Photofacial skin care treatments, also called IPL, short for Intense Pulsed Light, are very effective, no down time, safe methods for removing pigment, or brown spots, and excess or broken blood vessels from the facial skin. Browns spots, broken blood vessels around the nose, chin and cheeks are classic signs of sun damage and aging of the facial skin. Brown spots, often called age spots are caused by pigment that is produced by the skin to protect the skin from the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. New blood vessels grow into the skin in response to skin injury, first to wash out damaged skin debris and later to bring in healing factors.
As our skin ages, the brown spots and broken blood vessels are left behind on the skin after the inflammation or skin injury has passed. These pigmented and red vascular spots create an aged variegated appearance to the facial skin which is called dyschromia, and is a sign of facial aging. Photofacial skin care treatments are the treatment of choice for benign facial skin pigmentation, age spots, brown spots and broken blood vessels and small red spots called telangiectasia on the face. Photofacial treatments are now preferred over laser treatments for these specific pigment and vascular lesions.
What Causes Age Spots, Sun Spots, Red Blotches and Broken Blood Vessels on the Face Neck and Décolletage?
Browns spots and broken blood vessels around the nose, chin, cheeks, neck, hands and Décolletage are classic signs of sun damage and aging of the skin. Brown spots, often called age spots are caused by pigment that is produced by the skin to protect the skin from the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. New blood vessels grow into the skin in response to skin injury by the sun. This process of new blood vessel growth is called inflammation.
The new blood vessels bring blood into the facial skin first to wash out damaged skin cell debris and later to bring in skin healing factors.
As our skin ages, the brown spots and broken blood vessels are left behind on the skin after the inflammation or skin injury has passed. These pigmented and red vascular spots create an aged variegated appearance to the facial skin which is called dyschromia, which is a sign of facial aging.
Photofacial skin care treatments or IPL treatments are the non-surgical anti-aging skin care treatment of choice for benign facial skin pigmentation, age spots, brown spots and broken blood vessels, the small red spots called telangiectasia, on the face, hands, neck and Décolletage. Photofacial treatments are now preferred over laser treatments for these specific pigment and vascular lesions.
How Do Photofacial or Intense Pulsed Light Non-surgical anti-aging Skin Care Treatments Work?
Photofacial or IPL anti-aging skin care treatments use a bright flash of visible light, like the light of a camera flash to remove pigment and blood vessels non-surgically from the skin. This pulsed or flashed light is very different from a laser and in most instances, less powerful and less dangerous that laser light.
I use a Photofacial IPL machine called the LuxGreen IPL made by Palomar Medical Laser Company in Burlington, Massachusetts. Palomar Medical is the premier manufacturer of Aesthetic Laser and Light therapy machines in the world. The LuxGreen Photofacial is the best Photofacial technology I have ever used. The LuxGreen Photofacial IPL machine is very effective and is the most comfortable for you the patient of any IPL device available.
Photofacial skin rejuvenation works by passing a flash of bright light through a filter that only allows a specific color of light in the flash to pass through the filter and hit the skin. In the case of the LuxGreen Photofacial, only light with a wavelength of 550nm (nm=nanometers or one millionth of a meter and is the measure of the green light wavelength in the visible light spectrum) to pass through the IPL filter and hit the skin.
The LuxGreen IPL 550nm light is selectively absorbed or taken up by the brown pigment in an age spot or the dark reddish brown color of blood in a blood vessel. When the Photofacial light energy is absorbed by the pigment or blood vessel, the heat from the Photofacial or IPL light destroys the pigment or blood vessel by heating it.
This process is called Target Specific Photothermolysis. A specific target, that is a color, is heated (thermo) with a light (photo) beam and dissolved or destroyed (lysis).
Using color filters placed in front of the Intense Pulsed Light beam, a wide variety of colors can be allowed through to treat many different skin conditions including hair removal (LuxRed), acne (LuxViolet), and others.
What Will My Skin Look Like Immediately After a Photofacial Skin Care Treatment?
Unlike lasers, which can cause the skin to peel and possibly leave scars, the Lux Green IPL treatments are very gentle on the skin. The pigment in the brown spot or age spot will darken very slightly, and the treated blood vessel will also darken a bit. However the skin will be intact. The treated areas may also be slightly pink for a few hours.
We place ice or a cool pack on the treated area immediately and this also may make the skin pink. However, the pinkness may be covered with makeup immediately. You may return to work. And your skin will be nearly normal the next day.
Does An Intense Pulsed Light Skin Care Treatment Hurt?
There is minimal discomfort during an IPL care treatment. Anesthesia or numbing medicine is not required. When the IPL flash hits the skin you will feel a small snap or sting, but this is easily tolerated by all of my patients.
How Many IPL Skin Care Treatments will I Need?
Usually 3 IPL skin care treatments are required spaced 4-5 weeks apart for the best results. Multiple treatments are the price for gentle treatments that are not painful and do not injure the skin.
Technically enough power can be used to remove the brown spot or blood vessel in one treatment, but this energy level would be painful, blister the skin and possibly leave a scar. This is what happened with old time laser treatments, and the new IPL is designed to remove pigment and blood vessels painlessly and with no trace or scar left behind. To accomplish this we need to stage the removal in 2-3 treatments 4-5 weeks apart. The results are well worth the wait.
How Soon after My Intense Pulsed Light Skin Care Treatment Will I See a Result?
Generally you will see the results of your IPL skin care treatment at 4-5 weeks. The brown spot will be lighter or gone and the red spot or blood vessel will be much smaller. Some patients with thin skin and very light pigment or small broken blood vessels will see complete removal after one treatment.
However most people see definite improvement 5 weeks after the IPL treatment and require 2 more treatments for complete removal.
How Many Intense Pulsed Light Skin Care Treatments Will I Need?
If you have very fair thin skin with minimal sun damage and very light pigment or very tiny blood vessels you may only need one IPL treatment. However most people need 3 treatments scheduled 4-5 weeks apart for a complete result.
Who Should I Consult For My Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Skin Care Treatment?
The best IPL machines are found in a physician’s office. Less powerful IPL machines are allowed to be used in Spas, but results are not as effective with these downgraded machines. In my experience patients do not get the results that they want in a spa, and often come to my practice for repeat treatments with the LuxGreen IPL after having already spent money for IPL in a spa.
The other benefit of having your IPL treatment in a physician’s office is that you will be examined by a doctor who can properly diagnose your skin condition. Some brown lesions are dangerous and require medical evaluation and should not be treated with Intense Pulsed Light. If you have Rosacea or larger blood vessels on your face, a different therapy is required. These are medical treatments and should be done in a doctor’s office. Your skin will be evaluated for more serious skin conditions, and you will receive more effective Intense Pulsed Light skin care treatments.
How Do I Find a Good Doctor to Do My Intense Pulsed Light Skin Care Treatment?
Light based and laser non-surgical skin rejuvenation treatments are best done by a doctor who is well trained and specializes in anti-aging skin treatments. Your safest bet is to seek consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist who has experience in laser and light based therapies such as Intense Pulsed Light.
I am of course prejudiced because I am a board certified plastic surgeon. However, a plastic surgeon is trained and capable of providing the full range of non-surgical and surgical skin anti-aging procedures and can customize your skin treatments to your unique face. Doctors who cannot provide all treatments are tempted to “fit your unique face” into the particular skin treatment they offer, and that is not the best situation for you.
Good sources of honest objective information about choosing a physician are available at the following links:
American Society of Plastic surgeons
American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons
Source by Brooke R. Seckel, M.D., FACS