Adventures in Beautyland: My IPL Experience at La Papillon Spa

What you need to know about IPL

I've been doing everything from micro needling to peels to potions to get rid of my sun damage and nothing was really working. And by really working, I mean giving me super clear, creamy gorgeous perfect skin. Ok, I would settle for less blotchy, but much less blotchy. After all, I can be realistic! I decided to look into doing a more serious procedure to give me more serious results. After some thoughtful consideration, I decided to try IPL.

IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) is a relatively easy and mainly painless way to remove splotches, blotches and redness from the skin. Think of it as a way to wipe a window clean. If you have redness on your face from capillaries or rosacea, or brown spots from sun damage or aging, this may be what you are looking for. If you are looking to improve the texture of your skin, this isn't the right treatment.

Two weeks ago, I opted to undergo IPL (also called photorejuvenation) at La Papillon Spa to finally attack the sun damage that peels and potions would not fix. I've gotten some results with peels, micro needling and creams, but they haven't been able to go deep enough to get to the root of the problem. Photorejuvenation is a way to reach deeply into the skin without disrupting its surface. Because the surface of the skin isn't damaged, you'll have virtually no downtime, almost zero discomfort and, in a few weeks, clear, fresh skin will be revealed.

Sounds great, right? There are a few things you should know before taking the leap into IPL. There are different lasers of different strengths used by different people, which will yield different results. A medical director should oversee the facility that does the IPL. Less expensive lasers, that lower customer costs, may not give you the same results you would receive if the process was done by a medical professional. Think of it as the difference between a $10 haircut and a $100 haircut.

Especially in this case, cheaper isn't better. I urge you to research where you opt to get this done before making a decision. You should also skip this treatment if you have any injuries to the face or are planning a special event in the near future. Your skin will look slightly worse before it gets better, so you'll want to plan accordingly. Here is my face the day before I had my IPL appointment.

(My face under a daylight lamp, the day before IPL)

(More photos of my face the day before IPL, shot under the same day light lamp.)

I turned to La Papillon Spa in Timonium, Maryland for my photorejuvenation treatment. La Papillon works with Dr. Noelle Sherber, a Harvard- and Hopkins-educated board-certified dermatologist. After explaining what to expect from the treatment, we got busy with the laser.

We started by cleansing my face to make sure all of my makeup was removed. Dr. Sherber then examined my skin closely. We discussed what areas I wanted treated to make sure we didn't get rid of any freckles I considered beautiful. She then added a thin gel to my face to help the laser target the skin. This was not a numbing cream - I didn't use one. Next, I was asked to put on special (read: sexy) goggles to protect my eyes from the light the laser emits. Then the zapping began. I was given two squeeze balls to hold on to, just in case I needed to squeeze something.

Dr. Sherber began treating the areas on my left cheek. She was careful to make each treated circle slightly overlap to avoid the dreaded tracks effect, where spots are missed because the person doing the treatment doesn't evenly target the affected areas. The first laser zap was a little surprising, as I didn't really know what to expect. It felt like a little static electricity zap to the skin, or like a rubber band snap.

(One cheek down, one to go! Plus a forehead and chin...)

It wasn't painful, but I wouldn't do it  for fun on a random Sunday afternoon. I was thankful that the laser we were using, by Palomar, gets rid of both brown and red spots in one pass. I would not have been happy if we had to go over each area treated twice.

 (Getting ready for a nose zap. I didn't particularly care for those. By this time, my cheeks were starting to feel sunburned and the ice packs felt lovely.)

While I didn't find the procedure painful, I will give you a little warning about the areas around the nose; specifically where the nose meets the face. That area is a little more tender than the rest of your face. That said, I am certain that not having capillaries showing through my makeup will make me very happy in the long run.

My total treatment took less than thirty minutes, from start to  finish. IPL may not give you perfect results after one treatment and you may need to return a few weeks later for another session. Of course, I'm hoping for very noticeable results with this treatment, fingers crossed!

(Moments after finishing the treatment.)

My face was red immediately after, but otherwise I was fine. It did feel like I had a bad sunburn for a few hours, but it was such a minimal thing I almost stopped at Sephora on the way home to pick up a peach blush I have had my eye on.

(Four hours after the treatment, dark spots are emerging on my face. They will all be lessened in a week or two.)

The next morning, my face was a tiny bit swollen and the sunspots were much darker than ever before, a sign they will start getting lighter very soon. I put a cool washcloth on my eyes for a few minutes and the swelling was basically gone.

 (Moments after I rolled out of bed I was a little swollen. Five minutes later, I was fine.)

Madeleine, the owner of La Papillon, sent me home with a skincare regimen that was really simple.  I asked if I could wear makeup on my skin to cover the darkened bits and she suggested wearing a mineral makeup.

After cleansing, I applied Josie Maran Sunscreen with 40+ SPF to help quell the dry skin that can sometimes be a side effect of IPL treatment. I then let my skin "dry" and got ready to do my makeup. I prefer to wear liquid foundation lately and haven't really touched my BE Matte Foundation in more than a year. I am fortunate that I don't usually have to do a lot of concealing, but I do own BE's Bisque. I figured I would give it a try, not expecting great results.

(A CU of how I looked 45 minutes after the above early morning photo above. Pretty good!)

Because I am hyper-concerned about protecting my skin from sunlight, especially while I'm driving, I used BritePrepFX by Cover FX (FCP 50) and then concealed all of my dark spots, which were starting to look a little like Morgan Freeman in Robin Hood. I used the Bisque by BE to conceal (SPF 20) and finished up with BE's Matte Foundation (SPF 20). I followed up with BE's Mineral Veil. When you include the SPF I applied initially, I think it's safe to say I was protected from the sun!

(This is me about 45 minutes after the above slightly swollen photo.)

I got to work where I sit in an office with two other women who knew I was having the treatment done. Not only did they forget, they didn't notice that anything looked different, other than I wasn't wearing "any makeup".

(The darker spots now look like coffee grounds and will basically dry up and fall off.)

I was prepared for the darker sections of my face (sun spots, capillaries, etc) to get darker and eventually end up on the surface of my face, appearing like coffee grounds, where they will then fall off, revealing new skin. I have to be consciously careful not to pick at my skin, which will be really hard. However, knowing that picking at the "coffee grounds" could result in scarring, I'm going to try really hard to avoid picking.

The next day, I had to go to a Karma Dogs event and used the same skincare/makeup regimen to get great looking skin, despite the appearance of the "coffee grounds".

(36 Hours after IPL, on my way to volunteer with Karma Dogs BE's Matte Foundation did an amazing job!)

So after one week, here is my progress so far. 

 (The left side is after. The right side is before.)

The dark areas under my eye and along my cheek bone are much lighter and a decent amount of the redness in my cheek hollow is also gone. My skin is still healing, so I am hoping some of the spots will continue to lighten. My broken capillaries are not yet completely healed, hence the slightly darker spot. You can see that the overall tone is lighter and that many of the darker patches have been broken up and lightened.

 (The before is on the left. The after is on the right.)

Here is the other side of my face. You can't quite see it, but there is a freckle in the before shot (bottom of my chin) that literally fell off of my face and is no longer there. This side of my face also shows some lightening of age spots. This is my "driving side", which has more damage than the "non-driving side". Some of the spots on the after side are still darkened from the IPL treatment and are still in the healing process.

Here is a look at my skin two weeks after having IPL at La Papillon Spa.

 (My non-driving side is looking dramatically improved.)

(This is my driving side. Even it is looking much better after two weeks.)

(You can even see the improvement on my nose. That little red bit on my upper lip is a blemish, btw.)

I am thrilled with the results so far. My skin looks creamy and fresh in a way that it hasn't in several years. I am told to expect my skin to continue to improve and I will happily post pictures for you in an update. In the meantime, I am curious to find out if a second treatment would give me additional results or if this is essentially as light as I can expect my melasma to get.

Have you considered this before? Was your experience similar? Tell me in the comments!

If you live in the Baltimore area and are interested in learning more anti-aging procedures or actually having a treatment like IPL, contact La Papillon for more information. They often have seminars to inform people interested in learning about anti-aging treatments and are a great resource for information. Be sure to follow them on Facebook as well for info on special events and deals!

La Papillon provided the treatment  in exchange for my opinion.

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  1. I see a big difference (a good one) in your skin. It looked good before but looks even better now.

  2. Thanks! I am really happy with the results! I am still hoping for some additional lightening, as there are still some places that bug me, so we will see. I know that one treatment doesn't always yield perfect results. But honestly, the results I got were more than I had hoped for. Plus my skin just looks creamy and fresh. :-)

  3. Great post, Kelly, I've always wondered about IPL. I will check into this treatment locally now. Looks like recovery is fairly easy too!
    Thanks for the info!

  4. I was very impressed with the SKII Facial Treatment Essence (, enough so that I have continued to use the product daily as part of my skin care routine after the test period. It's a luxury purchase to be sure, but this is one of the best products that can really make a significant difference in your skin, and so worth every penny.

    I applied the treatment each morning and evening after cleansing my skin and before moisturizer/primer and then makeup. Within just a few days I could see that my skin was much more supple and smooth - particularly in the t-zone. After about two weeks, I loved the beautiful glow my skin had - even without makeup.

  5. Hi Kelly, I found your post on IPL treatments when reading thenonblond weekly wrap-up this morning.

    I had my second IPL treatment 2 weeks ago and absolutely love the way my skin is looking! I did use the numbing gel before each session and am glad I did. Your description of how it feels was right-on, it's not horrible, I just wanted to relax rather than use the squeeze ball. The first treatment did get rid of the more superficial red and brown spots. The second round is taking longer to see results, but the deeper brown spots and larger broken capillaries are disappearing too. I might do a third session in a few months-we'll see. The first two sessions were a month apart.

    As you wrote, you get what you pay for- I went to a reputable Dr's office. It was expensive, but the quality of care and expertise of the practitioner were worth it. It is my face after-all! I also followed their advice and am religiously using sun-screen on a daily basis : ) I live in Seattle,WA where the sun is often hiding behind clouds so you have the illusion of no harmful rays.

    Good luck with your skin-care!

  6. Great results. For myself, I notice the greatest improvement with the first treatment, but I definitely recommend a second or even third treatment, a month apart. There is continued improvement with the 2nd and 3rd treatment. Worth it. After that it is basically maintenance.

  7. Great detail Kelly! And your results look wonderful. I've had it done once and was very pleased with the results. It's been nearly a year and my skin could use it again - although not nearly as "bad" as it was before I ever had it done, it is time for touch ups!

  8. Gosh, the results are impressive. You must be really pleased. I have recently started a war on my melasma and I am researching pigmentation treatments for a series of posts. I'm only using skin care products at the moment but I was reading about micro-needling and IPL to find out about the more 'serious' remedies. IPL particularly appeals because of vascular blemish I also have on my face.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. Seeing how the pigmentation clears from the skin was particularly useful.
    Jane x

  9. Hi ModestyBrown!
    This is by far the best results I have gotten trying to diminish my melasma. The other treatments all paled in comparison, probably because my dark spots formed many, many years ago. As a child, I never wore sunscreen. I have been faithfully wearing an SPF day (and basically night) since 1996. If you can do the IPL, I would find a good center and go!

  10. hi there,

    Thank you for posting this! I've wanted to have some IPL done on my hyperpigmentation spots, but wondered if the 'targeted exfoliation' made those areas more sensitive to sun damage (or more hyperpigmentation) afterward-- beyond the recovery time. I have seen an increase in my skin's sensitivity to the sun after several years of consistent exfoliation, retin-a and a few peels, despite my vigilant multi-layer & 2+ re-application (even if i am staying inside) of the highest UVA/UVB sunscreen protection. I haven't seen any dermatology websites or articles that directly address this concern, either.

    Did they say anything to you about this during your visit?

    Thanks again!

  11. They didn't say anything about it. But let me ask the doctor that did my procedure and I will see what I can find out for you!

  12. Here is the reply I received from Dr. Sherber:

    Topical treatments that thin the dead skin cell layer (called the stratum corneum) make the skin more sensitive to sunlight, as this layer gives your skin some UV protection. These treatments include Retin-A, and chemical exfoliants – if you’re using these to lighten pigmentation, you must be vigilant about broad-spectrum sun protection to prevent the unwanted effect of the dark spots getting even darker from more UV exposure. IPL treatments don’t disrupt the top layer of the skin, so there is no increase in the amount of UV that can get through and darker your spots. The reason that I recommend sun avoidance and sun protection in the 2 weeks following treatment is that there is some inflammation caused by the laser disrupting the pigmentation, and inflammation can lead to pigmentation if the skin is exposed to UV light during that time (particularly in skin types who get a brown spot left behind after a pimple or a bug bite). Even after IPL treatments to clear away your existing brown spots, your tendency for new spots will remain (so I recommend ongoing diligent sun protection!) but the treatment itself won’t make you sun-sensitive in the way that exfoliants do.

    From Kelly:
    I have noticed even more lightening since last week and will update pictures later this week!

  13. Thanks so much for posting this! I have sun/birth control induced melasmas on my cheeks that are driving me crazy! I think I'm going to have to look into IPL for myself. It's so reassuring to see someone else go through the whole process and come out with a good opinion! This is my first visit to your blog (I stopped by via Non Blonde) and am glad I did!

  14. Me too, Leigh! Thanks for reading! My "sister inlaw" had gotten pregnancy mask during her first pregnancy. She went to a less expensive place in a mall and did not see any results. Be sure to find a qualified, medically supervised person for the best results!

  15. Question for you: I have many red marks that remain for 12mths or so after pimples. They are definitely red, not brown (I am quite pale). They drive me NUTS. Even w/ regular exfoliation, they don't disappear. I have been wondering if this would work on them. Do you know anything about this?

  16. Hello,

    I just had IPL done today, I am very happy I found you blog. I can't believe how well your makeup covered up the redness from IPL, I will definitely try that.
    Look at the your photos and seeing the progression and healing from IPL has given me hope. I have a small amount of rosacea and some larger sun spots and I was worried that IPL woulnd't make a huge difference but hopefully I will have the same results.

    I live in Boston, so obviously I didn't go to the same place but please keep us updated. Congrats on the great results and thank you for writting such a great blog.

  17. Hi Kelly, just curious if you're still loving things post IPL. Thanks!

  18. I am still really happy with my skin. I am actually going back for a second treatment next week, which I hope will bring even more dramatic results. I'll be sure to post and let you know!

  19. Hi Kelly,

    I just ran across your blog of you IPL photofacial experience.  It is the best photographic chronology of an IPL treatment series that I have seen.  It is very hard to explain how freckles and sun damage can first darken, then take on a "coffee ground" appearance before flaking away to reveal beautiful, rejuvenated skin.  Now I can just send my clients to your blog, and tell that them this is what you can expect from the treatments.  You look fabulous in the photos..let us know how you are doing.  Thank you for being so thorough and willing to share it with us!  Nancy T.

  20. Hi Kelly,
    It's been 1 year you posted your IPL experience. Can I know since then how many times have you been doing IPL treatment?
    I don't know anything about this, and I did my IPL 2 times with 2 weeks apart time.
    2 days till today after my second IPL treatment, I feel my skin face like being pull. 
    I called my beauty consultant, she said it's normal reaction.
    But I am still scared cause when I google, I found

    Most of them said that the side effect will be shown after 2 years of their IPL treatment. I hope you can share your experience after 1 year of IPL.
    Because i am so scare and haunted by their story.
    Thanks for your posting.
    Wish to hear from you soon.

  21. I'm so glad to have found your blog. It was very informative. I had an appt. this morning that I canceled for fear of not knowing enough about what to expect. After seeing your pic's I'm convinced to go get it done. Only wish my Derm. Office had info like this to offer. I think I'll make a suggestion to them when I book my next appt.
    Thanks! Tina B

  22. I'm glad it's helpful!

  23. hi i did my first ipl lazer for melesma on my cheeks,afterthe spots became like coffee beans and flaked off.But two weeks after the spots came back and darker. I am due for a second treatment,i am worried

  24. how is your ipl treatment after a year later? did you experience any collagen lost? i was web searching and i see women are experiencing collage lost/fat lost on their face which made their skin sagging looking. did you experience this? thanks

    1. I don't believe I suffered any collagen loss. Here is a current pic of me from another recent post. You can compare and contrast:

  25. Good suggestion about the after ipl treatment, I would love to share it with my friends those who are going for IPL hair removal treatment soon.

  26. Hi Kelly, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your IPL experience. I read it a few months ago before going through the procedure and have come back to it as a refresher after my IPL session. I had mine done 3 days ago and my darker spots (coffee ground) have slowly started to fall/fade.

    2 questions, how long after your first session did you wait to go in for the second,and how much difference did you notice between your first and second?

    1. The second session didn't hurt anywhere near as much as the first. I didn't have as many coffee grounds either. However, my skin looked even more refined when it was finished. The big "reveal" happened after the first treatment. The second treatment made the skin look great, but it wasn't as much of a difference as the first.

  27. Pigmentation Treatments is that the easiest method to treatment your acne . Is it expensive to treatment pimples these days?

  28. I decided to look into doing a more serious procedure to give me more serious results.
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  29. This is a very good post. Just wonderful. Truly, I am amazed at what informative things you've told us today.

  30. Amazing, this is a great article! I did enjoyed reading it, keep your post

  31. This is such a great post, and was thinking much the same myself. Another great update.

  32. I have look at your website post and i stood a extremely helpful and also knowledgeable advice through the blog is just a genuine good report.

  33. I am in the beauty business and have tried everything for my Rosacea even had IPL which did very little..I am 50. . .We are all different but the ONLY THING that worked for me was the Somaluxe redness Repair Moisturizer. It has certainly worked for me..i wish I had taken before and after pics..I use the Somaluxe Redness Repair after washing my face in the morning....

  34. I just had my first IPL yesterday to get rid of rosacea redness and sunspots (I am 28, but live in sunny california and have worshipped the sun my whole life!) My driving side is basically one big black blob today HAHA! Excited for my final results. Thanks for this post. I am scheduled for 3-4 total IPLs for complete dissolution of my broken capillaries and redness from my ongoing rosacea. I cannot wait for the final results.

  35. I have spent a lot of the time in different blogs but this is really a unique blog for tags

  36. Very detailed and that's true your skin has improved a lot. Great!

    Shruti Verma

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  39. Yeah, it is so impressive to read this informative post. I will appreciate this post. Good Job!
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