I got these Black Specks After my IPL, what are they?

Is hyperpigmentation a side effect of IPL? I had my IPL last week and I have some black specks on my face. What are they and when will they leave? I really hope that they do not stay around too long. If they do, I will have to go back to my doctor and ask for my money back. I did not spend all of that cash to have black spots on my face.


F, 38, Nevada

Tags:woman age 35-44 dark spots hyperpigmentation

Over time, different areas of our skin that may have been damaged by excessive sun exposure can cause what are commonly referred to as dark spots, brown spots, etc. These spots are most unflattering on the face, but can be equally annoying on other areas such as your chest, hands, and arms. IPL is an effective way to eliminate these spots.

IPL uses light waves to target problem areas by pulling the pigmentation up through the layers of skin until it reaches the surface layer and eventually flakes or crusts off. The quick flash of light on the skin has been described by many as being similar to the feeling of a rubber band snapping on your face. A numbing cream will be applied before the treatment begins, but you may still feel a little stinging.

After an IPL treatment, it can take the skin between a week and 14 days to fully heal. Immediately after the treatment, your skin may have some pink or red marks and you may experience a sunburn-like feeling on the areas treated for the first day or so. Some areas on the skin will look darker immediately and continue to darken over the next few days.

Some pigmentation -- similar to what you describe -- will darken so much that it will look like coffee grounds on the skin. After about a week, the dead skin cells will start to flake off. Don’t pick or scratch the areas, and for the best results, let the skin exfoliate naturally.

If you aren’t happy with the way you look after two weeks, you should return to the dermatologist or plastic surgeon's office that performed the procedure and have them evaluate your progress.

It's difficult for me to offer you much advice without seeing a photo of your condition, but the black specks on your face are typical results of an IPL treatment (Intense Pulse Light). If they have the look of coffee grounds, it's a good sign your face is healing correctly. They should start to flake off within seven to ten days of the procedure.

The doctor who performed the procedure should have explained the healing process in full to you. But if you have an issue or believe something isn’t quite right, then by all means you should go back to their office and have them examine you.

For those not familiar with popular skin treatments, there are several that help improve the tone, texture, and clarity of your skin. Each treatment is a little different. A chemical peel is a treatment in which an acid solution is used to remove the damaged outer layers of the skin. Microdermabrasion uses a device with crushed diamonds at the tip to exfoliate the skin, and similar to a chemical peel, lifts off dull skin and discoloration. IPL, also called a photofacial or IPL photofacial, uses a very powerful quick flash of light delivered to the skin by a tiny wand, and goes deep to pull the pigmentation up through the layers of skin until the spots crust off on their own.

As we get older, our skin naturally shows the residual effects of aging -- or of neglecting proper sun protection throughout the years. People come see us because they're looking to reduce or eliminate these age (or sun) spots, and IPL is an effective way to treat them. Just remember that it may take a series of sessions before obtaining optimal results.

Based on your description and your procedure - the brown spots are most likely the damaged pigment from the sun damaged/sun spots releasing from your skin.  We call them 'coffee grounds' and they usually flake off in about a week or 2.  Its often a really good sign - that you will have good results.

Ken Oleszek, MD

La Fontaine Aesthetics


You haven't posted a photo so it's hard to know what you're describing or to give you proper advice.