IPL Hyperpigmentation

I had a photofacial/IPL procedure done 4 days ago. I expected that my hyperpigmented blotches would be peeling off by now, but they still haven't. How long does it normally take?

Doctor Answers 32

It will usually take 7-14 days

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The “peppering” or darkening of the hyperpigmented areas can take 7-14 days to resolve. This is normal.

Depending on the amount of hyperpigmentation you have, you may need to repeat your IPL in a month. If you have a lot of sun damage, it can take 3-5 treatments. We recommend that our patients see our aestheticians for skin care in between their IPL’s.

The facial with or without microdermabrasion will help remove some of the crusted pigment and prepare the skin for the next IPL.

Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

IPL Recovery

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I would say from personal experience that the IPL treatment on my face took about 10 days to be 100% gone. Other parts of the body such as chest and arms can sometimes take even longer. Keeping the skin well hydrated and moisturized will help everything resolve faster as well. Usually around day 5-7 you can start helping the process along but using a soft washcloth or baking soda during your normal cleansing. Don't rush the process too much too fast. The IPL is a fantastic procedure that has no downtime and proves to have stunning results to the skin. 

IPL results depend on the true cause of your dark spots.

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If you are treating lentigoes (sun spots) with the IPL, they should reliably come off by about two weeks after being noticeably darkened for several days.

A less reliable result can be found with melasma, a different, more difficult, and biologically complex skin darkening that is historically tougher to improve. The results for this will depend on the skill and experience of your IPL provider, the wavelengths of the machine used, and the quality of your skin and pigmentation. Melasma may not reliably "peel off" like you expect. In fact, there is a small risk of the melasma darkening with IPL. This is because the pigment is seated deeper in the skin and not as easily targeted by the IPL.

If you do not experience the results you expect, make sure to review the process and results with a board-certified dermatologist.

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It may take 2 weeks for complete clearance

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After IPL, there may be swelling that lasts 2 days and redness that lasts 7-10 days. After 4-7 days the brown pigment appears to "rise" to the surface of the skin, but it may not start to peel off for an additional couple of days. Usually, the entire process is complete 2 weeks after you have the treatment.

Jordana S. Gilman, MD
Washington Dermatologic Surgeon

IPL Hyperpigmentation

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Depending on your skin type (Fitzpatrick Scale) your provider may need to treat you at a lower setting to avoid potential adverse effects like hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation. If this is the case it could take a little longer to see any visible pigmentation coming to the surface. Keep in mind in some cases the pigmentation that is drawn out and brought to the surface after the treatment can be very microscopic and perhaps you are just not able to visually see the positive changes that are occurring in your skin. Hyperpigmentation (brown spots) or melasma can be superficial which usually responds to the IPL fairly quick and you may notice the pigmentation coming to the surface within 24-48 hours. If the pigmentation is deeper in the skin the response may not be as visible until 7 days post treatment.

It may take a series of treatments

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The HP blotches may not come off during the first treatment, and may even get darker if it is Melasma. Hopefully you are pre-treating with a good bleaching cream plan and disciplined. Avoiding the sun and a sunscreen with SPF30 is a good start. Treatment of the face is not easy to remove if it is deep or multilayered and does take a series of treatments for best results.

Spots after IPL

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The reason it takes some time for spots (or hyperpigmentation as you put it) take some time to flake off is that the lesions that were being targeted in the treatment are not always right at the surface of the skin. The pigment is normally located somewhere in the epidermis (the upper layer of skin), but cell reproduction in the epidermis can take up to a couple months. Cell turnover is the time it takes new cells at the bottom of the epidermis to come to the surface, die and flake off. The pigmented cells that were targeted in the treatment rise slowly to the surface and flake off as they normally would and this can take a couple weeks.

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

IPL hyperpigmentation peels off after 1-2 weeks

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Sun spots treated with IPL can take 1-2 weeks to resolve. Initially over the first week you will see a "coffee-ground" like substance form where the sun spots once were. Gradually, over the next week to 2 weeks, the pigment gradually dissipates. A vibraderm or silk peel 10 days following the IPL can speed up the process.

Kristen A. Richards, MD
La Jolla Dermatologist

Depends on the individual..

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I agree with the other physicians.  Normally, my patients see pigment lift almost immediately and take anywhere from about 4-14 days to flake off.  I'd like to stress the importance of wearing sunscreen after any IPL treatment. 

Thanks for your question, and I hope you enjoy your IPL results!


Stephen A. Goldstein, MD
Englewood Plastic Surgeon

Peeling after IPL

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Sometimes the dark coffee-ground speckling can take more than a week to start to flake off.  I remind my patients that even though this is a no-downtime procedure, it is not a no-makeup procedure!

Stubborn pigment can be treated with a light microdermabrasion after 2 weeks or so, but most should flake off on its own after 14 days.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is another matter, so if you notice increased pigment and irritated skin, make sure to be evaluated by your doctor.

Best Wishes

Daniel J. Givens, MD
Dubuque Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 9 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.