What Are Those Black Specks on the Skin After IPL?

What are the black specks (coffee ground looking things) on the skin after IPL treatment? Is that pigment?

Doctor Answers 9

Black specks after IPL

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Having black specks on the skin after IPL treatment is a good sign.  This means that the darker areas of the skin or the sun damaged spots absorbed most of the energy from the IPL.  The IPL is bringing the pigment closer to the surface of the skin.  Over the next days to few weeks, this pigment will flake off.   

Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 231 reviews

Black freckles after IPL

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It is very normal to have a darkening of some areas of the skin after an IPL treatment. You can think of the light generated by an IPL device as a huge controlled light bulb. When it flashes, the darker areas of the skin, freckles, sun damage and any other dark areas will absorb most of the energy. This is similar to a black sweater absorbing the heat from the sun on a bright and sunny day.

When the pigment (freckles, sun spots, etc.) in the skin absorbs this light energy from the IPL it can destroy the cells that contain the pigment. These dead skin cells come to the surface of the skin in a period of days or weeks after the treatment and appear much darker than the surrounding skin. As part of the normal process, these darker areas will flake off and be replaced by skin tissue without the pigment.

This in fact is how the IPL works to get rid of freckles and sun damage so what you are experiencing sounds perfectly normal.

Harold J. Kaplan, MD
Los Angeles Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Black specks after IPL are burned pigment

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When the IPL gets attracted to the sun damaged spots, it brings up the pigment to the surface of the skin. It kind of cooks the pigment which looks like black specks, resembling ground coffee or black pepper. It can take up to a week for the pigmentation to exfoliate or flake off the skin. This reaction occurs only after the first or second treatment and you should expect great results if it happens.

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"down-time" due to IPL

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Seeing "coffee grounds" or "peppering" on the skin after an IPL treatment is a fantastic result! That is exactly what we are looking to do in achieving clarity of superficial pigmentation. Once this pigmentation comes up to the surface it will then dry up and flake off, leaving the skin clearer and the pigmentation much lighter or even completely gone. We suggest doing two or three treatments to get optimal results. 

Dennis Gross, MD
New York Dermatologist
4.7 out of 5 stars 11 reviews


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The specks are the signs of success. They are the accumulated brown pigment from sun damage that have absorbed the light emitted by the light source and heated to the point of separating from the rest of the skin. This is a 2-3 day event of discoloration and will wash off after a few days.

More black spots after IPL, the better your face will look

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Patients are constantly amazed at how much sun-induced pigment they have developed over the years---and this pigment becomes very obvious right after an IPL treatment--the dark spots that you will see within a few days after the treatment will peel off and fade away, leaving you with much clearer skin.

Tobi B. Richman-Steinhardt, MD
Boca Raton Dermatologic Surgeon

Specks on the face following IPL

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The black specks are pigment that has been targeted and brought to the surface. This is usually a great sign that you'll have a great result. It can take up to 8-14 days for the spots on the face to fade and up to 3 weeks if you treat the chest, arms or legs. This treatment is a great way to "clean up" sun damaged skin!

Arnold R. Oppenheim, MD
Virginia Beach Dermatologist

Black spots most likely pigment crusting off after IPL

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Thanks for your question.

I think you are totally right. IPL targets pigment (lentigos, freckles) and will cause them to turn brown and flake off. Usually, patients see the bigger, noticeable lentigos flake off, but yes, there is scattered tiny pigment throughout photodamaged skin that will speckle and flake off as well. If you see this, I would consider your laser treatment a great success and continue to use it to remove the remaining pigment.

Don Mehrabi, MD
Beverly Hills Dermatologist

Black specks on skin after IPL = Great Result!

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I agree with the other doctors who have responded. The black specks are damaged pigment that is being sloughed off by your skin. As the skin proceeds through its normal cycle of exfoliation and replacement, those black specks will come off and your skin should be left with a more even appearance. Congratulations!

Jessica J. Krant, MD, MPH
New York Dermatologic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 41 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.