Write a review

Life Ruined As a Result of a Single IPL Treatment.. These Devices Should Be Banned..

In August 2013, a month after I turned 28, I was...

In August 2013, a month after I turned 28, I was convinced by a medical esthetician with 14 years of experience to try IPL for some mild hormonal acne (which was temporary anyway btw..) and some mild sun damage (mostly freckles). I had very good skin overall and generally started visiting her for some mild facials and pore cleaning since my skin was breaking out more than usual that summer. She was recommended by a friend and was very kind and attentive, so I strongly doubt that she was trying to make money off of me, I truly think that she just believed that IPL was the permanent solution to my problem as the facials weren't doing much (she even gave me a significant discount on the treatments). I asked her to use the lowest settings possible, as I wasn't sure how my skin was going to respond and she did one treatment over my entire face and another one just underneath my jawline because that's were the acne was the most prominent. After the IPL, I started to notice that my skin got rougher and had a weird feel/look to it. There was also a lot of inflammation/irritation for almost 2 weeks (if not more), which seemed to come and go - I used some chamomile teabags and oatmeal to sooth the skin, so that helped a little. Then, I started to notice that my skin developed a bizarre lined texture that some of the women on this forum describe (I don't want to post pix atm as this experience has been traumatic enough, I don't want people that I know to see them - although I might upload some later that don't really show my full face). I have never seen anything like this weird new skin structure - there were lines going across my entire face and crinkling on the apples of my cheeks (especially the part located closer to the nasolabial folds - which I have now developed after the IPL). Things have pretty much been downhill since then. Although my face is no longer bright red from all the inflammation, I have a thousand holes, indentations, wrinkles and hollows all over my face. I also have large indentations (more like hollows in several areas on my cheeks) which resemble the shape of the IPL machine that can be seen under certain lighting (but I have never developed brown, crusty burn marks that some people describe on here), and those large indentations/hollows are filled in with tons of cracks, large pores and small indents. I went form having completely seamless skin without a single large pore to having some crazy scarring that no one seems to know how to treat. But wait, that's not even the worst part... the worst part in this whole ordeal is the fat loss or atrophy caused by this horrendous device. The strangest thing is that I have read a ton of posts confirming that people have had fat loss after IPL (& lasers) and there is even some academic literature out there on the subject, but doctors continue to deny the fact that these machines cause this type of damage. I wasn't expecting my face to melt away in the past few months, yet looking at the pictures a few days before the IPL and comparing them to my pictures now, I can see a huge difference (and no, I did not lose weight - I have actually gained weight). My face became gaunt and for the first few months after the damage I had a hard time recognizing myself in the mirror (now I sort of got used to it, although I am still devastated..) I used to have beautiful round cheeks which made me look like a teenager... When people had to guess my age, they always assumed I was at least 5 years younger, and now I look like I am 40 even though I am only 28. A girl serving me at a coffee shop (about my age) called me 'mam' the other day. This whole 'mam' thing started after the damage, before I was always addressed as a 'miss' and I used to get ID'ed at the liquor store and bars all the time (the legal drinking age is 19 in Canada btw) - that obviously doesn't happen anymore.. I am thinking of getting a fat transfer in a couple of years (after I completely heal from the damage and will be able to take time off work), but some of the reviews regarding this procedure scare the crap out of me as well. Having gone through what I went through, it's really hard to trust anyone else with my face. At the same time, the life has been sucked out of my face and my youth was literally stolen from me by this horrible machine and I really want to do something about it.. I can't believe that I am reading the same stories from people who suffered from this damage back in 2008 and these machines are still around - if they were banned back then, I wouldn't be in this situation today. I was severely depressed for a good 4 months, and thankfully, just recently I started to find hope, but much of it resides in the fact that I will one day be able to get a fat transfer and that the texture of my skin will get better with time. I know some people say it gets worse with time, but I have seen some minor improvements in some parts of my face (at least where the damage is less severe). I've narrowed it down to using sesame oil to remove my make up (can't use cleansers, they irritate my skin), using a Kiehl's microdermabrasion scrub (if you decide to use it, be very gentle - build up your tolerance, and don't use on extremely dry skin - can cause more damage than good), Yonka's hyaluronic acid serum, and going to a steam room regularly. Also, I started doing this several months after the damage - you don't want to start "treating" it too soon or you'll make it worse.. All these have helped a little, but this damage is like nothing I have ever seen before - it's very resistant to treatment (although I haven't tried anything harsh to treat it, I read that many people who have tried TCA chemical peels, etc. had a hard time getting rid of this horrid texture). Anyways, this is my sad story - just another victim of the cosmetic industry. If anyone has any suggestions in terms of finding the right fat grafting surgeon or if anyone has been successful in treating the crazy lined laser/IPL damage-type texture, please comment below. I really hope that this review will help someone. If I had known that this "lunch-time" procedure can lead to such devastating consequences, I would have never, ever let this device touch my face...

Decided to add some photos

Sorry for hiding my face, but as I mentioned I was traumatized enough by this experience, really don't want people I know seeing my photos on here and recognizing me. Although the damage is obvious, I prefer not to talk about it too much, except for the people that I am closer with. As you can see from the pix, my face is totally flat and deflated - hard to believe that about half a year ago, I had chipmunk cheeks and looked like a teen. You can pick up on the textural damage from the pix, but it is not very clear as all of my pix are taken by a phone camera, which tends to automatically blend things out. It actually looks worse in real life. Hope these prevent people from getting this horrendous treatment..

please watch this

I think it's very important for people considering IPL to watch this video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ikR4m9XhmY - it talks about 100s of cases of IPL and laser burns being investigated. As for my experience - I have stated before: the individual that used the IPL on me had 14 years of experience, she also used the lowest setting, so although experience can be a factor, I think it depends on a lot of other factors and not necessarily your skin type - as I was technically the "perfect candidate" for this procedure - white, fair skin, etc. Please be careful or you may be very sorry - having to live with the damage for the rest of my life after having nearly perfect skin before this happened is really horrible.. I know others that went through this will agree with me

A couple of more videos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZrCKnVw0YE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUzcIaSMwkY - I know she is promoting her program, but honestly, I could have used something like this in the beginning stages of my damage. At least she acknowledges that we are damaged and that we are not obsessed with our looks. I have always been the 'low maintenance' type. I do believe in a healthy lifestyle and exercise, but knew very little about cosmetic treatments before this happened to me. After this damage, I became obsessed with the way my skin and face look. It's a bad spot to be in, but I hope these videos help anyone going through this.
Katherine

The medical aesthetician was really sweet and caring, but unfortunately, her and many other practitioners using these devices to treat people don't realize the disastrous consequences that can result either immediately after treatment or years after.. Don't assume that if you go to a doctor, you are better off.. Just read the stories of people that DID go to doctors for this treatment - it's the devices themselves that destroy people's faces..

1 out of 5 stars Overall rating
Was this review helpful? 5 others found this helpful

Comments (69)

Sort by

i hope url heal. i had stem cell graft five days ago for the fat loss. i think its a good idea to heal the texture before getting grafts for the fat loss but i decided to just get the graft in hope that it will help the textural damage. even if it doesnt i can always baby my skin after the volume and fat loss is restored. good luck with whatever ur choice may be
  • Reply
Does anyone else have painfully dry skin?!?! Like to the point where I cannot smile my cheeks won't allow it and they kind of get pushed down and it looks so funny. And the burnin and constant tingling?!? Feel like I'm losing my mind I have no idea if facial caused my damage or one yag session on nose I keep looking online now I'm thinking demodex bc of the constant tingling or burning?!?! My skin is dead feels like rough sandpaper nothing will sink in at all!!!! I won't leave my house
  • Reply
I had painfully dry skin and also had a hard time making facial expressions. It was horrible. You have to baby your skin. Try to find some sort of a mild moisturizer or oil that works for you. Almond oil worked for me, but your skin might like jojoba or emu oil more (I couldn't tolerate these two). When you start using some sort of moisturizer, it will be easier to make facial expressions. Make sure you are not doing any exfoliating treatments at least for a few months and don't use any harsh/drying cleansers. You will notice that after a few months your skin will look more alive. Once this happens, you can start very mild exfoliating treatments and build up your tolerance to get rid of the scarring/damage. I had the burning and tingling too for several months. It went away only recently. As for not leaving your house - I was in the same situation. It's a tough place to be in, but you need to adjust and understand there is hope to both treat the damage and to get back to being yourself. It took me like half a year to feel more or less like myself and to start slowly moving on from this disaster. Once you get to this point, you are past this panic mode, you will be better at finding a solution. When I was panicking - I spent a ton of money on useless products and treatment (I didn't do anything harsh, but just facial and other things that only made things worse). Again, the best thing you can do is baby your skin for a couple of months. I know that if you look into scarring it will say everywhere - the sooner you treat it the better, but you cannot treat scarring before your wounds have healed, so you need at least a couple of months to be really gentle to your skin to help it rebuild itself and then you can start treating it. Trust me this is the only way. I learned the hard way
  • Reply
I guess my biggest reason why I'm panicking is because I'm not sure if I'm treating the right thing. Why is every derm saying contact dermatitis and to put a steroid on? I'm so scared to do this and only want to baby my skin but part of me wonders (mostly about the burning and tingling) if imdoing more harm than good by not using steroid. All I have to go on is that this painfully dry skin and texture started exactly 4 days after my facial and has only gotten worse! I tried Togo back to my regular hauschka routine.. Skin couldn't take it.. Even right after lathering up emu oil my skin is tight.. Sooooo tight... Any suggestion about very good moisturizer? I've tried cerave but the parabens scare me. I even used psoria gold for 2 weeks no help no harm but I'm scared that's even too much. I switch products every few days I know this isn't helping I just don't know what to do anymore. No clue what this is i even went and had blood work done thinking I had some autoimmune thing
  • Reply
Clear & Brilliant leaves me with sandpaper for about a week. I use Skinceuticals post procedure 1 wk. See below. Gentle cleansing with oil followed by generous hydra balm moisturizing and no makeup. In 1 week or less I'm as smooth as can be. A good practitioner will treat you with this stuff before you leave - like the Skinceuticals moisture mask. But when you get home you have to do your own post treatment!
  • Reply
Stay far away from lasers. Someone posted recently that the best procedure is no procedure if you have decent good skin. I agree completely. Good luck
  • Reply
I am very sorry that you had a negative experience. I had two IPLs done in 2012 and followed up with about three in 2013. I am 59, and hoped to address the issue of age spots. All-in-all, I found IPL less than the "magic bullet" it seems to be with some people's freckles. I was told that if you didn't get the result after about 3-4 treatments - it wasn't going to happen. So I switched treatments. At this point, I've had a number of different lasers run on my face - one time only - in one spot on my neck - I got a burn. I have Skinceuticals after-care products designed for these treatments - and they worked to calm it down - and in time it faded. That particular operator admitted that she was VERY aggressive on her own body and didn't mind the long recovery. Ok - but I did! While I've also been losing weight, my face is thinner but the good news is it's minimized marionette lines. Rather than fat transfer - perhaps you should investigate the new Juvederm Voluma - designed for cheeks which apparently lasts up to 2 years. Now, you won't be able to have any more of these procedures probably - because I do think the more penetrating lasers will melt the stuff - although some doctors say no. All these lasers are a kind of "controlled wounding" - and they may take months to resolve into "final results". You may have, however, been more "wounded" than necessary. Currently, I like Clear & Brilliant - which is less invasive somehow than IPL. Yes - at first your skin will have the texture of sandpaper. That lasts maybe 2 weeks during which time I'm on the Skinceuticals post-procedure repair program. But I've seen additional fading of those pesky age spots. Skinceuticals also makes a botanical (green colored) "serum" to put on them which seems to help with fading. They may never disappear 100%, but are most definitely reduced over my starting point in 2012. A home remedy that I use between laserings or facials etc. is to mix coconut oil with baking soda. It makes an excellent and gentle exfoliating scrub. I finish it off with organic apple cider vinegar straight out of the bottle! I would describe my skin as delicate (I am very prone to contact dermatitis) and I'm very fair. So, these procedures can be done safely and effectively - but like anything else, they can also go off the rails. I would recommend you find a good cosmetic dermatologist - one with an MD - to discuss your lingering issues.
  • Reply
Wow, I think I would be way too scared to put my skin through all that, but if it works for you then I am glad. Although, I really appreciate your suggestions, after this experience I will never let another laser touch my face again. This has been a terrible experience and I am not willing to risk going through this again. The coconut and baking soda scrub sounds like a good idea though and I may try it in the future. Thanks for your suggestions!
  • Reply
Give it 30 years. I go down my neck to d├ęcolletage, and from my hands up to my elbows. I usually "dip my toe" in a procedure to see how it goes. Always specify to "start gentle" - i.e., with most gentle peels. And there is truly a cumulative effect. Most all of these say 4-6 - and one of the very reasons is that they "fracture" the light into tiny beams - which means it is not applied evenly over your skin - and that's why multiple passes are made. It's a bit like sticking a fork into a piece of meat all over at different angles to "tenderize" it. The best practitioners will thus alter their passes - say from horizontal to vertical, etc. - not to keep hitting the identical spots - but to cover more area. Certainly everyone has to figure out what works for them. After trying dry microdermabrasion a time or two, and then three hydrafacials - I wouldn't give the dry version another glance. You get so much more bang for your buck with the hydrafacial. And actually, all these things do require some kind of "upkeep" - just like your mani or pedi. So the fact that I've spread it all out over 2012, 2013 and now into 2014 - I consider I'm now on "maintenance". BTW, I also never do these things as often as anyone says I theoretically "could". Partly it's a budgetary issue, but a big part of it is to allow my skin to heal properly before another "wounding". And some of those lasers are definitely more "wounding" than others! If you are squirming and jumping off the table even with lidocaine - or not seeing the results you want after about 3 treatments - then you bag that one. It's not a one-size-fits-all deal.
  • Reply
I think the emotional trauma form this experience will continue to linger in my mind for the rest of my life, so I doubt that I will change my mind about lasers even in 30 years. I don't doubt that some people have good results with IPL or laser, but I would never want to face those risks again. I did ask the practitioner to start gentle when I got the IPL (I asked her to use the lowest setting), but that didn't help.. I have started lactic acid peels (20% - very mild) and they do help a little. I stopped for now because I've been outside a lot and it's summer, but I will resume later on. Just ordered another skin care line and am hoping this one will help. I want to go back and forth between babying my skin and doing some mild peels, perhaps moving up to something stronger down the road like retin a. I was actually thinking of getting a hydrafacial, but need to read about it first. I am worried that getting it might cause issues as well. As for lasers, again, not for me. Thanks for again for your input though :)
  • Reply
Hydrafacial is completely different than laser. It's like microdermabrasion with liquid - specifically serums. And it involves a peel up front. So if you are sensitive to certain products or peels - avoid. But everyone needs a good post procedure for laser. I use Skinceuticals which includes a glorified Aquaphor type thing I apply liberally night and day for about a week after while only using the gentlest cleansing oil and avoiding makeup.
  • Reply
Hi all, I'm at a loss for what happened to my face and wondering if anyone could help. I did have on yag laser session, but ONLY on my nose for a few broken caps, it never touched anywhere else. It scabbed a bit then they fell off after a few weeks. A month after my laser session I had a hydrafacial, which is a very gentle facial with 7% glycolic. 3 weeks after this, I had another hydra, this time with 14% glycolic. EXACTLY 5 days after this facial, my skin began to freak out, and has never gone back. I had such oily soft skin and it turned completely dry. I literally don't even sweat on my face anymore, I used to sweat like crazy when I exercised, NOW NOTHING. my entire face is dry, cheeks have turned into enlarged pores and weird texture, fine lines under eyes (I'm guessing from dehydration of skin) BUT HOW could the laser do this if it didn't touch anywhere near there? Also, here's the kicker. My skin burns like crazy now. In the cheek area, no idea why. It's become so sensitive I can literally use nothing on it, I've tried the honey, emu oil, everything. I don't understand what happened to me. two derms say I have great skin and they think its contact dermatitis. I know my skin and this is not it, it has aged 20 years overnight, I can't smile without it hurting because its so dry. I have a hard time believing it was the facials because the first one was completely fine and i've read stories of people using 70% glycolic acid and being fine within a week or so. This is literally 2 months after the facial, and 4 months after the laser! I mean wouldn't any of that damage or burning feeling come after the laser, not 2 months later? I am so depressed, on the verge of losing my job, I can't look in the mirror, I have stopped talking to friends and family, my skin has changed overnight and no one can tell me why. I am devastated. Please help if anyone has a similar situation.
  • Reply
I've had 3 of those hydrafacials - and it's more like microdermabrasion and not a "laser". I always specify the "gentle" peel only as I have very delicate skin. No probs. They do use various serums and your dermatologists may not be wrong that you've had an allergic reaction to one or more of them. Have you tried Skinceuticals "after procedure" regime? Or coconut oil?
  • Reply
I would find an oil that your skin "likes" emu or almond or olive oil. And just baby the heck out of it. Maybe talk to Carolyn, you can find her at her facial fitness website. She always writes back very quickly. She uses VERY gentle products to help rehydrate skin. My skin seems to like her products. Sorry for what you are going thru, I know how devastating it is! When I had problems with a peel I was told it was buried damage which was bs but I didn't know that so I tried a few more peels (to get under the damage) and it didn't help. These treatments help some but usually damages people with oilier skin types.
  • Reply
Hey Sara, in your case, I do think that it is likely that the glycolic caused the damage, since you only had laser on your nose. Lasers can be very damaging but I doubt that in your case this was the cause since you didn't have it all over your face. I know that you think glycolic can't cause this kind of damage, but I have read stories of people being damaged by 20% glycolic peel treatments - getting large pores, textural changes, etc. Like the others have suggested, I would suggest to baby your skin for now and then look into treatments. As far as everything else goes, please don't loose hope. This issue is not worth destroying your life over. I felt the same way as you before but I found a way to move on and you have to try to do the same. Although some damage is really hard to treat, remember that skin does regenerate and in your case it looks like it's peel damage and not laser damage. I have seen stories of people treating peel damage successfully, but it will take time. Believe me, it is better than laser damage because laser and IPL have the ability to go deep into the structures of the skin, so it is much more difficult to repair that type of damage. Just don't get anymore laser treatments and baby your skin for now.
  • Reply
Hi pammy, How long did it take for your skin to recover?
  • Reply
Im still trying to get it back to where it was. I doubt that it will at this point however my skin doesn't feel bad anymore as in it's not irritated at all and doesn't feel dry or tight or tingly. Use to alway have a burning tingly feeling. It took probably close to a year of doing pretty close to nothing to my skin which was hard because I have congested pores. I washed it once or twice a week and used oils to hydrate. My pores don't seem as enormous but still have all the dents and lines that the peels left me with. I derma rolled for a while and got results(I think this help with pores) but it's hard to keep doing as my face is beat red for dayss after. I'd love to get back to that routine. I wouldn't wash your face more then a ouple times a week with cleansers, just rinse in the shower or cool water splashes. Use an oil to remove eye makeup. I sorta like washing with manuka honey but I find it a bit drying not sure why. And try to find an oil your skin likes. My skin is really liking Carolyn's stuff right now, that could change. Keep it very simple for a while. And give your barrier or that dead layer of skin a chance to thicken back up. Your skin will probably start to feel better once it does. See, this is what I don't understand why are we all encouraged to exfoliate or peel off that layer? It's just dead skin? It serves a purpose and I wish I would have understood that before going about the business of "anti aging".
  • Reply
PammyT, you made some excellent points. I have tried a lot of the things you did - manuka honey, oils to remove make up, trying to wash my face less (I never really used cleansers to begin with, so that wasn't an issue), but yes, although, we all want to exfoliate, I am finding that leaving it alone is the best treatment in the beginning stages of the damage - especially when there is that totally dead layer just sitting on top of your face. I was too scared to do anything when my skin looked like that, when it started to look a little more alive, I ended up doing a few lactic acid peels and it helped a tad. Still a long way to full recovery though, but hoping that i'll get there. happy healing to you guys and try to stay positive
  • Reply
oh, by the way - I think the manuka honey is drying because it naturally contains AHAs, so be careful with it. It is somewhat of an exfoliant. And I tried dermarolling on a test patch a little too early in my 'recovery' and it seemed to cause more damage, so I never took it all the way. i may try it again down the road though, but again would start with a test patch.
  • Reply
I am 53 years old, and have had about 20 or 30 IPL sessions total starting about 12 years ago. None in the last 3 or 4 years. In my opinion, it is the operator of the IPL machine that makes the procedure successful or not. Also, don't have this procedure done anywhere but in the USA, preferably in or near a big city, not a po-dunk town in the midwest.
  • Reply
Hey, I am glad things worked out for you. You are one of the lucky ones. Unfortunately, there are many people like me that went to qualified practitioners (mine had 14 years of experienced and was supervised by a doctor). I live in Toronto, which is a large city with plenty of qualified practitioners. I am tired of having this debate (i.e. regarding how experienced/qualified the practitioner performing the procedure should be) - there are many people that have been damaged at a doctor's or plastic surgeon's office by these devices and others that walked out from the same office without any issues and perhaps even some improvement, as such I think there is a lot more that goes into this procedure than the quality/experience of the practitioner. Again, glad things worked out for you, but I posted this review to warn people of the potential risks associated with this procedure and not to debate various factors that go into it. All the best
  • Reply
Spot on lookingforsolutions.
  • Reply
So sorry your experience didnt meet your expectations. At 60 years of age, I had years of sun damage removed with 2 IPL procedures on my face. The first one was2 weeks before my daughters wedding. Wanted her wedding photo's to reflect a younger dad. About 98% of the sun damage amazingly disappeared on the first procedure, with a little swelling on the first day. Minor and fine wrinkles went away, along with several small veins, almost instantly. It's been 2 years, and my skin still feels good and looks great. In your case, the technician may not have used the best equipment, and/or didn't use the correct setting? The treatment stimulates collagen production, much like hyalouronic acid. I was advised that 4 treatments would result in brand new skin. The damage and healing process eventually replaces the top layers of the skin, and all the imperfections with it. You may want to consult a different esthetician, one with state of the art laser equipment and a good patient history. I know it may sound ridiculous to even consider it, but your skin may require additional treatments to get the effect you're looking for. I sincerely beleive laser treatments when performed correctly, are safer and more dependable than surgery. I'm also confident your situation is temporary, and you will find a solution soon. Don't give up, get out there and consult with more than one esthetician. And remember, you are your own worst critic.
  • Reply
Hello Harley Guy. I'm truly glad you had a great outcome with lasers. I'm a 41 year old male who had one VBeam procedure for a few broken capillaries on my face. I don't know what she did but I experienced exactly what lookingforsolutions did. The tech who did mine said she had 10 years of laser experience. So it seems like a gamble. If it goes wrong, there's no going back. It's pretty obvious on me. And a doctor just confirmed it.
  • Reply
I am glad that you had a good outcome. Unfortunately, many of us were not so lucky. I responded to debrajoye a couple of posts below, so feel free to read my response if interested - I explained to her why the experience of the aesthetician, the setting of the machine and the age of the machine are not the only reasons people are getting damaged by these machines - as my aesthetician had 14 years of experience, used the lowest setting and had a new machine. The devices themselves can cause the damage. I have also quoted a couple of dermatologists that agree that these machines cause damage. There is no way in hell I will ever let another laser/IPL machine touch my face. I watched my face deteriorate since I had an IPL treatment about 8 months ago and it still hasn't recovered. To me, IPL is just not worth it, especially if someone has decent skin - it's just not worth the risk. The damage can be devastating, whereas the positive results are not guaranteed. As far as "broken capillaries" go - I had 2 of them on each cheek before the IPL - after the IPL, I have them all over my face - my skin looks like my mom's and she is 30 years older than me... Anyways.. glad things worked out for you. Unfortunately not all of us were as lucky. All the best
  • Reply