Intense pulsed light (IPL): a review

Lasers Surg Med. 2010 Feb;42(2):93-104. doi: 10.1002/lsm.20877.


Background: Intense pulsed light (IPL) devices use flashlamps and bandpass filters to emit polychromatic incoherent high-intensity pulsed light of determined wavelength spectrum, fluence, and pulse duration. Similar to lasers, the basic principle of IPL devices is a more or less selective thermal damage of the target. The combination of prescribed wavelengths, fluences, pulse durations, and pulse intervals facilitates the treatment of a wide spectrum of skin conditions.

Objective: To summarize the physics of IPL, to provide guidance for the practical use of IPL devices, and to discuss the current literature on IPL in the treatment of unwanted hair growth, vascular lesions, pigmented lesions, acne vulgaris, and photodamaged skin and as a light source for PDT and skin rejuvenation.

Methods: A systematic search of several electronic databases, including Medline and PubMed and the authors experience on intense pulsed light.

Results: Numerous trials show the effectiveness and compatibility of IPL devices.

Conclusion: Most comparative trials attest IPLs similar effectiveness to lasers (level of evidence: 2b to 4, depending on the indication). However, large controlled and blinded comparative trials with an extended follow-up period are necessary.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / radiotherapy
  • Acne Vulgaris / therapy
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Safety
  • Female
  • Hair Removal / methods
  • Humans
  • Lasers*
  • Low-Level Light Therapy / instrumentation
  • Low-Level Light Therapy / methods*
  • Male
  • Phototherapy / methods*
  • Pigmentation Disorders / radiotherapy
  • Pigmentation Disorders / therapy
  • Rejuvenation
  • Skin Aging / radiation effects
  • Skin Diseases / diagnosis
  • Skin Diseases / radiotherapy*
  • Skin Diseases / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome