Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A cautionary tale about IPL treatments

The following are parts of a long email I received from someone who was not a client in my salon, but someone who was in need of help with her skin post-IPL treatments. I lost touch with this person so I dont have a followup on how her skin is doing today, but I include her comments and my responses to help any of you who may have had unexpected and unwanted results from IPL skin treatments.

I was seeking the IPL treatment in hopes of reducing my pore size*. I was told at the office where I had the procedure performed that it could reduce pore size up to 80%. I asked about risks and the possibility of scarring and I was told there were no risks. This should have put up a very large red flag for me, but unfortunately Im only seeing that now.

*If you read anything about IPL, reducing pore size is not really something ittouted as doing. Perhaps laser resurfacing would have been a better choice here, but even then nothing can really reduce pore size—without the possibility of changing the skin irreparably. That the office where this lady had the procedure gave her an 80% pore reduction number makes me wonder about the credentials of this doctor and who else might be getting misinformation about the powers of IPL. And as she mentions, “no risks” should have been her first warning that something wasn’t quite right here.

I had four IPL treatments between January and April of last year. Since that time, minor breakouts I have around the time of menstruation leave depressed acne scars on my cheeks, forehead and chin, and the overall quality of my skin has deteriorated dramatically. It has lost elasticity and is now pock-marked with odd linear scarring present on my right cheek. All the changes are most pronounced on my right side.

Perhaps she sleeps on her right side. Even the pressure of sleeping on one side or the other after a skin procedure(s) could possibly cause a change in the skin there.

My dermatologist (who did not perform the procedure, an osteopathic physician** performed the IPL procedure for me) has seen the changes and agrees they are bizarre but as he is not a cosmetic surgeon, he doesnt know what to do with me. He stepped up my acne treatment program in an attempt to decrease all breakouts as these are now leaving scars and told me to wait a year and see if the scars fade. They havent. My skin has gotten very irregular and firm, again most pronounced on the right side.

**Dare I say, this should have been the 2nd red flag for this IPL seeker. An osteopath is a great doctor to see for joint issues or maybe a problem with your spine, but why this particular physician was giving IPL treatments, in my mind, only shows up as dollars signs.

So, the long and short of it is, this lunch-time no-down-time procedure has ruined my complexion. I recognize that these changes are probably permanent, but I would like your guidance and help regarding what to do now.

Had I been told that there was any risk of scarring, I wouldnt have had the treatment. I am very conservative generally when it comes to my skin, though I made a grave mistake in this case. Hindsight is 20/20. My dermatologist told me with the damage done, it would be a mistake to risk an invasive procedure to try to repair the damage (i.e. resurfacing), as I might come out worse than I went in.

If you have any recommendations I would so much appreciate it. I know these changes arent going to reverse, but my skin is damaged now and I need to be more attentive to it than ever.

What this lady experienced may be an anomaly. She may have had unique issues with her skin previous to IPL that made her a bad candidate for this light wave technique but the doctor went ahead anyway or simply wasn’t aware. It could be she was just unlucky and had a bad experience when many people have exceptional results with IPL. To her, none of this matters because what she went into the procedure hoping for is definitely not what she left with.

It is always disappointing to hear negative result accounts when it comes to skin care procedures since youre going in for an opposite experience. Rather than simply spending time on how to repair her skin (you really cannot reverse the damage done), I wanted to publish this emailers comments in hopes that if someone reading this is contemplating IPLor any facial procedureyou will think on it long and hard before going ahead.

I recommend she start (or continue) doing a good Basics and Extras program and focus on her sugar intake to keep the breakouts to a minimum, even though they usually happen around her period (hormone driven). I’d look for a qualified aesthetician who really knows her stuff. How can you tell? You might not be able to tell at first sight, but if someone tries to sell you on all kinds of skin care miracles, I’d look for someone else. But in a good aesthetician you may find someone who can help lead you to better techniques and even products to help with your skin issues. Scarring is a completely different animal, but if your skin is well taken care of and exudes a healthy glow, then perhaps you won’t notice the scars as much. A small consolation perhaps, but you have to start where you are and with the truth of the situation.
If you are reading this and thinking about changing something with the skin on your face, once it’s done—most likely it’s done and there usually is no going back. Be clear about your intentions as well as what and more importantly why you are seeking a change. In the case of this person, reducing pore size is next to impossible. The skin just doesn’t shrink like that, in fact enlarged pores only get more pronounced as we age.

Don’t set yourself up to say hindsight is 20/20. Perhaps foresight will compel you to wait and see and do more research on a particular procedure. Over time, you might find you don’t even want to make the change that you did just a year ago. No matter what you decide to do: be care-filled and cautious and do your homework and researchplease!

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