What to Know Before an IPL Photo Facial

Chatting with Leigh about a new spa recently, the topic of photo facials came up.

I get excited about anything with the word 'facial' in it, but this is not merely a spa treatment involving the slathering of luxurious creams. An Intense Pulsed Light photo facial is a medical procedure that can work wonders for some, though for others it might lead to serious repercussions if performed in the wrong hands, or if you’re not a suitable candidate.

Years ago, my dermatologist recommended a series of IPL photo facials, since my Irish heritage blessed me with a bit too much redness in the cheeks. Pink is nice, but red can feel embarrassing. More on that later.

Now that Groupons are floating around for discounted versions of the procedures, don't automatically assume they’re 'simple' just because medispas are offering them along side their waxing and massage services.

Take a moment to learn a little more before jumping in.


What to know:

  • An Intense Pulsed Light photo facial uses a powerful laser that can burn your skin, leaving scars. You want to be in the hands of a certified professional with experience.
  • While every case is different, IPL photo facial results were most positive for patients specifically seeking to diminish excessive redness and brown sunspots. Want to appear younger by boosting college? This may not be the procedure for you.
  • Best results come from a series of sessions. If anyone promised dramatic results in just one session, exert caution and determine if they are 1) experienced, 2) trying to intensify the laser for more 'dramatic' yet painful results. (Not a good idea.)


What to expect:

  • Some ads claim that you can get a procedure over lunch and get back to work without a hitch, but it's reported that it takes sun spots a few days to mildly scab over and fall off, making cover up difficult.


What to ask:

After specifically inquiring, “What is the projected recovery time?” “What will the skin look like in the days immediately following?”, also ask:

  • How do I care for my skin in the days immediately following?
  • What is advisable for long-term care?
  • Who will be performing the procedure and what are their certifications?


Don't be afraid to ask these questions. THIS IS YOUR FACE. (Or arm or leg.) Treat your skin to the handiwork of a board-certified medical professional. Remember, it’s the only body you have!


Back to my rosy, pink cheeks. Not long after that conversation with my dermatologist, I actually did take up a Groupon offer to get a discounted IPL treatment, leading me to a small, dodgy building in New York City’s (far-from-fancy) Garment District, where a rented office was transformed into a ‘spa.’ From what I could tell, the best type of procedure to receive there would be a foot massage. Maybe a lip wax.

The woman who performed the treatment was nice, cautious, though likely not a certified aesthetician, and certainly not an M.D. or certified plastic surgeon. As my dermatologist had advised me ahead of time, the results were not noticeable after one treatment. Nothing really positive, yet not negative, either.

Would I get IPL again? Yes, but not at a dodgy shop in the Garment District.  I would consult with a board-certified doctor and plan on series of three treatments. Peace of mind and preserving my skin is worth it!


 This post is presented to the Girl Around Town audience in partnership with
Smart Beauty Guide and The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.


Posted on March 11, 2015 and filed under Beauty.