Beauty Roadtest: IPL

In the 70’s, when I was a wee babe in Australia, if anyone made it out the door wearing any type of sunscreen it was a major miracle. Luckily, I was so pale that I bordered on transparent, AND my dad worked for Estee Lauder; so there was a small semblance of knowledge about the sun and it’s effects, though sadly not enough! Now in my mid-40’s, it’s so easy to go down the bathroom-mirror rabbit hole, where I scrutinize every broken capillary, every crease and every freckle (“that wasn’t there yesterday!!”). For the record: this behavior gets me nowhere except making me want to Sylvia Plath my way to the closest oven.

Then I read about IPL (Intense Pulsed Light). IPL is a non-ablative treatment that uses high intensity pulses of visible light to improve the appearance of various skin problems like fine lines, sun damage spots, broken capilaries, freckles and rosacea. IPL works by using short blasts of a polychromatic, high-intensity light to penetrate just below the skin's surface, damaging either the melanin that makes up brown "age spots" or the blood vessels that create broken capillaries.  When the skin gets zapped like this it immediately tries to repair the damage and the end result is a more even skin tone (thumbs up). IPL is also touted as a way to boost collagen; the stuff in your skin that keeps it plump and youthful and starts to deplete at age 25 and by age 40 isn't being produced by the body at all (cue hysterical screams). 

Now, I'm usually a COMPLETE cynic when it comes to most beauty things, but I really think this is the business. First of all, it’s not too drastic, and I'm one of those people who'd rather do something subtle, but maybe more often, over a once-off crazy deal. A few years back, I was convinced by a friend to join her for a different laser facial and, afterwards, looked like I’d shoved my head in a waffle iron. I had to spend 5 days in my house watching "Law & Order SVU" (dun dun) while I peeled and healed. The end results weren't even that amazing, except I did develop a newfound ability to name the outcome of any Law & Order SVU episode within the first 5 minutes.

 Look at how serene I am with zero makeup and in head-to-toe medical grade paper garments!

Look at how serene I am with zero makeup and in head-to-toe medical grade paper garments!

Anyway, I get my IPL done at "Forever Young" in Los Angeles by the sweet-voiced and non-pushy Dr. David Rahimi. The Dr. says most women start IPL treatments in their 30’s or 40’s, and it helps in diminish sun damage, as well as slowly rebuilding your collagen and firming skin. It's not going to take 10 years off your face but you'll look like a better version of yourself (really all I want). 

 Post laser I’m given a friendly rubber glove full of ice cubes to cool my face. It just feels a bit sunburn-y for about 10 minutes. The red blotchy bits are worst on my cheek and neck but I don’t think anyone who doesn’t know me would even notice

Post laser I’m given a friendly rubber glove full of ice cubes to cool my face. It just feels a bit sunburn-y for about 10 minutes. The red blotchy bits are worst on my cheek and neck but I don’t think anyone who doesn’t know me would even notice

Finally, here’s the stats that everyone wants to know:
How much does it hurt? Scale of 1 to 10... I’d say a 3. I can totally deal. The smell is a bit off-putting, a bit like burning popcorn.
How long does it all take? Well, you’ll get a numbing cream that soaks in for 20 minutes, and then the IPL takes about 15 minutes total.
What will I look like after? In my case, pink and blotchy, but mostly like someone who left the house after picking their face and not putting any makeup on.
What about tomorrow? Maybe one or two tiny scabs but nothing that anyone will notice.             Is it good for everyone? Since I'm quite fair my skin responds easily to IPL but darker skins need to more cautious with any light or laser treatments. Darker complexions (such as Asian or African American) can be prone to hyper pigmentation so make sure you go to a reputable clinic.
How long until I see results? I'd say give it a few weeks, and plan on getting another one in a 6 weeks, and maybe one or two more after that before switching to every six months. Dr. Rahimi says that once you're happy with how your skin looks and have had a handful of IPL treatments, once or twice a year for maintenance is all that's needed.
Should I buy the really cheap IPL on Groupon? Personally, I wouldn’t. I mean, anyone is wielding a laser-wand-thing near my face, I want them to be a doctor; I want them to have a state-of-the-art really-expensive equipment. AND, (call me a snob) but I want them to be busy enough that they don’t have to offer up Groupons to get business.
What’s the cost? It varies, but expect $300-$450.
What else? Well, wear sunscreen like a mad woman for a while since anything laser makes skin sensitive.
Finally, what’s your fave SUV episode? The one where Mischa Barton, as a young prostitute, tries to escape a serial killer.

Zap! Where the magic happens.