Is IPL safe to use on ethnic or darker skin?
Doctor Answers 6
IPL is less safe in treatment of individuals with the darker the skin.
IPL is difficult on darker skin types. As a general rule, the darker the skin color, the less safe it would be. That's because unlike laser, IPL emits a broad spectrum of light, meaning multiple wavelengths. Shorter wavelengths tend to target melanin in the skin, which is obviously more abundant in a darker skin type. Instead of IPL, I'd be more likely to recommend laser just because it tends to be safer since you are only getting treated with a single wavelength of light, instead of multiple. Laser is easier to predict and control.
Safety of IPL on ethnic or darker skin types
We currently use the Palomar Icon MaxR Intense Pulse Light(IPL) hand piece on ethnic/darker skin types when treating for hair removal. Pre-treating and post treating with a lightening agent such as 4% hydroquinone helps reduce the risk of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation(darkening of the skin). Ethnic/darker skin types may require more treatments based upon the settings required to safely treat, but it can be done and with excellent results.
However, if IPL is being used for photofacial treatments to address conditions such as sun damage, vascular lesions, or acne, patients of Fitzpatrick 1-3 are the best candidates. The most effective treatments are spaced 3-4 weeks apart. And yes, IPL can burn any skin type based on the settings used, experience of the practitioner or sun exposure prior to treatment.
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Safety of IPL
At our practice, we do not currently offer IPL because we have lasers that can accomplish our patient's goals more quickly, easily, safely and permanently with lasers rather than IPL.
Examples of the conditions we treat and the outcomes can be found at the link below.
IPL to darker skin
"This answer has been solicited without seeing this patient and cannot be held as true medical advice, but only opinion. Seek in-person treatment with a trained medical professional for appropriate care."
IPL is more risky on ethnic or darker skin types.
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.