Risks, Complications, and Side Effects of IPL


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As with all medical and cosmetic procedures, with IPL hair removal there is some risk of side effects and complications. These will vary with the individual, and often depend on your skin type and colour. Some side effects, such as slight redness and swelling, can be expected and will usually subside within a day or two – however, there is a risk of other complications such as blistering and pigment change which may be slightly more serious.

Usual Side Effects of IPL Hair Removal

There are some side effects that are common and can be expected with IPL hair removal. These include slight redness of the skin, slight swelling, and a feeling of soreness. Your skin may feel a little like it is sunburnt. However, these kinds of side effects should only last a day or two. There is also a chance that there may be some slight pigment change in the area of skin where you had the procedure. This can either make your skin slightly lighter or darker in patches. Darker ‘patches’ will be more like dots of sun-tanned skin which have tanned in spots where the light acted. If your skin goes lighter, however, it will be in slightly larger, but nevertheless very small, patches, where your skin’s pigment has absorbed too much light. Darker skin tones are more prone to this than light ones. If your skin’s pigment changes, either darker or lighter, this should fade in time, but may take a few months.

Serious Complications of IPL Hair Removal

Thankfully there are not many major serious complications or risks with IPL, as it has been developed to be as safe as possible. Most side effects, such as redness or pigment change, will subside in time. However, there is a risk of the skin overheating from the light, which can cause blistering or bad scarring, and since your skin will be vulnerable and tender there is a risk of infection. If you think you see any signs of these, contact your practitioner immediately – or, failing that, your GP. In the case of infection, you may be given a stronger antiseptic cream. Bear in mind that darker skin tones are more at risk to blistering and scarring than light ones, as they contain more pigment which may absorb the light.

How to Avoid Complications with IPL Hair Removal

There are a number of steps you can take to avoid side effects and complications after IPL hair removal. At your first consultation with your practitioner, he or she should take measures to make sure you are not at serious risk of complications, such as by performing a test patch on a small area of your skin. If you are suitable for IPL, the risk of complications should be quite low. To ensure there are no serious side effects, your practitioner may use some form of cooling method, such as a cooling gel, a cooling spray integrated into the IPL machine, or a machine with a chilled tip. This will minimise the risk of your skin overheating as a result of the strong light. You will also most likely be given an antiseptic cream, and you are advised to keep the treated area out of the sun for a while. Tanning can increase the risk of complication, so be careful not to tan too soon before or after your IPL session. To soothe skin after treatment, you can use lotions, aloe vera, sunblock, or cold compresses, which will cool the area and reduce swelling.


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