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Lasers and IPL

Laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation and IPL is an acronym for Intense Pulsed Light. Laser and IPL use the properties of light to treat certain skin conditions. There are a few differences between laser and IPL. Laser produces only one wavelength while IPL has broad spectrum wavelengths. Laser creates a single coherent beam so that energy can be delivered over long distances while IPL energy diverges with distance.

How can laser and IPL treat skin conditions?

Different structures in the skin will absorb light energy at different wavelengths. Therefore, once the wavelength that is preferentially absorbed by a certain skin structure is known, doctors can deliver light energy at the correct wavelength to heat up the target skin structure whilst sparing the other nearby structures that absorb different wavelength.

What skin conditions can be treated with lasers and IPL?

There are many kinds of lasers on the market, each producing different wavelengths and power. Using various laser machines, these are examples of skin conditions that can be treated: unwanted tattoo, unwanted hair, unwanted veins, unwanted fat, acne, scars, freckles, early skin cancers, wrinkles etc. Certain lasers can also be used as bloodless skin cutting tools.

IPL has many different wavelengths but specific light filters can be used to cut out wavelengths that are not needed. Depending on the light filter used, IPL is mainly used to remove unwanted hair and facial veins, reduce skin pore size, reduce skin redness in patients suffering from rosacea, reduce skin pigmentation, treat mild acne, and improve skin tone.

What are the dangers of lasers and IPL treatments?

Generally, if used properly laser and IPL treatments are safe with very few unwanted side-effects. Light devices deliver light energy that can heat the skin. If too much energy is delivered, the skin can be burned. Burned skin reacts by forming blisters and crusting that may lead to skin pigment changes and scar formation that are usually temporary, but if the burn is severe these side-effects may be permanent.

How do I choose a practitioner?

There is currently no set training standard for using laser or IPL machines. Anyone medically trained or non-medically trained can purchase a light device and offer treatments. BCAM would suggest that these treatments be obtained only from doctors, nurses or therapists trained to use them in an appropriate healthcare environment rather than a beauty salon. Even if the treatment is to be given by a doctor, ask how many of such treatments the doctor had performed. This is the only way you can gauge the practitioner’s experience in the treatment.