Does IPL laser make sunspots come back worse when you get in the sun again?

I got a few IPL treatments a yr ago and only had a few spots on my nose from living in Hawaii as a child and getting sunburns. Most went away but a few stubborn ones stayed. I went back in the sun after and I now I have them worse all over my face. I was wondering if it was the IPL that made those appear due to the sun exposure after the treAtments? And is there anything to combat this? I heard vitamin C cream? I physically can't not ever be in sun again but want them to fade Is it impossible?

Doctor Answers 5

Sun spots returned after IPL

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IPL treatment destroys the pigmented lesions, not the cells that create the pigment, so lesions can return and new lesions can appear with unprotected sun exposure.  Protected sun exposure means wearing protective clothing and the daily use of a SPF-45 or greater sunscreen.  Those being treated should be advised to discontinue indoor and outdoor tanning at least four weeks prior to treatment, during the treatment course, and four to six weeks after treatment.  This will reduce the chance of skin color changes and manifestation of new pigmented lesions.  Consult your practitioner or dermatologist to determine your best course of action.

Physical Sun Block!

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Great questions. As the others have already stated, IPL is able to destroyed the pigmented areas, but not the melanocytes (pigment producing cells) in the skin. The job of the melanocytes is to make melanin (pigment) in order to protect the skins DNA from being damaged by the suns UV rays. So even though the IPL was able to destroy some of the pigment, as soon as the cells are exposed to the sun, they start making pigment again. This is why after IPL treatments it is so important to wear sun screen. I prefer a physical sun screen which contains zinc or titanium. Using sun screen should help prevent the pigment from coming back when you're the sun. No one wants to stay inside all day!

Sunspots returning after IPL treatments

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While IPL treatments are wonderful to remove sun damage, they are not a permanent guarantee. When you expose yourself to sun again (and we all do, no matter how careful we are!) you will sometimes experience regrowth of existing sun spots, as well as the formation of new ones. Personally, I recommend one IPL treatment every year for my pigment-prone patients. Living in Denver (similar to Hawaii I would imagine) My patients accumulate a great deal of sun damage every summer, and in our practice we spent most of the fall clearing that sun damage out.
I prefer to use IPL treatments to control brown pigment in people with a fair skin tone because IPLs, in addition to removing the pigment, also stimulate collagen regrowth, and make the skin healthier overall. However, if patients wish to control pigment with topical treatments alone, a combination of retinol and vitamin C is generally the best option. If you decide to go this route, keep in mind that topical treatments will not be as effective as IPLs, and will take 12 weeks to work. Additionally, when you stop your topical regimen, the spots will all rebound, as topicals are suppressive, but not curative in the way that an IPL is.
On a final note, remember that the best offense is a good defense! Use a good sunscreen (at least 30 SPF, with zinc), wear a hat, and avoid sun as much as possible during the hours between noon and 3 PM.

Flora Waples, MD
Denver Physician

IPL treatments

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Thank you for your question esjay. IPL is a great treatment to address sun damage on the skin. A significant amount of improvement can be seen with an initial series of three to six treatments. This corrects a good amount of sun damage accumulated during a person's lifetime. But sun damage continues after this. For this reason I recommend that my patients have a maintenance treatment once every 3-6 months after their initial series of treatments. Those with fair skin are more susceptible to sun damage. Topical products such as hydroquinone, kojic acid, arbutin, niacinamide, licorice extract, green tea extract, bearberry extract, hydroxyl acids, and vitamins C and E can help. Please consult with a doctor for specific recommendations. Good luck!

IPL is a photofacial -- get Fraxel with Microneedling or combine with IPL and microneedling/PRP

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I suggest fraxel for sun spots and anti aging benefits.  Please consider a laser expert for treatment. Best, Dr. Emer.

Jason Emer, MD
Los Angeles Dermatologic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 202 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.