Thursday 23 January 2020

Is light therapy the fix for acne scarring?

Searching for a solution to post-acne redness and scarring, Gillian Tsoi went searching for a skin saviour — is intense pulsed light the answer?

IPL is used to treat a range of issues, including pigmentation, fine lines and rosacea. Stock picture
IPL is used to treat a range of issues, including pigmentation, fine lines and rosacea. Stock picture

Approaching your 30s can be a minefield of emotions — as well as the anticipation of a new decade full of fresh possibilities, there’s also the trepidation of impending wrinkles, a slower metabolism and the seemingly overnight transgression of being physically incapable of wearing stiletto-heels for more than an hour...

But, never in my wildest nightmares would I have imagined that in the latter stage of my 20s, I’d be grappling with late-onset adult acne. Having been lucky enough to sail through my teens with ne’er a spot in sight, here I was, a grown woman dealing with relentless breakouts that even top-of-the range make-up couldn’t camouflage.

After years of reluctantly throwing money at different cleansers, exfoliators, creams and supplements in a desperate bid for clear skin, I finally found a solution to my pimple problem. But once the spots had cleared, I was left dealing with another challenge: the red marks and discolouration left in their wake. The battle was won, but not the war!

So, I began to research possible treatments for my scars and discovered that one of the best solutions on the beauty circuit (not only for actual acne, but also the pigmentation it leaves behind) was ‘intense pulsed light (IPL)’ technology.


IPL replenishes the skin via a process known as ‘photorejuvenation’. This basically means that during a treatment, pulses of filtered light are applied precisely to the problem areas of the skin — in my case, hyperpigmentation and red-coloured markings. These areas absorb the intense light, are heated up by them, and subsequently collapse so that they can be flushed out of the body naturally.

It’s also claimed that IPL is effective on red veins and rosacea, and there are added anti-ageing benefits too: the flashes of light target the deepest layers of skin tissue to stimulate the production of collagen, which leaves the outer layer of skin smoother and tighter, thus improving the appearance of lines and wrinkles.

This all sounded promising, so I signed up for a consultation at River Medical on Dublin’s Herbert Place.

After I arrive, the friendly dermal clinician analyses my skin and tells me that IPL is her favourite treatment to carry out on clients.

“The results are so instant and visible. It literally changes people’s lives,” she says.

Wow! We agree on a course of treatment and I have high hopes for radiant new skin.


A course of three to six treatments is usually required for optimal results, with about three weeks in between each session, and after an initial patch test to ensure my skin is suitable, I’m good to go.

Before commencing the first session, the clinician explains that as the light hits my skin, I’ll experience what feels like a small elastic band snapping against it — and I find this to be an accurate description. It’s a tad uncomfortable, but far from torturous.

The treatment lasts a few minutes, and afterwards, there is no downtime. My skin feels warm and is a little red for a couple of hours, but a layer of foundation covers up this nicely.

There are some risks associated with IPL— such as blistering and scabbing — but this is rare, and I didn’t experience any adverse effects. Also, it’s important to wear a strong SPF following IPL because it leaves the skin sensitive to UV rays. However, we should all be protecting our face every day from the sun anyway; so, post-treatment, I apply my usual SPF50 shield.


Throughout the course of my IPL programme, I can see a gradual improvement in my skin, as the red and brown spots fade over time.

The surface of my face is also visibly smoother, and make-up glides on more easily. After a couple of sessions, I even start to go out without make-up — something

I haven’t done confidently in years — and colleagues and family begin to compliment me on how great my skin looks!

After the initial course of treatment, ‘top-up’ sessions are recommended to maintain results, and while the sessions can leave a dent in the bank balance, that old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ definitely applies here.

I can safely say that even though I’m now on the other side of 30, my skin hasn’t looked this good in years.

IPL at River Medical costs ‎€159 per treatment, or ‎€400 for a course of three treatments. For more information or to book, log onto www.rivermedical.ie or call 01 6629106

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