IPL risks: still there in 2011

ipl-risksThis IPL disaster story was big news in the UK a few years ago when I first wrote this article.   Now in 2011 you might think this is ancient history but IPL risks are still there and this story remains a rather sobering warning.

IPL or Intense Pulsed Light has become so familiar as a form of laser treatment for skin rejuvenation and improvement.  The danger is – the more familiar something is the less care we take in using it.  So – it seems to me there are still lessons for us all in the story of Charlotte Cripps.

Why you need a doctor

The photo to the above right is Charlotte Cripps immediately before her IPL treatment session in London.

Although only 37 – Charlotte felt she wanted to look younger. She had seen her friends skin rejuvenated after IPL skin treatments and she wanted the same.

Unfortunately Charlotte chose to go to a medspa for her  treatment – rather than to a board certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist – and her experience turned into an IPL disaster.

How not to arrange IPL treatment

Charlotte’s story is pretty well a perfect example of how not to arrange an anti aging procedure. She did no research – nor did she make any enquiries about the technician’s previous experience of IPL or even of laser technology.

Charlotte didn’t ask for a patch test and the ‘technician’ didn’t offer one. She signed a consent form and then let the ‘technician’ do her worst with the IPL machine.

IPL may leave permanent skin damage

ipl-disasterThis is a photo of Charlotte after her IPL treatment. The results are really almost impossible to believe and quite horrendous to look at.

Charlotte was due to have a course of six IPL facials for which she was happy to pay around $2600. Not surprisingly she cancelled her remaining IPL sessions and took herself off to a Harley Street dermatologist for remedial treatment – at a much bigger cost than the original estimate.

Whether IPL treatment had done permanent damage to Charlotte’s skin – the dermatologist was unable to say. Looking at her injuries I’d be willing to bet she has – and all in the name of looking younger.

IPL reviews tell of similar problems

This story has lessons for us all. The comments online at the time in relation to this story show that Charlotte’s experience with IPL is not unique.

There were many people reporting almost exactly the same IPL side effects- pain and rectangular branding like burns from over heated IPL machines.  Similar photos and comments have also appeared on US sites with IPL reviews.

Using Intense Pulsed Light lasers to zap the skin is a potentially dangerous treatment in the wrong hands and the wrong hands are inexperienced or unqualified hands.  Over heating by someone not in control of the technology is one of the biggest IPL risks.

So – buyer beware. Regulation and FDA approval won’t save you from incompetence. Even if the procedure is FDA approved – there is no guarantee that the clinic, medispa or treatment center you visit has experienced and trained personnel.  

Experience and knowledge of the technology should be better now but the satisfaction rate is still only around 50% of those who give feedback and it isn’t cheap (around $800 for a course of treatments).

Do your research

If you want to make sure you don’t make the same mistake do your research first.  For general information about laser treatments and to make sure your surgeon is board certified check out the American Society of Plastic Surgeons referral site.  For IPL reviews from people who have gone through the treatment look at  RealSelf – a kind of TripAdvisor for anti aging procedures.

Use your research to ask the right questions in your consultation.  Don’t sign anything until you get satisfactory answers. Before you let anyone lose on your skin with a machine that could scar you – find out what experience they have and get the names of people who have had the same treatment and ask to speak to them.

That goes for dermatologists and plastic surgeons too – qualifications don’t always equal competence with the particular anti aging treatment you are going for.  Get more than one opinion so you make a choice of the doctor you use – go with the one that you trust the most having taken everything into consideration.

IPL is an FDA approved procedure that has been very successful in treating problems like rosacea, acne and spider veins. Many women have had excellent results with IPL for skin rejuvenation. But in the end it’s down to you to make sure your experience doesn’t become an IPL disaster.

About Eileen

I am the publisher of Simply Anti Aging and a web author researching and writing on all aspects of anti aging. I'd love you to connect with me on


  1. Hi eileen,

    Have you heard about PRP (platelet rich plasma) ? Can you write an article on that 🙂 it seems a booming procedure for anti aging. I had few recommendation on that procedure but after doing research on botox, filler, plastic surgery and others. I came across where people looked horrible instead of beautiful. Is this procedure safe? I mean health-wise… Thank you for your kind attention. Btw, your work on anti aging articles are wonderful. Love your work 🙂

    • Hi Fevrier – I know of the treatment but have not yet written about it – it’s a good suggestion for a future article! Thanks for your kind comments I’m glad you like the site.

  2. The story of charlote and samantha came a shock to me. Im from indonesia, where IPL quite widely practiced in medspas, some performed by unqualified ‘Technicians’. I had IPL treatment package once and it was performed by unqualified technician, thank God nothing ever happened to me. I never finished the rest of the treatment i bought because i found IPL procedure was quite scary (it was 6 years ago), the sudden heat from the laser shot on your skin was unbearable, tho they put cooling gel on your skin before performing this procedure. From that on, I had few other spas asking if i want to take this ipl treatment, saying that the technology now is far advance and no pain… But still i find it quite scary…

    After reading your article on Ipl, i dont think i would ever want try this procedure again….
    Thank you…

    • Fevrier – thanks for commenting – when a seemingly reputable clinic offers a procedure like IPL it is easy to overlook the risks

  3. samantha hicks says:

    i had ipl treatment in oct last year by a so called friend (qualified in the area)never in my wildest dreams did i expect the results i got.i was niave enough to not research this treatment as this was a friend performing my treatment surely she would never do anything to hurt me let alone scar me !!!i wasnt even aware of possible burns from this treatment,i had been away for a hot sunny weekend and also had used fake tans and still not aware that this would prohibit my treatment still she lasored on with my obious tan the same setting was used on my face as my chest now aware of all the possible horrors that can occur.i sort legal advise she has now claimed that she warned me of all the dangers and fake tan and sun beds and i agreed even thow a tan was evedent !!!! i only confessed to sun exposure half way threw my treatment which is obviously untrue now i am faced with a lifetime of scars and this women can still go on to treat other people !!i didnt sign anything and there is no recored card to prove what setting i had my treatment on and no patch test performed this cannot be right??

    • Samantha – so sorry you had such a bad experience with IPL. It just goes to show how careful everyone needs to be with this (or any other) anti aging treatment that has the potential to harm. IPL seems low risk but in the hands of someone who doesn’t know what they are doing or fails to follow basic procedures they can damage your looks and cause great trauma.

  4. Oh my. I wasn’t able to catch your story on Charlotte the first time it appeared, so seeing her before and after shot was really quite a shock to me. It truly is unfortunate what happened to her. And while I think IPL treatment is still an effective skin improvement and anti aging solution, I wholly agree: in the wrong hands, it can cause some serious damage. That said, anyone attempting to undergo IPL sessions should do their homework first: do a background check on the clinic, have a Q and A session with the doctor or technician, and get unbiased recommendations from friends and colleagues.

    • Eileen Gravelle says:

      Lisa – I couldn’t agree more. Because IPL treatments are so familiar now we forget there are risks!

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