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Reverse sun damage with IPL


The service: Intense pulse light (IPL) therapy

What it is: A non-laser, broad band light (BBL) treatment designed to treat sun damage, pigment discolouration, age spots, small surface veins, rosacea, freckles and fine lines. Primarily used on the face, neck, chest and hands but can be used on other areas.

Treatment duration: About 30 minutes. Requires the use of numbing cream and antiviral medication if you’re prone to cold sores.

Who it’s for: This is the one to get if you’ve got signs of sun damage, including freckling, age spots, discolouration and fine lines. Fair to medium skin tones only. You can’t have a tan for this service, only recommended in non-summer months and at least 4-6 weeks after a sunny vacation.

Pain: Mildly uncomfortable during procedure, some areas may have redness, swelling or mild discomfort for a few hours immediately after the service but resolves quickly with an ice pack.

Downtime: You might see spots of redness and inflammation  immediately after the procedure and it’s recommended that you skip makeup application until the next day to give your skin a chance to rest, but if you’re fine to be makeup free, you can go on with your day as normal.

My rating: five stars      


I have always been diligent about a good skin care routine, including applying a good, high-SPF sunscreen in the summer months whenever I was outside. But I didn’t routinely use sunscreen after summer was over, and while I used products that contained some SPF protection for my face, I never thought to regularly apply it to my neck, chest and hands. 

By the time I hit my mid-40s, the skin on my chest and neck was noticeably redder and more uneven than the skin that was always covered by a t-shirt. By my early 50s, I was starting to get little spots on my hands. That’s what permanent sun damage looks like. And it increases my risk of skin cancer exponentially.

I’m already in a high-risk group for skin cancer: I am mostly of British Isles descent, with fair skin, blue eyes and blonde hair. Worse, I have a history of skin cancer in my immediate family (my dad had to have treatment for melanoma when I was a teenager.) 

Once I realized my skin was showing signs of UV damage, I became even more vigilant about using sunscreen on all exposed skin at all times of the year. I stay out of the sun when UV rays are strongest (that’s from 10 am to about 4pm), I wear sunglasses to protect my eyes, a hat to protect my scalp and seek out shady spots instead of full sun when I’m outside. Good to prevent more damage. Too late for what I’ve already got.

DID YOU KNOW? UV rays are present even on overcast winter days and can pass through your home and car’s windows. Even if you don’t get a sunburn, you still accumulate UV ray damage in your skin. Sun damage is the leading cause of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. With every sunburn, UV damage accumulates in your skin. And most of the damage is done before you turn 18.

So. What to do about the sun damage I’ve already got? That’s where IPL comes in.

I went to Bella Sante for an intense pulsed light treatment to treat the sun damage, age spots, areas of redness around my nose and tiny veins I noticed on my face and chest. This service takes a bit of prep: three applications of lidocaine cream before the treatment, and three days of anti-viral medication because I’m prone to cold sores and IPL can trigger an outbreak.

My technician was the talented and glass-skinned Chelsea, who outfitted me with some protective goggles and applied a thick layer of protective cooling gel before using the IPL wand to zap a few trouble spots around my nose and cheeks. Though your eyes are closed and covered in gauze and goggles, you’ll still see every bright flash of light (it’s intense!) And even with all that numbing cream, I felt those zaps. It’s sort of like snapping an elastic band against your skin. A little spark and then it’s gone. Once the trouble areas were targeted, she did an even pass all over my face, neck, chest and hands. 

After that, she removed the gel, applied some aloe vera gel and I was all done. Immediately after the procedure, my face was actually less red than normal, but my neck and chest were red, blotchy and felt like I had a bit of a sunburn. The discomfort was gone within a couple of hours. The next morning, I was a little red on my neck and chest and I could see where we zapped pigmented areas, they’re little clusters of darkness that lifted and disappeared in a few days.

DID YOU KNOW? Your foundation or CC-cream may contain sunscreen, but it’s not at a high enough concentration to provide adequate sun protection. You need a separate sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 to protect you from harmful UV-B rays. Get one that’s formulated for your face so you don’t clog your pores and experience breakouts. And wait 3-5 minutes for it to absorb before you apply other products on top.

I avoided any active-ingredient skin care (retinol, vitamin C, etc) and only use a mild cleanser, moisturizer and of course sunscreen for a week after treatment. This treatment makes you extra sun-sensitive for a few weeks, so be extra diligent with sunscreen on all treated areas, even on cloudy days.

The verdict: This treatment is a must-get to reverse sun damage and reduce your risk of skin cancer. It’s also the only way to treat age spots, areas of uneven pigmentation and freckling. Get this one in spring and fall every year to keep your skin tone even and help minimize fine lines. You must commit to using a good daily-wear sunscreen as this treatment will make your skin very sun-sensitive for four to six weeks.

See you all soon,


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