Can IPL therapy help treat active acne?

Acne is an all too common skin condition that not only affects teenagers but can persist into adulthood. It is little surprise that there are more and more acne treatments on the market, and also a number of treatments for related concerns such as acne scars. Amongst the most popular treatments available are prescription medications, chemical peels and Laser and Intense Pulsed Light IPL). 

Every individual is different, and the causes of acne can be very complex, requiring different methods of treatment to help eradicate the issue. IPL may more commonly be known for its efficacy in removing hair, but one of its other benefits is in the treatment of acne. Here, we ask the Laser Treatment Clinic to explain how IPL works on acne.

What is Intense Pulsed Light?

IPL is an energy-based treatment. It is non-invasive and carries no downtime. You may sometimes see it referred to as IPL or photofacial therapy. It emits quick pulses of a broad band light energy; this treats the acne by targeting the main pathophysiological cause. It can also be used to target a number of other skin problems, such as pigmentation and wrinkles. 

IPL is not the same as lasers in this respect. It emits a band of light of different wavelengths, whereas lasers only emit on a single wavelength. As a result of this, the pulses can be less focused and more scattered in comparison to those of a laser. 

How can IPL assist with acne?

Releasing a broad spectrum of pulsed light wavelengths, the energy-based device penetrates the deeper layers of the skin, under the acne and can offer a number of benefits:

Eradicates C-acnes – This is a skin bacterium that can assist the skin by preventing harmful bacteria from getting into the pores. When the IPL pulse penetrates the skin,  the light energy is absorbed,  and this creates a biochemical reaction that gets rid of the bacteria and reduces the chances of new acne forming. 

Regulates production of sebum – Sebum is a naturally occurring oily substance that is secreted by the sebaceous glands in order to protect and hydrate the skin. This is something that the body can overproduce. When this happens, it can contribute to acne. Treatment with IPL can help to decrease the capillaries that feed the sebaceous glands. This means that less sebum is produced, and the bacteria struggle to reproduce, thus leading to a reduction in acne-causing bacteria.

Reduce redness and inflammation – breakouts of acne can often leave red patches of skin, which are known as post-inflammatory erythema (PIE). When acne is picked or popped, more inflammation can be triggered, and this can lead to the blood vessels being increased and dilated. This can be treated using IPL with the light energy being absorbed by the dilated blood vessels, which will reduce their appearance. 

Lighten acne marks – Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is the term that is often used to refer to any post-acne marks on the skin. This happens when there is trauma to the skin, which triggers a natural healing reaction that can then lead to the skin overproducing melanin. The energy that is made by the intense pulse light will then be absorbed through the hyperpigmentation, and it will then break down into much smaller particles that the body is more easily able to remove. They rise to the surface of the skin and flake off over time, or the lymphatic system eliminates them, although there may be some darkening of the marks before they eventually become lighter. 

One thing that is important to remember is that although IPL therapy is a good treatment for acne, because everyone’s skin is different, you may not see results as quickly as others, but this does not mean that it won’t happen.