IPL photorejuvenation for arms - banishing my freckles

I've had very freckly arms since i was a child - not much other than religiously covering up and/or using a physical sunblock would have prevented this with my genetic predisposition to freckle. I, or rather my parents, didn't know about the difference between chemical sunscreens and physical sunblocks, and we mostly used chemical as it was easier to apply. I've only learnt about them a few years ago, when i first started exploring ways to get rid of some of my freckles. Basically a physical sunblock will use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to reflect UV rays away from your skin, preventing them reaching the melanin layer. A chemical sunscreen will try to use several chemicals (a huge list; some common ones are Aminobenzoic acid and Octyl methoxycinnamate) to absorb the UV radiation, preventing it from damaging your skin. Chemical sunscreens aren't quite as effective as physical ones however, particularly in the UVA wavelength. I have noticed that i still burn slightly with a chemical sunscreen on if i'm in the sun for a while, whereas i don't tend to burn with a physical one on. (This is incidental sun exposure; i mean just walking around during the day and driving - if i was out at midday for a few hours i'd burn even with the zinc).

The years of sun damage were starting to show on my arms with loads of pale brown (and a few dark) freckles and some small lentigines (also known as liver/age spots). My face bothered me the most as i had so many freckles on my cheeks they'd started to blend together into a sort of mottled tan. If i tried to cover them with makeup i really had to cake it on, and i hate the look and feel of thick foundation. I have good skin otherwise and just wanted to wear a light dusting of foundation. Before our wedding, i decided to do something about it, and tried firstly a mild peel treatment regime called Bihaku. I've linked to the posts i wrote about my experiences with it on my wedding website.

Seven months later i had many freckles back. This is quite common; it takes several treatments to make a long-term difference. This time though, i wanted to try something different. When i was researching before the Bihaku, i was tossing up between IPL and the Bihaku, and chose the latter because i was a little scared of having a machine zapping my face. I plucked up the courage though - it was a lot cheaper than the Bihaku and i found heaps of reassuring reviews on the net that it wasn't as painful as people had thought before their sessions. I also found the same - it's a sharp pinch and then feels hot, but within a few hours your skin feels mostly back to normal, just feels a bit sunburnt. Around this time you see the freckles the light has reached start to darken. Over the course of a week they darken, then start to go patchy (almost like the freckle has started to wrinkle) and then the most amazing bit is they start to peel off! I try to resist the urge to peel them off myself (can cause scarring if the skin underneath is not fully healed) and wait for them to come off, but at this point i usually start using a facewasher to gently exfoliate (never before this stage).

I was more impressed with the results of the IPL, and i've had probably five sessions now on my face over the three years since the original. It's at the stage now where i just do one session per year to keep them 'under control' - and indeed may not need to do it that often but they darkened considerably during my pregnancy (i had the 'pregnancy mask') so i had the last session in December, well after my postpartum hormone levels had settled. I suspect my previous use of the contraceptive pill also predisposes me to melasma, as i've been on the minipill since bub was born and my skin is really clear.

I had also wanted to remove some of the freckles from my arms, but ran out of money before my wedding to get it done. My sister is getting married this year, and that triggered my memory of wanting my arms clear. I wasn't looking into it however, until i got an email from the medispa where i got my last few face sessions done (Assure Medispa) who were having a special on full face rejuvenation. I didn't need that, as i'd had my yearly treatment, but thought to myself there would be no harm in asking if they'd extend the special to arms. Happily i received an email back saying they would! So i booked a day, and off to the appointment i went (not without some nervousness!). I wondered whether it would be more painful during the treatment as it's a much larger area than my nose and cheeks, and how sunburnt i would feel afterwards.

I needn't have worried about the treatment. It was less painful than the face, which makes sense - there's more flesh on my arms than my face so hurts less and doesn't heat up as much (when the skin is close to the bone, it heats up more or quicker - i'm not sure but does hurt more). Just a quick sting and quickly over with, i chattered away to the therapist during the session which distracted me, and the icepacks she put on my arms afterwards were lovely and cooling. What was not lovely however, was the sunburnt feeling after she took the packs off and i had to drive back to work. Ow - so so hot. I turned the aircon up in my car even though it's winter and had to use my hypnobirthing breathing to put the pain aside and concentrate on driving. The sun coming through the window felt like hot water.

My therapist had suggested taking some painkillers when i got back to work. I didn't have any and didn't want to ask my workmates for any - i thought no, i can push through this, i'm not a wimp! But ow... in hindsight, if i have this done again, i am so going for the panadol or nurofen! However, all that pain aside, it did subside after a few hours and just felt like mild sunburn instead of severe. One of my workmates was quite interested in why i'd want to do this (he has no freckles though) and asked shortly after i returned if it hurt; my reply was quite colourful, almost as much as my very red arms :) I showed him the results today and he was very impressed with the change. I'm really pleased with it myself; it's a much better result than i'd ever expected or hoped for.

It took just over two weeks for all the freckles to clear, which also included a second session five days later where she checked over my arms for any areas  she'd missed and spot-treated them. The recovery is much slower for arms than the face because it has less blood flow in comparison. My right arm (closest to the window when driving) came up with heaps more zapped freckles than the left, but has actually had a better result. I think because there were more and darker freckles, they were easier to see and she had an easier time getting them all. There's a few spots she missed on my left arm, but that's ok - i can always go for another treatment in a few years if i feel it's necessary.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing this. I'm looking in to having this done. Like you, I am very fair skinned and have freckles all over my arms. I hate it! Hopefully my results will be as good as yours!

  2. Wonderful Darlene! I hope you are pleased with your results. Come back and let me know how you went!


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