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Intense Pulsed Laser (IPL)

IPL, or Intense Pulsed Light, is a non-invasive cosmetic procedure. It utilizes intense but gentle beams of broad-spectrum light with various wavelengths to treat the signs of aging and skin conditions without damaging surrounding tissues.

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments are often referred to as “lunchtime rejuvenation” because they are relatively quick procedures that require minimal downtime. Many people have an IPL treatment during their lunch break and return to their daily activities afterward without significant disruption to their schedules. Treatments typically take as little as 15 to 30 minutes. Some redness and mild swelling may be experienced after the procedure and should subside within a few hours to a day. Makeup can be applied to conceal temporary redness. 

How does IPL work?

IPL targets hemoglobin (for dilated and broken blood vessels), and melanin (for pigmentation issues).  The light is absorbed by the skin and creates thermal energy that is absorbed by hemoglobin, melanin and water in the skin causing destruction of these pigmented and vascular lesions. Treatments are safe and tolerable. Side effects are typically rare and minimal. 

How may treatments are needed?

The successful removal or reduction of pigmentation and vascular lesions depends on the frequency of treatments as the effect of pulsed light is cumulative. Generally, full removal may require 3-6 treatments every 2-4 weeks for full effects to be achieved. Lesions that are deeper or more heavily pigmented may require more treatments.

Why choose IPL for aging skin?

Laser light can reduce the appearance of aging skin conditions such as wrinkles, scarring, blemishes and sun spots with minimal downtime and minimal discomfort.

IPL applications

  • Skin Rejuvenation: IPL is commonly used to rejuvenate the skin. It can help reduce signs of aging. IPL can effectively treat a range of skin concerns, including sun damage, fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots. The broad-spectrum light targets pigmented areas and stimulates collagen production, leading to smoother and more youthful-looking skin.
  • Treatment of Pigmentation Issues: IPL can be used to address various pigmentation issues, including freckles, sunspots, and melasma. The light energy is absorbed by the excess melanin in these areas, causing it to break down and fade over time.
  • Vascular Lesion Treatment: IPL is effective in treating vascular lesions like spider veins, broken capillaries, rosacea, and port-wine stains. It targets the hemoglobin in the blood vessels, causing them to collapse and be reabsorbed by the body.
  • Reduction of Facial Redness: IPL can help reduce redness caused by conditions like rosacea. It targets the blood vessels responsible for the redness and can lead to a more even skin tone.
  • Scar Reduction: IPL can be used to improve the appearance of certain types of scars, such as surgical scars, burn scars and scars from injuries. It promotes collagen production, which can help soften and blend the scar with the surrounding skin.
  • Acne Treatment: Some dermatologists use IPL to manage acne. The light energy can reduce acne, redness and inflammation and kill the bacteria responsible for acne breakouts, leading to clearer skin. It also treats acne scars for a more even toned skin. 

What is the IPL procedure?

During your consultation with your Coastal Skin and Eye Institute dermatologist, you’ll discuss your specific concerns, goals, and any medical history or skin conditions that might affect the treatment, your expectations, potential risks and outcomes. Your Coastal Skin and Eye Institute dermatologist will provide specific pre-procedure instructions.

What to expect:

  • You should arrive with clean, makeup-free skin (for skin rejuvenation or other applications).
  • Both you and the provider will wear protective eyewear to shield your eyes from the intense light during the procedure.
  • A cooling gel will be applied to the treatment area. This gel helps to enhance the effectiveness of the IPL treatment and protect the skin from excess heat.
  • The IPL device is then placed against your skin, and short pulses of broad-spectrum light are emitted. The specific wavelengths and energy settings are adjusted based on the target skin concern (e.g., pigmentation, hair removal, vascular issues).
  • You will feel a sensation during the IPL pulses, often described as a mild snapping or stinging feeling. Most people find it tolerable, but your provider may offer numbing cream or cooling techniques to minimize discomfort if needed.
  • The provider typically applies the IPL pulses in a grid pattern, covering the entire treatment area systematically.
  • After the procedure, the cooling gel is removed, and your provider may apply soothing creams or ointments to the treated area. They will also provide post-treatment instructions, which may include guidelines for sun protection and skincare.
  • Recovery time is generally minimal. You may experience some redness and mild swelling immediately after the procedure, but these effects typically subside within hours to a few days. Makeup can usually be applied to conceal any temporary redness.

Contact Coastal Skin and Eye Institute with offices in Encinitas and Carmel Valley to schedule a consultation with one of our board-certified dermatologists to learn more about how IPL photofacials can help you achieve a more youthful, refreshed appearance with more even skin tone and texture.


  • https://www.asds.net/skin-experts/skin-treatments/laser-light-therapy/intense-pulsed-light-therapy-for-aging-skin
  • Gade A, Vasile GF, Rubenstein R. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Therapy. [Updated 2023 Apr 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK580525/

Coastal Skin & Eye Institute/Grossmont Dermatology