This 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
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.