As you may know, I’ve dabbled with at-home Intense Pulsed Light facials in the past. In other words, I’ve bought a big lamp thingy and zapped myself for science and for better skin. As I said then, I really feel like it’s helped my skin tone to become more even by reducing my post-inflammatory erythema and mild freckling. Ever since, I’ve known I wanted to try big-boy IPL with a nurse.
Since I recently arrived back in Australia (finally), I’m now in a financial and geographical position to head back to my skin clinic for the real deal: in-office IPL.
The major difference between do-it-yourself and in-office IPL is that the latter is tons stronger, with more energy blasted by each pulse of the lamp. That translates to better results. Another benefit is that with a technician managing the lamp for you, they can really get up closer to the eyes than you safely can at home.
Why did I choose to try IPL?
Redness and pigmentation are my two problem areas. My acne, while it has its moments, is more under control than it was, say, 5 years ago, so it’s the perfect time to tackle what’s been left behind – that being lots of red marks. On top of that, I’m a very fair-skinned person living in Australia, so even at the ripe young age of 23 I already have some sun damage that I’d like to stay on top of.
These are all well-known strength of the IPL treatment, so with these as my goals it was the obvious choice.
How much did I pay for IPL?
With a clinic discount, I paid $245 AUD for my IPL treatment. It would have been cheaper as part of a package, but I’m planning on following this up with a different kind of laser package so I just got the one for today.
It’s a big expense in the overall scheme of life, and definitely something to think about and save up for. But in terms of bang for your buck, this is one of the more affordable treatments that really yields big results. Other treatments like lasers are usually well over $500, so IPL is a nice starting point.
So with that, I took some high-quality before pictures using the tips and tricks I’ve developed, and headed out to the clinic.
What professional IPL felt like
Summary: Love my clinic, hated the pain. Ouch.
After making my way through the clinic foyer to my treatment room, I first met with the nurse who was going to perform my treatment, and had a short consultation where I brought along previous deep-skin photographs I’d had taken at their offices, and went over my areas of concern. We discussed today’s session as well as strategies going forward into the future. To treat my particular kind of pigmentation, broken capillaries and cherry angiomas (pinprick red spots), she said, a different kind of laser might also be needed. But we decided to give IPL a go first anyway. Then, just like that, it was time to get into it!
This technician was so skilled in small talk, and I feel like my nerves were really relaxed by her chatting to me about my work and keeping things light hearted. That is, until she looked at me with a bit of concern as she popped some goggles on me, slathered my face with cleanser, wiped it off, and followed it up with clear goopy ultrasound gel. “You know this kind of… hurts, right?”. She seemed relieved when I said that I knew – but boy, was I not ready for just how serious she was.
First, she went in with a few flashes of light (henceforth referred to as ‘zaps’) on my areas of pigmentation: underneath my eyes , as well as on the top of my nose and a little around my mouth and chin. These first settings were aimed at the wavelength of light necessary to heat up the brown pigment. And boy, that it did.
From the first zap, I realised this wouldn’t be a walk in the park like Laser Genesis had been. As the bright flash of light heated up the pesky pigment, so too did my whole face. It felt like a sharp, hot bolt of lightning right to my skin and into my bones. Kind of like when you wax yourself at home, I felt myself tensing up in anticipation of each flash. However, the pain was short-lived and it was over as soon as it started.
Luckily, I got to have a short break while she switched the settings to tackle my overall redness. Then it was clench-city once again as she made her way across my forehead, cheeks and chin, zapping the lamp every 5 or so seconds. There was probably a total of 25 hits. I have quite a good ability to sit through discomfort, and this was still really right up there at my pain tolerance threshold. Since the appointment, I’ve read of others requesting numbing cream, and may just do that next time.
Though it was extremely uncomfortable, the session was also super short. Probably less than 10 minutes in total. Though I was expecting (and pre-emptively apologising for) tomato-face, my skin looked totally, completely normal afterwards. She popped on some sunscreen and I was out the door!
There was no pain, redness or swelling for me whatsoever, and my skin felt totally normal right after and has since. My freckles appeared ever so slightly darker to start with.
By 7 days later, I noticed that my freckles had returned to their former lightness, if not lighter. The breakout I was sporting on the day of the treatment had healed and my skin was looking really good. For me, there was no dramatic change as my skin wasn’t too problematic to begin with. But I was liking what I was seeing.
Two months on, I’m undergoing some major skin changes. I’ve had two IPL sessions, but also a lot of other stuff to boot. In terms of what I think IPL has done for me, I definitely noticed quicker healing of my existing red marks. My overall redness is reduced, too. Unfortunately, it didn’t touch the broken capillaries (which admittedly are quite severe), and I’ve been told they’ll need another kind of laser.
Given trying a lot of new treatments, I think I’m going to give the IPL a rest for now. It’s a really great treatment, but for me the pain and discomfort is maybe not worth the moderate improvements I’m seeing. There are other treatments that will be better suited for my skin right now, like the Clear + Brilliant Laser (review coming soon!).