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My Personal IPL Experience: Part I - The Consultations and Prep

My Personal IPL Experience: Part I - The Consultations and Prep


Born and raised a California girl of Mexican descent, I have spent countless hours in the sun – sans sunscreen, of course. When I was young, I worried that sun-block would hinder my ability to tan. In fact, I used to slather myself in baby oil and then lay out for hours on the trampoline. At the time, I thought it was genius. Now I cringe at the thought.

Recently, I decided to undergo IPL fotofacial treatments to reduce the noticeable effects of sun damage on my face. Though the dark splotches on my face could serve as reminders of sun-kissed vacations in the Bahamas, Miami, and Cabo, I prefer to rely on photos for those memories.

So, in attempt to erase the signs of sun damage, I underwent a series of IPL laser treatments to improve the appearance of my skin. Though the fotofacial is considered a non-invasive cosmetic procedure, it is important to do your homework before undergoing treatment. After all, it is a medical procedure that should be performed only by a qualified nurse or physician.

The First Consultation

After deciding that I was going to indulge in some serious skin care, I scheduled a consultation at a well-known cosmetic dermatology practice here in San Diego. I was considering getting a chemical peel or IPL fotofacial treatment, but wanted to find out what an expert recommended.

Upon my arrival at the facility, I noticed that the practice seemed to go overboard marketing the Fraxel laser resurfacing treatment. When I met with the nurse, she quickly went over the laser toning and IPL fotofacial treatments, before moving on to her well-rehearsed Fraxel pitch.

The nurse stressed the "collagen-stimulating" benefits of the Fraxel treatment as she went through her book of before-and-after photos with me. However, the $1,500 price tag (including a free microdermabrasion) associated with the procedure was a turn-off for me. I had already set a maximum budget of $300 for professional skin care treatment.

The nurse then recommended the laser toning, but at $650 a pop (also including a free microdermabrasion, with multiple treatments likely needed), that was a no-go for me as well. Finally, she went over pricing for IPL, ($500) but emphasized that I would not get the collagen stimulating benefits associated with the other two procedures - and a microdermabrasion was not included.

Not only did the first practice I visit seem overpriced, I did not appreciate that the nurse tried to sell me on Fraxel laser resurfacing. Laser skin resurfacing is known as one of the most aggressive non-surgical facial treatments, effective in reducing the appearance of wrinkles and age spots. Being in my twenties and fairly wrinkle-free, I didn’t think Fraxel resurfacing was the best treatment choice for me.

The Second Consultation

A few weeks after scheduling my first consultation, I decided to check out another practice. I immediately liked the nurse when she started stressing the importance of sun-block and said that wearing a daily moisturizer with SPF would be my first step toward improving my skin tone and preventing future sun damage.

After going over a few treatment options, including Cosmelan® Depigmentation and chemical peels, I decided to go with the IPL package the practice was offering – two IPL fotofacials plus a free microdermabrasion for $250.

It is important to know that most patients need multiple IPL fotofacial treatments to obtain their desired results. My nurse thought I would need three to four to achieve an even complexion.

The Microdermabrasion

Dermatologists recommend that patients undergo an exfoliation treatment a week or so prior to undergoing the IPL treatment to remove dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. This allows the laser to more easily penetrate the skin and lift up damaged areas.

Since my IPL package included a microdermabrasion, I scheduled the treatment with the practice's esthetician for one week prior to my first IPL procedure.

The microdermabrasion appointment is relaxing. The face is cleansed before the microdermabrasion "wand" is used to slough dull skin away. Although the device uses micro-crystals to exfoliate outer layers of the skin, I think it feels like a high-powered vacuum is used to suck the pores clean.

After the esthetician used the wand across my entire face, a calming gel was applied and allowed to set for a few minutes. Finally, my face was cleansed again and moisturizer applied.

Immediately after the microdermabrasion my skin felt softer and even looked clearer.

The Next Step…

Now, I must face the less pleasant portion of my treatment plan – laser treatment.

I know people who have undergone laser treatments. In fact, I underwent LASIK surgery a couple of years ago, myself. Laser treatments don't feel particularly rejuvenating or spa-like when you are getting zapped. And there is a reason why they are considered medical procedures that must be performed by a nurse or physician.

So, are you interested in finding out if the IPL laser treatment is painful? Want to know if the procedure is effective in reducing the appearance of sun spots? Check out part two of my personal IPL fotofacial experience to find out!

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