IPL for Fair Skin Types?

I am fair skinned (high type II or low type III) and my skin turns red easily -- just 20-30 minutes in the sun without protection and I'm red (more pink than red, though). I have a few spots of hyperpigmentation that I want to get rid of, and Photofacial (IPL) was recommended to me by my dermatologist. However, I had been exposed to the sun (unexpectedly, as I use SPF 30 everyday) and was told to wait 2 weeks and wear sunblock. I'm scheduled for this treatment in about another week.

Now, after researching this website and others, I have begun to wonder if IPL is the best treatment option for me. Am I at risk for more hyperpigmentation? Since wrinkles are not a problem for me, I do not want a treatment that has a lot of downtime, unless someone thinks that is best for me. My main concern are the dark spots, a few broken capillaries, and maybe some improvement in texture would be nice as well. Help. I'm confused and anxious and appreciate your expert opinions.

Doctor Answers 4

IPL is a perfect treatment for you!

Sounds like you are an ideal candidate for IPL. Fair skin with hyperpigmentation, few broken capillaries, and not much of textural changes - this treatment was invented for you! You usually need several sessions, spaced 3 - 4 weeks apart, and you need to be careful about sun exposure before and after treatment, just like your doctor told you to do. You should see nice results with this.

There is usually no downtime. If you wanted to get improvement in skin texture as well, you would need to upgrade to a more invasive laser, like Active FX, fractional CO2 resurfacing. It will come at a price of several days of downtime and much steeper price tag. Enjoy your IPL treatments! You should do very well.

Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

IPL is an excellent treatment for you

Thanks for your question.

Yes, IPL is an EXCELLENT treatment for you. It will work great on the broken capillaries and the hyperpigmentation that you have, but I wouldn't expect too much of a textural change with this laser. Some research has been able to show a textural change and beneficial anti-aging effects by using aminolevulanic acid (ALA) prior to the IPL procedure, but that is considered a more advanced IPL procedure that you may have not discussed with your physician.

IPL is ideal for fair skin types and for what you seem to have. However, your dermatologist is perfectly right -- you will want to stay out of the sun and wear SPF 15-30 sunscreen for 2 weeks BEFORE and AFTER the procedure. The reasoning is that the IPL does cause some inflammation that may lead to some darkening, that may be more likely or will persist with sun exposure.

In short, with what you want to accomplish, your fair skin type, your wish for minimal downtime, IPL is an excellent choice and should provide you with good results. Good luck!

Don Mehrabi, MD
Beverly Hills Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 1 review

Indications for IPL laser treatment

IPL or photofacial laser treatment mainly works to partially shrink and collapse superficial blood supplies on sun exposed areas of face, neck, and or chest. Therefore, IPL laser is perfect for a fair skin individual with rosy complexion. IPL is also helpful to remove sun spots. However, IPL may not be as usfullyj in wrinkle or pore size reduction.

William Ting, MD
Bay Area Dermatologic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

IPL for fair skin types

The IPL is a fair option for you for the skin issues you are describing.

With that said, we view IPL as the printer/fax/copier/scanner of the cosmetic world and would recommend the following lasers for your issues. Rather than trying to treat many skin conditions (like the generalist IPL devices), these lasers are more specifically designed for just these conditions.

  • Sun/age spots - q-switched lasers for permanent resolution (IPL is temporary)
  • Broken capillaries - Pulsed dye or KTP lasers.

You may ask yourself, why is IPL so highly recommended? The reason we feel is that many practices that do not focus on laser procedures do not want to buy the best laser for each skin condition they treat. They'd rather buy just one device and hope that it can address a bit of everything.

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