Why Do I Have No Visible Side Effects After 1 IPL?

I just had my first IPL treatment for minor acne scars, light sun spots, and mild discoloration on fair un-tanned skin. It has been 4 days since the treatment and I have no brown "coffee ground" marks, scabs, redness, irritation, or visible side effects whatsoever. Did the IPL treatment work? Is this normal?

Doctor Answers 5

IPL Results

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You probably had a very conservative treatment, which is far better than an overaggressive one.  I would let your physician know.  You do need to see some skin changes (darkening of spots) to get a result. 

Birmingham Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 31 reviews

How soon until results from first IPL treatment

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Usually the first treatment is as much diagnostic as therapeutic, meaning the intent is definitely to treat the skin problems but the settings on the first treatment are more conservative because we don't know how your skin will react.

That said, I don't always see coffee grounds after treatments but there is still a decrease in brown spots when you look with the Visia Complexion Analysis machine. 

In addition, the increased collagen production that we see with IPL treatments usually takes several weeks to become visible.  Give it a little more time.  There should be more changes.  However, it does usually take several treatments to see dramatic differences.

Emily Altman, MD
Short Hills Dermatologic Surgeon

IPL for facial acne scars and sun spots

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Your doctor probably chose conservative mid energy levels for your first treatment. This is fairly common practice. During your next treatment, describe to your doctor this process so she/he may choose the next appropriate step of energy level increase. Additionally, the lighter your brown spots, the less of a reaction or crusting you should expect with the IPL, regardless of energy settings.

IPL helps remove red vessels and pigment spots on the skin.

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If you do not see much benefit from the IPL treatment, It may be because you have fairly clear skin to begin with or it may be that your treatment was too conservative.  There is also a great variation in types of IPL devices, operator experience and skin types.  All of these factors will contribute to your ultimate response to an IPL treatment.  Even in fairly clear skin, you will see an improvement in the texture and fine wrinkles with IPL.  This change will be fairly subtle.

Mark Taylor, MD
Salt Lake City Dermatologic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

What to Expect After IPL

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You are right to expect to see visible changes to the skin after your IPL.  The normal appearance is that of localized dark pigment spots known as 'peppering'.  Since this was your first treatment, I would not be too discouraged but contact your physician and let them know that you did not get a response after your treatment.

Normally, in the summer, we will be conservative in our settings for IPL.  Tanned skin will pick up the light energy and can lead to more intense treatments than anticipated.  I suspect that your physician was just being careful.

Joseph Campanelli, MD
Portland Facial Plastic Surgeon

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.