter for one of the largest newspaper groups in Europe before moving into features and editorial writing. Combining her love of hard-hitting journalism with her passion for beauty, she’s now Senior Beauty Editor at Live That Glow. When she’s not writing, researching, or interviewing her favourite experts, you’ll find Laura practicing her downward dog or drifting on her paddleboard.

Expertise: Hair care, nails
Education: University of Salford

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