IPL Laser Recovery

time to recover from IPL laser? any info about IPL post-treatment is very appreciated

Doctor Answers 42

IPL recovery can take up to 2 weeks

The downtime and recovery time depend on how aggressive the treatment was. Temporary discoloration will occur for 3-4 days after the procedure and will flake off slowly. Short term side effects are reddening of the skin, temporary bruising and edema. Rare reactions such as scabbing and blistering are possible but not very common. Protecting the skin by applying sunscreen daily is very important after the IPL and will prevent from future sun damage.

Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 61 reviews

IPL recovery depends on several things.

The recovery from an IPL treatment depends on the patient and on the aggressiveness of the treatment.

Some patients react to almost any stimulus with a blush or red response. These people can expect to be red - either mottled or diffused like a sunburn - for a few hours after a treatment. The red response goes away quickly and can be covered with makeup until it resolves.

Some patients have a lot of brown discoloration - like freckles - near the surface of the skin. It is very easy for the treatment to turn these surface brown spots dark like coffee grounds for a few days to a few weeks. They float to the surface and flake off. Gone. This is more likely to happen on the hands, arms and chest than on the face. All of this can be covered over with makeup until the recovery is over.

The recovery period or downtime is also dependent on the technique used. An aggressive treatment, one that delivers a lot of energy to the skin, may prolong the downtime but yield a faster good result. A more gentle approach can still get a good result, but it may take a longer time and more treatments.

To get a good result from IPL it is not necessary to have a recovery period of more than a few hours. The patient's physical characteristics, wishes, and tolerance for downtime must be considered when designing the treatment plan.

Robert Swanson, MD - RETIRED
Bay Area General Surgeon

IPL Recovery Time

In most cases the recovery time is anywhere from a week and up to 3 weeks depending on the patient and what area of the body was treated. The face usually takes 8-14 days to completely recover and the arms, chest or legs take closer to 3 weeks. When you are finished with the treatment you will feel like you have a sunburn. That lasts a short period of time. You may have swelling based on how agressive the settings were during your treatment. You can usually return to work following the procedure. The spots will darken and flake off as time passes. It is a wonderful way to clean up the skins complexion if you suffer from sundamage or reddness.

Arnold R. Oppenheim, MD
Virginia Beach Dermatologist
4.7 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

IPL recovery time

First, a clarification: IPL is not a Laser but a device that emits strong bursts of visible light.

The recovery time after treating Rosacea or Melasma is minimal: a few to 24 hours, unless the Rosacea is severe, in which case it may take up to 2 days or longer, folllowing agressive treatment.

The recovery time after treatment of freckles (lentigos) takes several days, up to 10 days, including peeling , dark dots and redness.

It is important to avoid even minimal tanning for a week prior to an IPL treatment, and allways notify the operator if you have had a recent tan.

Also, I recommend that you avoid using Tretinoin including Triple Combination bleaching creams  (contain Tretinoin) as the resultant removal of some cells of the corneal layer (uppermost layer of skin) may  increase the penetration of the light.

Eugene Mandrea, MD
Chicago Dermatologist
4.6 out of 5 stars 5 reviews

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Post-Treatment

Thank you for your question.

Post-treatment recovery after intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment is generally minimal. Your skin may be red and warm for the remainder of the day and this usually settles down by the following day. Around three to five days after treatment the dark spots on your skin will become darker, often described as having a “coffee-ground” appearance. Over the next few days after they appear, the darkened spots will disappear on their own leaving your skin with a healthy glow.

It is extremely important to avoid sun exposure after IPL treatments, especially in the first two weeks, as during this time your skin is more susceptible to sun damage and at risk for permanently worsening the appearance of sun spots.

I hope this helps.

Steven H. Williams, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 49 reviews

Recovery can take 2 weeks

I tell my patients to plan on the full recovery taking 2 weeks. In some people it is less time, but better to be prepared.

IPL treats brown spots and discoloration-- the more brown you have the longer the recovery time. Initially after treatment the area is itchy, red and swollen for a couple of days. Then the brown pigment will rise to the surface of the skin, and feel dry and crusty, and then peel off. I liken the recovery to a burn. The area may also be very itchy but it is very important to not rub, scratch, or peel the skin.

Jordana S. Gilman, MD
Washington Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

IPL recovery and post treatment care

Downtime from IPL treatments are minimal.  Typically shortly after the procedure the patient will appear flushed, may have a bit of puffiness and brown spots appear darker.  It is possible to use sunscreen and cover up with makeup, immediately following the procedure.  In addition, a patient may even return to work after a treatment.  Over the course of the next few weeks (about 2) the dark spots will raise and there will be a "coffee ground" appearance to these areas and eventually slough away.  Gentle cleansers and moisturizers with sunscreens are the mainstay of topicals that can be used during this time.  I recommend avoiding the use of products containing AHA's and retinoids for one week prior and three weeks following an IPL treatment.  Occasionally, when patient's with darker skin types are treated, they may develop post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.  This is reversible and can be managed with prescriptions lightening creams.  In my patients with darker skin tones, I prescribe lightening agents one week prior and for one month post treatment.

Radha Mikkilineni, MD
Washington DC Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 1 review

IPL recovery

IPL can have little to no down time depending on the intensity of the laser. Face treatments up to two weeks of the treated area turning darker at first then slowly flaking off. Depending on the area of the body, the more aggressive the treatment, the more damage done to the top layers of skin, the more down time. Some of the conditions that can be treated are:

  • Sun damage induced depigmentation and vascular changes
  • Poikiloderma of Civatte
  • Acne Rosacea
  • Broken capillaries/telangiectases
  • Vascular and pigmented birth marks.

William J. Hedden, MD
Birmingham Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 321 reviews

Post IPL Treatment

Depending on what skin issues you are targeting you can have some mild redness and or darkened brown spots after treatment.  When treating pigmentation (brown/age spots) it can take 7-10 days for the darkened areas to exfoliate off.  There isn't true down time as we are not removing any tissue.  Make-up can be applied directly after treatment.  After treatment you may feel a sunburn like sensation which is normal and will subside.

Hannah Vargas, MD
Kansas City Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 46 reviews

IPL recovery time varies

IPL (intense pulsed light- NOT a laser) recovery time varies depending on your skin type, settings used and whether you had brown spots or telangiectasias (redness) treated.  Typically the initial redness and swelling goes down after the first 24 hours, but you may have peeling and the brown "coffee ground" areas for 2-3 weeks after the treatment.
Post treatment care involves keeping a good moisturizer on the areas treated as well as sunscreen and sun avoidance for at least 1-2 weeks.  Do not pick at the scabs or crusty spots as this may lead to scarring.
IPL in the right hands with the right patient can be an excellent treatment for brown spots as well as telangiectasias (redness).

Erica Linnell, MD
Bellevue Dermatologist
4.5 out of 5 stars 10 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.