When will Hyperpigmentation after IPL Laser Treatment fade?

I had IPL treatment a few days ago and I am still waiting for the hyperpigmentation on my face to fall off. The doctor said that it should not take to long but I am starting to get nervous. Is there anything I can do? I guess I will just play the waiting game if need be.


F, 38, New York

Tags:woman age 35-44 recovery fade hyperpigmentation

If the spots (hyperpigmentation) don’t go away as quickly as you expected it’s probably because the targeted lesions are not on the surface of the skin.

In most cases the pigment is located in the epidermis, or outer layer of skin. However, the reproduction of cells in this layer can take about two months. During this time the pigmented cells that were targeted will come up to the surface of the skin, where they will die and fall off. This takes approximately two weeks.

At this point, you will need to wait longer. Spots do get darker before fading during the week after treatment. But persistent hyperpigmentation is a risk of IPL treatment, which is why I prefer the current pico technology,  and does the same thing as IPL but without the risk

Generally speaking, exfoliation following IPL takes 1 to 3 weeks, although it varies based on skin type.

It can also depend on which areas are treated with IPL light energy. For example, post-op exfoliation takes longer on the chest and arms than it does on the face, which can begin peeling as quickly as one week after treatment.

Moreover, exfoliation can vary based on the degree of hyperpigmentation. In some cases patients are advised to return for an additional IPL treatment roughly one month after their initial treatment.

There are, however, steps you can take to expedite the exfoliation process. Don’t pick at the skin, as this can worsen scarring. Keep your skin well hydrated, and begin moisturizing a week or so after treatment.

With that being said, it’s also important to let the recovery process take its course.

Lawrence Broder has 1 IPL Photofacial before & after:

IPL Photofacial before image performed by Dr. Lawrence BroderIPL Photofacial after image performed by Dr. Lawrence Broder

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Fading of hyperpigmentation depends on the treatment area and the type of spots you are trying to eliminate (sun spots, brown spots, dark spots, age spots, etc.).

If you are trying to eliminate sun spots (lentigines), dark pigmentation will at first be apparent but should disappear within 15 days.

If you are attempting to treat melasma, which is much more complex, it will depend on the skill and experience of the person performing IPL, as well as the equipment used, the condition of your skin, and your skin tone. Melasma doesn’t go away as easily as many patients expect. In rare cases it may even become darker following IPL treatment. This occurs because the dark or brown pigment is located deeper in the skin.

If you don’t receive the results you want, it may be a good idea to visit a different specialist with experience in dermatological and plastic surgery treatments. There could be treatment options other than IPL light therapy available to you.

It can take a week or two for the hyperpigmentation to fade after intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment. Hyperpigmentation on body areas like the arms and chest may take longer. Don’t be concerned, as this is normal.

You may be able to help speed up the process by beginning to gently cleanse the skin using a soft washcloth about five to seven days after treatment.

Depending on the degree of hyperpigmentation, you may benefit from a repeat IPL treatment approximately one month after your initial treatment.

Patients with extensive sun damage due to long-term sun exposure and frequent sunburns may need three to five treatments for optimal results. I also advise my patients to visit our aestheticians for skin treatments between IPL sessions. A skin care treatment such as a facial and/or microdermabrasion can help to eliminate some of the skin pigmentation issues and prepare the skin for the next IPL session.

Also, by following a good skin care regimen that includes moisturizing and keeping the skin hydrated, you can encourage quicker results.

Speak with a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon to learn more.