Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)

Intense Pulsed Light leads to beautiful skin! While some effects of light can be damaging—such as the ultraviolet radiation found in sunlight—carefully controlled applications of specific wavelengths can actually promote healthier, more beautiful skin. Intense Pulsed Light, known as IPL, at Charleston’s Germain Dermatology uses bursts of broad-spectrum light that can treat a variety of conditions.

As a dermatologist, Dr. Marguerite Germain understands that everyone’s skin is different, and every patient has unique conditions and aesthetic goals. IPL can handle a range of problems, from pigmentation irregularities to spider veins to unwanted hair. The heat significantly impacts the targeted skin condition, including:

  • visible veins and redness
  • sun and age spots
  • unwanted hair
IPL _ Germain Dermatology

When it comes to veins, hemoglobin—a red pigment in the blood—absorbs the light, which causes the stray vessels to collapse. Melanin in dark spots does the same, heating to a point where the pigmented lesions are destroyed. For hair, the energy damages targeted follicles, damaging them and preventing them from properly growing new hairs.

Because the light energy works its way into deeper layers of the skin, it leaves the outer layers intact. This makes IPL an effective non–ablative treatment that can lighten dark patches and even smooth away wrinkles and fine lines without damaging the surface.


Broad-spectrum means each pulse in an IPL treatment transmits multiple wavelengths, as opposed to a single wavelength, as with a laser. Pigmented areas within the skin absorb this range of light waves, which are converted into heat energy.

Since IPL works on pigmented cells, patients who choose the light-based treatment should avoid doing anything to darken their skin in the weeks before their session. This includes refraining from tanning and using tanning creams.

The treatment itself should last approximately 20 minutes, and many patients return for multiple sessions, spaced several weeks apart, in order to get the results they are seeking. The energy entering the skin creates a sensation likened to a rubber band being snapped against the treatment area. Topical anesthetics are available at the patient’s request.

There is no downtime necessary after an IPL session, but patients will again want to avoid the sun and other sources of ultraviolet radiation for days and weeks after their treatment. The treated skin may look similar to a sunburn for a few days, but this side effect will naturally resolve. Talk to Dr. Germain and her team about the benefits and risks of IPL to determine if it’s right for you.

Germain Dermatology offers other light-based treatments to suit patients’ needs, including laser acne treatment, Blu-U® Blue Light Therapy, and laser hair removal. Beyond light, there are chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and microneedling for skin rejuvenation, BOTOX® and dermal fillers for smoothing wrinkles, and Ultherapy® for tightening sagging tissue with ultrasound.

Treatments can be combined in a multitude of ways to provide customized results. Since every face is different, and every patient’s goals are unique, every visit to Germain Dermatology will be personalized and tailored to deliver specific results.

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