IPL for acne scars
Tips & Articles for Your Skin

IPL for Acne Scars: Treatment Guide

IPL or intense pulsed light therapy is one of the most accessible treatments that can be used to improve the color and the texture of skin without the use of surgery. As well as improving the appearance of the skin IPL may also be used as a way to reduce clear or visible damage. 

IPL can be used for a wide range of skin conditions including damage caused by sun exposure or red, brown and itchy skin that has been caused by a health condition. IPL for acne scars is used to reduce the appearance of scars and marks left by acne over numerous years. In this article, we will discuss whether IPL is an effective treatment for the scarring that is often left by acne and how IPL for acne scars differs compared to the use for hair removal. 

Understanding the IPL for Acne Scars Use 

IPL treatment uses light energy to target specific colors that are present in your skin. During the treatment, your skin is heated and this causes it to get rid of any unwanted cells. Since the device used for IPL sends out more than one wavelength of pulsating light at a time, it can be used to treat a wide range of different skin conditions. During IPL treatment, your skin’s natural healing process is triggered which is what causes the change to a specific area. 

One of the key reasons why IPL is used for acne is that, unlike other typical laser procedures, it does not just use a single light wavelength. Instead, it is more similar to a flash of a camera with various light wavelengths beamed across your skin. This ensures that more can be achieved during the treatment. It allows the pulsed light to penetrate deeper layers of the skin that exist beneath the acne and the scars. The heat created by the treatment is capable of destroying everything from spots to freckles and the acne present that could be causing a patient’s acne. 

For this reason, IPL is now being recommended by doctors as one of the best treatment options for acne. IPL for acne scars is particularly recommended for patients that have significant levels of scarring. A clear benefit of using IPL for acne scarring is that it can be suitable for even the most extreme cases of acne scarring. In just a few sessions, patients will be able to witness clear results and avoid some of the oral antibiotics that can be harmful to certain patients. 

Young woman with the pills

Stages of Acne: When is it good to use the IPL treatment?

Patients suffering from acne will understand that the condition can cause numerous impacts on their skin. IPL treatment can be used to treat the various stages of acne. This includes active acne, the glands that cause acne to develop on the skin, and the swollen acne lesions or scarring that is noticeable on the skin. It is possible to treat the full range of symptoms through the use of different filters or wavelengths of light. This includes:

  • 420 nm blue light - This can be used to destroy certain types of bacteria that are associated with acne. 
  • 560 nm yellow light - This is used to tend to swollen acne lesions that are triggered by the condition. 
  • 590 nm red light - This light can paralyze oil glands that are overactive and cause the development of acne across certain areas of the skin. 

IPL is typically used to treat discoloration that is caused by acne. But it is important to recognize that it is not effective as a solution for someone who is experiencing an ongoing condition. If your acne is ongoing, it would be best to explore other skin treatments instead. The best use of IPL will always be for acne scars as it can significantly reduce the signs of past issues with acne while ensuring that the skin does not suffer from further damage over time. 

The most common area of IPL treatment to treat acne scars is the face. However, it may also be used if there is discoloration from acne on the chest, neck, and even the hands. 

Young woman with acne

IPL for Acne Scars, Rosacea, and redness 

While IPL for acne scars is now more common, one of the main usages of the treatment is still for hair removal. Hair removal works in the same way as acne treatment although it will use different wavelengths of light. Using IPL for fair removal typically will require six or eight treatments. However, this can be impacted by everything from an individual's skin color to their hair color or even the thickness of the hair that needs to be removed. 

While often referred to as a laser treatment, IPL isn’t a laser solution at all. Instead, scattered wavelengths of light are emitted which can be used to target specific structures and chromophores. In the case of hair removal, light is used to target melanin present within the skin. 

As mentioned, IPL can be used to treat a range of different skin conditions that impact the appearance of the skin. This includes:

  • Red or brown blemishes
  • Sunspots
  • Vascular redness
  • Broken blood vessels
  • Rosacea
  • Melasma
  • Cherry hemangioma
  • Hormonal pigmentation

While IPL can also be used to remove freckles, this is not always effective. The reason for this is that the pigment for freckles is often much deeper in the skin and therefore more permanent.  

There are numerous benefits of IPL that are worth considering. Unlike other forms of laser treatment, IPL is a more gentle procedure to minimize discomfort while still providing the results that you want. Indeed, research shows that photo facials that utilize IPL can be effective at reducing premature skin aging. For instance, a 10-year study conducted by Stanford University found that two or three photofacials per decade can positively impact the genes of dermal cells, ensuring that they resemble young, healthy skin cells. 

IPL photofacial treatment can also be used with a range of different surgical treatments. This includes botox as well as dermal requirements. As such, it can be part of a more significant and extensive range of treatments used to completely alter the look and appearance of your skin. 

Another key benefit of IPL treatment is that it is far more affordable than other options on the market. IPL for acne scars can cost as little as $700 compared to laser skin resurfacing which is closer to $2000 for just one treatment. Treatments are also quick and convenient so it is easy to fit IPL into your schedule.  

Young woman with dollar bills

What to Expect from IPL Acne Scar Treatment? 

It is important to recognize that IPL is not designed to provide fast results. Patients are unlikely to notice significant changes after just one treatment. Do be aware that acne is a complex situation that has numerous causes and has various impacts on your skin. As such, you will need to make sure that you are being realistic here. You should be aware of the fact that you will need more than one treatment to see significant changes to your skin. If you only book one treatment, then you could find that it takes significantly longer to reduce the scars present from acne. 

It should also be noted once more that this treatment may not be effective if your acne is still active. If this is the case, then it could be worth exploring other treatment options first before investigating how IPL might help you. 

IPL may also not be effective for everyone. For instance, it prevents an issue for those with darker skin and may even cause skin lightening for hyperpigmentation. For this reason, it is recommended that those with darker skin consider using a treatment such as a chemical peel instead. Individuals with other skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis may also not be good candidates as the treatment could cause inflammation. It may also not be suitable for those who are suffering from chronic health conditions. 

Before and After IPL Photofacial Treatment 

It is important to take the right steps before and after your IPL photofacial treatment. Doing so will guarantee that you can see the best and clearest results as quickly as possible while minimizing any issues with discomfort. For instance, you need to make sure that your skin is in a healthy condition. To do this, it is recommended that you think about using a moisturizer with a 30+ SPF. This will help ensure that your skin is protected from exposure to the sun. 

If you are a smoker, you need to make sure that you avoid smoking for at least six weeks before your IPL treatment. You should also stop any medications that might be likely to cause you excessive levels of bleeding and check with your medical professional about whether to discontinue your use of certain antibiotics. It is important to make sure that you are drinking plenty of water before your treatment as this will help ensure that your skin does remain completely hydrated. You also need to make sure that you are avoiding any retinoids that are likely to cause you issues with skin sensitivity. 

On the day of your IPL for acne scars, you need to make sure that you are not wearing any makeup or using any other skincare products. This can affect the impact of the treatment. Instead, you need to guarantee that your skin is completely clear. 

After your treatment, you will notice a variety of changes to your skin. Mild side effects are completely normal and indicate that the treatment is working as it should be. Some of the most common effects including:

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Blemishes
  • Crusting 
  • Bruises
  • Blisters

IPL is a non-invasive procedure but you still need to be prepared for the natural healing process of your skin and the signs that come with it. 

Woman with skin conditions

How long does it take to recover after the treatment?

Any side effects that you experience after IPL therapy for acne scars will always be temporary. However, certain symptoms can take longer to disappear. While redness may only last for about two or five days, crusting can impact you for up to ten days. It is important to note that you are unlikely to experience all of the side effects that we have mentioned in this article. 

Once your IPL therapy is complete, you need to make sure that you are taking the right steps to protect and care for your skin. Do be aware that after the treatment your skin will be more sensitive to certain conditions including heat. As such, you need to make sure that you are avoiding exposing your skin to significant levels of heat. This is why it is recommended that you avoid hot showers and baths for at least 48 hours. You also need to avoid picking at crusts or blisters that do develop across your skin. It is also recommended that you avoid exercising for two days and make sure that you do not expose your skin to the sun unprotected. 

You should cleanse your skin twice a day with warm water and guarantee that you are keeping your skin moist with a gentle moisturizer. You might also want to consider using something like a stem cell serum to increase collagen repair. 

If you do not take the right steps then it is likely that you could damage your skin and cause other issues with the appearance. You might even find that your skin becomes more irritated and see significant scarring across your skin. 

If you do follow this advice and protect your skin, then you will see the results that you hoped for over an extended period. Particularly if you use multiple treatments to effectively treat your acne scarring. The main results of IPL used correctly is healthy, younger-looking, radiant skin with signs of acne damage significantly reduced.