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What Happens If You Use Retinol Before IPL?

What Happens If You Use Retinol Before IPL

IPL treatment is known as Intense Pulsed Light therapy. See more here. There are many uses of this treatment including removing birthmarks, age spots, discolored skin, freckles, scars, spider veins, rosacea, and unwanted hair. When it comes to the IPL treatment, there are many questions regarding prohibited ingredients. For example, if you are planning on undergoing IPL treatment, retinol, which is also called vitamin A, is one of the products you should avoid. Retinoids effectively reduce lines and wrinkles on the face by stimulating collagen. Retinoids also have the ability to stimulate new blood vessels. However, when it comes to the IPL pre-treatment protocol, retinol should be avoided. How Long Does It Take To See Results From IPL Hair Removal? Click here.

Along with retinol, tretinoin and glycolic acid should also be avoided two days before IPL treatment. It is important that you heed these warnings. So what is the reason for this rule? It’s actually quite simple. Retinol doesn’t mix well with the IPL treatment. Due to the fact that retinol exfoliates the skin from underneath by encouraging cell turnover, it makes the skin sensitive to laser treatment. The same “baby skin” effect it has on your face is the cause of increased sensitivity to treatments. What is more, it’s not just lasers that should be avoided when using retinol, you should also refrain from waxing and exposure to UV rays. Even though the IPL treatment is different from the laser treatment, it has a similar effect. That is why retinol is best avoided for safety. Take a look at how similar lasers are to IPL treatment, specifically with regard to retinol restrictions.

Understanding Retinol

Retinol can lead to peeling, irritation, and excessive skin dryness. If you undergo IPL treatment while you are taking Retinol, your skin can easily get burned. According to Board Certified PA-C, Lauren Abramowitz, Retinol can cause dry and irritated skin which can lead to adverse reactions post-treatment.

Recovery is much longer if a patient has used retinol within two days of the IPL treatment. Some individuals with very sensitive skin may need to pause their retinol regimen a week prior to the procedure. Redness in the face is the common side effect of the procedure when retinol is taken right before IPL treatment. When it comes to IPL procedures, there are specific pre-treatment rules to follow. Listed below are the guidelines to follow before any form of IPL treatment. The best pre-treatment regimen for IPL can be found right here.

  • SPF 30 or higher is required 4 weeks prior to treatment and 4 weeks post-treatment. A sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium oxide is best. Any skin that will be or has been treated by IPL has to be protected. If sunscreen does not provide sufficient protection in case of too much sun exposure, you should wear a hat for extra protection.
  • Stop taking aspirin 10 days before your treatment. Stop taking ibuprofen and vitamin E5 days before your treatment. This also includes Advil and Motrin. If you do not observe these precautions, you can suffer increased redness, bruising, and problems with capillaries.
  • You should stop using sunless tanner 3 weeks prior to your treatment.

As you can see, if you use retinol or any of the other products mentioned above, the risk of complications is much higher. Many people have experienced the dangers of mixing retinol and IPL, read more about it by clicking the link. If you would like to avoid all negative side effects of the IPL treatment, it is best to follow all pre-treatment protocols. This is especially important if you are undergoing IPL for the first time.

How Does IPL Laser Work? Click here to find out.

Individuals Who Shouldn't Get IPL Treatment

Who Shouldn't Get IPL Treatment

Anyone who has been using the products that interfere with Intense Pulsed Light therapy should not undergo the treatment. However, certain people are not ideal candidates for IPL regardless of Retinol use. This includes individuals with serious skin conditions, individuals who take medication for a condition, and pregnant women. In addition to these individuals, people with certain sensitivities shouldn’t undergo IPL either. If you are sensitive to light, have recently suntanned, have skin cancer, are dark-skinned, have a serious skin disorder, have keloid scar tissue or severe scarring, you should not receive IPL treatment. Take a look at the detailed medical recommendations for IPL treatment regarding retinol use here.


The effectiveness of the treatment will vary from person to person. As a general rule, if the precautions are followed pre- and post-treatment, IPL is usually successful. Patients with sun-damaged skin saw significant reduction of brown spots after IPL treatment. When it comes to recovery post-treatment, you may feel like you’ve been sunburned for up to 6 hours after. This feeling should subside. If you apply ice packs to the skin, it can improve symptoms. Additionally, you could be slightly bruised for a day or two. To assist in healing, refrain from applying makeup and use a good moisturizer and SPF 30 or higher instead.