My Photofacial Review
Ah, IPL. The powerful treatment that makes even grown men cry – so I’ve been told. Intense Pulsed Light is a technology proven to effectively treat redness, spider veins, and brown spots. My friend Lisa fondly remembers her experience with IPL as delivering “great results, and great pain!” Lisa did six sessions before getting married: “I was jumping off the table from the pain. But it did totally clear every last bit of pigmentation on my face.” Looking at Lisa’s clear and luminous complexion made me want to try IPL again.
Quick Facts: IPL treatments are also referred to as “Photofacials” or “Foto Facials.” IPL treatments boast 50-75% improvement rate in treating rosacia, sun spots, age spots, brown spots, chronic sundamage, wrinkles and skin. laxity. Cost per treatment at DLK on Avenue is $495.
It was about seven years ago when I got my first IPL treatment done at this place. Back then it was a relatively new technology. Because I had no prior experiences with laser treatments, it hurt like hell for me. I also recall the medical aesthetitian humming throughout my session, which made it seem like she was enjoying my torture! That event has caused me to forever associate IPL as the Intense Pain Laser! Never would I have imagined that I would come out of another IPL treatment saying, wow that was awesome, let’s do it again! But that’s how I felt coming out of my new favorite downtown Toronto clinic DLK on Avenue.
I saw Miriam, one of their senior medical aestheticians; a tall bubbly blond who has the aura of a fun-loving aunt. “Let’s zap those brownies off ya!” She said to me when we met. I like her already, I thought. I needed her positive energy more than anything because I went in there feeling so uptight that I even flinched when I saw the machine. I requested a stress ball and numbing cream, but Miriam made a good point about forgoing it: “The numbing cream takes an hour to set in. You’re already stressed about it now, if you wait another hour, your anxiety will worsen, and it will feel more painful than it really is. It’s best to get it over with quickly.” Solid point, right? So no numbing cream for me. But I got the stress ball.
Miriam explained how IPL works in layman’s terms, “IPL lures pigmentation to the surface. The spots will get darker in a few days and then shed off. You will probably need a few sessions to get rid of some the older stubborn spots.” See pic below…
I also have this weird little red spot on the top of lip, which popped up last winter. See it in the pic there on your right? A derm I saw last spring told me that it looked to be a popped blood vessel and usually those just go away on their own. It’s been almost a year now! I asked Miriam if something could be done…half expecting the same answer.
“Yup. After I finish the IPL, I’ll switch to a smaller ND-yag laser and zap it off.”
Just like that? I thought. Wow she’s confident. Miriam says it looks like a “cherry angioma”, which is technically a cluster of overgrown blood vessels that make a small bluish-red or cherry-red bump. Cherry angiomas are common on people around age 30-40. The smaller laser did abolish this red bump on the spot, but it felt very different from the IPL laser; imagine a Sharpie marker that sends out one big electric shock. Miriam did two quick zaps on the red spot, and just like that it was gone! (I did squeeze the stress ball with dear life, though). She passed me a mirror and I couldn’t believe my eyes…the stubborn spot that has made me reliant on concealer and lip liner for so long had vanished like magic. Miriam warned me that the spot will scab up in the next few days before possibly disappearing for good. She gave me an ice pack to-go and I was instructed to keep pressing on the spot for the next few days to break up the coagulated blood…or as Miriam humorously called it “cooked blood.”
How it felt
The best way to describe the sensation of IPL is to think of hot rubber bands snapping against your skin. Each pass is quick and swift, so you’re not lying there thinking yikes get me outta here. I think the key to having a good IPL experience is to have a skilled and positive technician who makes you feel at ease and somehow manages to get you to see the value in a bit of pain. As someone who has tried every pigmentation-reducing cream out there, I can tell you that topical products are simply not strong enough to yield the dramatic results you get from a laser that heats up the skin. My session was actually exciting because each time Miriam went over a freckle she said “hang in there, I’ve got to get these brownies here.” She was determined to get results and was fun about it.
~ Pain-O-Meter ~
My Results: A month-by-month account
Wed Nov 21 2012 My skin’s texture and tone felt completely transformed the following day. It was smooth, supple, and luminous. My face definitely looked rejuvenated in a way no facial from a spa has ever made me look. After a week, the stubborn sun spots on my check are about 50% lighter. Very exciting. The little red spot turned black over the next few days and then resurfaced as a much lighter spot a week later.
Tue Dec 4 2012 Got my second IPL treatment done with Miriam today. She went through the same procedure. But because I’ve been feeling under the weather lately, this time around the treatment felt more snappy around the middle of my face and the ND-yag laser used again on my little red spot on my upper lip felt especially painful (but really quick). The cherry angioma had gotten a bit darker (but less red) and more fuller since the last treatment. Miriam thinks its due to more blood filling the space. It needs one or two more blasts with the ND-yag laser to destroy all its tentacles, she says. Here’s hoping today’s zap session killed it.
Wed Jan 2 2013 Just finished my third session with Miriam. Two weeks ago I had Profractional resurfacing laser done on two deeply pitted acne scars (I had a bit of downtime; you need about a week to allow scabs to heal) and last week I had microdermabrasion with hydration (the SilkPeel facial at DLK on Avenue) for some holiday glowy skin. I’m starting the new year with the gold standard treatment for skin repair! The little red spot above my lip reacted well from last month’s IPL treatment; it is no long bright red in colour, it’s very faint and unnoticeable at first glance. But the sucker is still there, so I asked Miriam to give the cherry angioma a light zap with the ND-yag laser today. There are two stubborn freckles on my right cheek that have been getting lighter with each session. Miriam gave each spot two powerful zaps today. Looking at my before photos on my iPhone, I can already see the fading progress on each spot (sorry for the bad lighting)…
Another thing I’ve noticed with IPL is the buttery texture it leaves. My skin feels smoother and pores look smaller, and these results last for over a week. Typically spa facials feel good for about a day or two and then my skin returns to normal. I’m finding it easier to tolerate the zapping sensation too. I zen myself out by taking a deep breathe in before the zap and exhaling during the zap. Just breathe, it works!
Friday Feb 15 2013 I just got back from a weeklong sun vacation on Monday night, so this fourth IPL session is much needed to prevent any new sun spots from surfacing. This morning I saw Lindsay who I’ve seen twice before for microdermabrasions. She’s awesome. The 15-minute sesh was shockingly (no pun intended) painless! So painless that I asked Lindsay if she was using a lower setting than my last visit. Lindsay assured me that the machine was on the same intensity level as last month’s visit with Miriam, as each session is tracked in the machine’s hard drive. The only time it stung was when she zapped the middle part of my upper lip. And that little brown spot above my lip is nearly gone now. Lindsay refreshed me on what IPL is supposed to do too: “It’s mainly for reducing red and brown spots but it also provides an overall evening of skin tone. We use it a lot on rosacea patients to reduce the redness. The heat also stimulates collagen production to strengthen and plump up your skin.” Perhaps that’s why my skin can handle the sensation? Lindsay says, “Yes once you get past the first few sessions, they get easier to tolerate.” I’m happy to adjust the pain rating on IPL to…
Wednesday May 8, 2013 My fifth IPL session yesterday was quick. Dr. Kellett ducked into the room to check up on my skin, and to check the settings on the machine to ensure a worthwhile visit. Miriam focused on the bridge of my nose where a few tiny spots were showing. I love how smooth my skin feels and how tiny my pores look today.