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IPL Photofacial

Our San Francisco Bay area patients now recognize the benefits of starting early to reverse sun damage and age-related changes of the skin. An IPL (intense pulsed light or “photofacial”) treatment is a light-based procedure that accomplishes these goals. An IPL photofacial will treat a variety of skin conditions including brown spots, capillaries, diffuse redness on the face, and even out skin texture and tone. IPL photofacial treatments can also stimulate collagen, reduce pore size, and improve the overall health of the skin.

What areas can be treated with IPL?

The IPL can be used to treat sun damage and age-related changes anywhere on the body. The most common areas treated include:

  • Face
  • Neck
  • Chest
  • Hands
  • Arms
  • Legs
  • Back

How do I prepare for an IPL treatment?

Because the light of the intense pulsed light is picked up by the pigment of the skin, it’s very important that you are not tan and that you’ve avoided the sun for a few weeks prior to your treatment. You should avoid any medications that make you photosensitive (sensitive to the sun) or medications that make you more likely to burn in the sun. You should stop using Retin-A cream for at least one week prior to your treatment. If you’re receiving Accutane® treatment, you’ll need to stop treatment at least six months prior to your IPL procedure.

(If you’re using hydroquinone, it is fine to continue this medication.) Other medications which can make you more reactive to the intense pulsed light include certain antibiotics — specifically doxycycline, minocycline, tetracycline, ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin, levofloxacin, and trimethoprim, although others can also increase sensitivity. Hydrochlorothiazide and blood pressure medicines cardizem and diltiazem can also increase sun sensitivity. If you are taking any medication,you will want to review the side effect profiles prior to IPL treatment.

Treatment details

Dr. Hessler performs IPL photofacial treatments in her Palo Alto plastic surgery office. The procedure takes about 30 minutes. There is some mild discomfort during the treatment, followed by a hot feeling in the treated area.


After the treatment, you may feel hot in the treated area. This subsides within the following few hours. Occasionally there can be some mild redness of the treated areas awhile after, although this is not always the case. Some of the smaller freckles will turn darker and look like a coffee ground sitting on the skin, and these usually flake off within a week and leave clear skin behind. Occasionally the skin can remain red for a longer period of time.


The most important action you can take following your IPL treatment is to avoid the sun. You can go outside, but it’s important to wear a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 or greater at all times, along with physical blocks such as hats.

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