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Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Acne Treatment: What Is It, And Is It Right For You?

If you are one of the 50 million Americans affected by acne, you’ve probably tried just about every remedy. But have you ever tried IPL acne treatment?

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Acne Treatment: What is it, and is it Right for You? 

If you are one of the 50 million Americans affected by acne, you’ve probably tried just about every remedy. But have you ever tried IPL acne treatment? 

Acne-causing bacteria can wreak havoc on your face and body. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) acne treatment is a simple, non-invasive, and effective procedure that works to kill bacteria and clear the skin on the face and body. It diminishes discoloration and redness caused by acne, and can even the texture of skin affected by acne scarring.  

But what is IPL acne treatment, and is it right for you? Continue reading as we explain the answers to some common questions people have about IPL acne treatment. 

  1. What is IPL?
  2. How does IPL work for acne?
  3. What is the treatment like?
  4. What results can be expected?
  5. Are there side effects?
  6. Is it right for you?

1. What is IPL?

Understanding the history and technology behind IPL is the first step in understanding what IPL Acne treatment actually is.  


IPL technologies have significantly evolved since their introduction in the medical community about 2 decades ago. The first IPL device was FDA approved in 1995 for use in treating lower extremity telangiectasias, more commonly known as “spider veins.” A year later in 1996 was the first report of an IPL device being used in a dermatological setting. It was successfully applied in a German trial to treat a group of patients with treatment-resistant “port-wine stain” birthmarks.  

Since these initial inceptions, IPL devices are now safely utilized for an array of clinical, dermatological, and cosmetic applications. Some of these applications include minimizing or removing:

  • Acne
  • Birthmarks
  • Stretchmarks
  • Liver or age spots
  • Broken blood vessels
  • Discolored skin
  • Dark spots from hormonal changes
  • Fine wrinkles
  • Redness from rosacea
  • Scars 
  • Spider veins, varicose veins
  • Unwanted hair


Unlike laser treatments, IPL devices use more than one wavelength of pulsating light. This means it can treat a wider range of skin conditions at the same time.  

High-intensity light sources in pulses are produced by electrical currents. The energy pulse released onto the skin generates heat, causing your body to get rid of unwanted cells (what you are being treated for) and boost collagen production. In this way, IPL devices can use light energy to target a certain color in your skin.  

Therefore, if you have red, brown, splotchy, or scarred skin because of a health condition, IPL therapy is an effective way to improve your skin color and texture without surgery.  

2. How does IPL work for acne?

One of the most exciting applications for IPL therapy is in the treatment of facial acne. IPL acne treatment works to significantly diminish redness and discoloration associated with acne. It also reduces acne scarring and the bacteria causing the acne itself, Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes).  

Essentially, the working mechanism of IPL acne treatment is selective thermal damage of P. acnes, which produce and store porphyrin. The intense pulsed light penetrates the hair follicles, targeting P. acnes by triggering porphyrin activation. This action helps reduce erythema in inflammatory acne, active acne lesions, and eruption of new lesions.  

3. What is the treatment like?

All technical aspects aside though, what is the experience of an IPL acne treatment process actually like? Thankfully, the procedure is easy! 

Your skin care specialist will first rub a cool gel onto your clean skin. You will also be given dark, protective eyeglasses to wear during your treatment. Then, your specialist will strategically apply light pulses from the IPL device to your skin. You might experience a mild stinging sensation from the pulses. Some liken the feeling to being snapped with a rubber band.  

Depending on the size of the area and part of your body being treated, the procedure is relatively quick. It averages around 20 to 30 minutes, with larger areas taking up to an hour. Although the procedure can be performed anywhere on the body, it is less effective on uneven surfaces. 

You might require about 3 to 6 separate treatments (about a month apart) to see the best results, depending on the severity of your condition.  

4. What results can be expected?

The effectiveness and results of IPL acne treatment vary from person to person. However, most people do experience a substantial improvement in skin tone and texture and a refreshed overall complexion. 

After the procedure, most people experience mild redness, swelling, and sensitivity much like a sunburn. But this typically fades in a day or two.  

5. Are there side effects?

As with nearly any clinical procedure, there are possible side effects of IPL acne treatment. However, side effects are generally rare and mild.  

Side effects might include:

  • Bruising
  • Bleeding
  • Blistering
  • Change in skin color
  • Infection

6. Is it right for you?

The best way to find out if IPL acne treatment is right for you is to contact a skin care specialist.  

At Southern Secrets Medical Spa, we offer non-invasive IPL acne treatment to help banish acne, refresh your skin, and renew a youthful glow to your complexion. Contact our skin care professionals today to schedule a consultation to see how we can help improve your skin! 

Like this content and want more? Read more about other services we offer to improve your wellness and aesthetics on our blog!

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