Caution: Intense Pulsed Light Ahead
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments are one of the first
treatments that were introduced to the fast growing aesthetic market. IPL is
used for photorejuvenation and hair removal. A newer term used is Broad Band
Light (BBL), which is virtually the same type of technology. These procedures
are probably the most popular treatments in aesthetic practices today.
Intense Pulsed Light is a very safe tool when used
appropriately, but patient selection is crucial. The risk of burns is higher
with darker skin types, location off-the-face and exposure to natural outdoor
or indoor UV exposure.
Summer time presents as one of the most dangerous seasons to
perform photorejuvenation (IPL) treatments. It's usually a frantic bride-to-be
just a few weeks prior to her wedding who presents to our clinic with a foot
print pattern of redness and blistering on her face, chest or arms.
Surprisingly, most of the cases I have seen are Fitzpatrick
skin type II-III when the settings used were too aggressive and not enough
attention was spent on recent sun exposure history. Oftentimes the practitioner
may ask about the recent sun exposure but may have not specifically inquired
about tanning bed exposure.
Patients are so familiar with IPL that they have presented
to our clinic with the settings that were used on them at another clinic and
request a higher setting to be used. Beware of these patients.
The settings on IPL devices can vary greatly. Newer devices
have added safety features of various cooling methods. If a patient was treated
with an IPL with cooling then goes to another clinic that may have an older
device without cooling, a disaster can occur if the same settings are used.
Patient selection is the most important thing to pay
attention to in avoiding intense burns with these devices. Anyone with recent
sun exposure should automatically be disqualified to have IPL treatment for photorejuvenation
or hair removal.
Realistic expectations must be set. Patients need to
understand that a series of treatments is required for optimal results. Don't
try to be a hero, especially if your patient is getting married in a month.