Guide To IPL Photorejuvenation Laser


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What is photorejuvenation used for?

Photorejuvenation (IPL- Intense Pulsed Light) laser treatments are most commonly used for:

  • Lightening and removing "sun spots", "age spots",  and brown blotches on the face, neck, chest, hands and other areas of the body
  • Lightening and reducing redness, rosacea, dilated blood vessels and "broken" blood vessels on the face, neck and chest
  • Helping to control flushing
  • It also has a lesser effect of improving skin texture through collagen stimulation and improves pore size minimally by temporarily reducing oiliness
IPL Photofacial treatment

Photorejuvenation, when done properly, almost always consists of a series of 3-5 treatments, usually one every three to six weeks. The benefits of photorejuvenation treatments are achieved with little discomfort and minimal risk.

Some offices refer to IPL photorejuvenation as a Photofacial or Fotofacial.

How does the laser treatment improve the appearance of blood vessels, rosacea, and age spots/freckles?

The laser/IPL device emits a range of lightwaves that are then tuned and targeted at hemoglobin (the red blood cells in the blood vessels) or melanin (the brown pigment in freckles and age spots). The light beam passes through the skin and is absorbed by either hemoglobin or melanin resulting in damage to the vessel wall or fragmenting of melanin pigment. These tiny vessels and the melanin pigment are then absorbed by the body, rendering them less visible.

How long does it take for laser photorejuvenation treatments to work?

Most people need 3-5 months, which consists of a full series of 3-5 treatments about 1 month apart.  You can see some improvement with each treatment, but it's common for your response to be slightly different to each treatment. The more sun damage or redness you have, the more likely you are to need a full five treatments.  Some cases of severe redness or brown spots require more than 5 treatments. Expect to see gradual clearing over time.

Do IPL Photofacial treatments hurt and how long will they take?

There may be mild discomfort during the treatment, but most patients tolerate removal of dilated blood vessels or age spots/freckles and fine lines very easily. The first treatment is usually the "zingiest." As your skin begins to clear, the treatments usually become even more comfortable. Treatments usually take 30-90 minutes, depending on the size of the treatment area.

What are the IPL Photofacial treatments like?

When you come to a laser center, you will be shown to a laser room. Your medical provider will put special glasses or eyepads over your eyes to protect them. A cool gel is then placed on the skin being treated. The smooth glass surface of the handpiece is gently applied to your skin and pulses of light flash. You may feel a very slight sting, like the snapping of a small rubber band.

At the end of the treatment, the nurse wipes off the gel, cleans the area with a warm cloth, and applies a moisturizer with sunscreen. If there is any mild swelling, you might be given a cold pack to apply for five or ten minutes. Most centers will let you reapply foundation or concealer immediately after a treatment.

Does the IPL work for redness, rosacea and red spots?

Does the IPL work for brown spots and sun spots?

Does the IPL work well for wrinkles?

What will I look like right after the IPL treatment, and what is the healing time?

For veins, generally, the skin looks slightly redder after the treatment for two to five days. Makeup can be used starting right after the treatment, as long as it is applied and removed very gently. Rarely, there is bruising, which can take 1-2 weeks to resolve.

For freckles and age spots, the spots generally look darker for 3-7 days. Crusting can occur, which may last up to ten days. The lesions will then begin to clear and will generally be resolving at one month. Remember, it takes an average of 3-5 treatments to clear age spots.

How much do photorejuvenation treatments cost?

A single full face treatment costs between $300 and $500 depending on where you live and your doctor. So a series of 3-5 treatments will usually be $1,000 to $2,500. A face, neck, and chest treatment runs from $800 to over $1000, for a series total of $4,000 to $5,000. Treating the hands is usually around $250 per treatment.

Be suspicious of low cost "specials." They are usually low cost for a reason.  Many IPLs that are sold to salons and spa have less power than the IPLs sold to doctor's offices. The treatment may appear to cost less but not be equivalent in the laser used or the expertise of the personnel using the laser. 

IPLs can cause serious burns.  Be very cautious of spas where there is no doctor on site and where the lasers are operated by "technicians" with little or no formal medical training, and no supervision are best avoided. Remember "technician" is often a term used when the person has no medical training.

Who should do the treatments?

A doctor, PA-C (certified physician assistant), ARNPs, RNs, or MAs.  In some states, licences aestheticians are allowed to operate some lasers. All should be experienced in laser treatments 

What results can I expect from photorejuvenation treatments?

After your first treatment, you can expect to see some redness, darkening of brown spots, and light swelling. These symptoms will resolve in several hours to one week. Makeup can be immediately applied, if desired. After the treatment, your skin will feel smoother and have a more even tone. A gradual decrease in overall redness, flushing, age spots, and fine lines will be more visible after each treatment.

How long will the results from a photofacial last?

Tht depends on how much sun exposure your skin gets after your laser treatments.  If you are in the sun a lot and do not use sunscreen, the underlying issues, whether they are redness or brown spots, will return.  But if you take good care of your skin and keep it protected from the sun, your skin will continue to look good with annual maintenance treatments.

If you want to maintain collagen growth, we currently recommend a treatment every 6-12 months. Other conditions are more variable. If you are very red, once or twice a year may be needed.

How does an IPL treatment increase collagen?

The light bypasses the outer layer of skin (the epidermis) and gently heats the cells in the deeper layer of skin (dermis). These cells, called fibroblasts, start to produce more collagen, which improves texture and fine wrinkles.

Will the IPL Photofacial treatment make me more sensitive to the sun?

No, it does not. You can have the treatments done any time of the year but summer is more difficult if you pick up color easily in the sun. The good effects of the treatments won’t last very long if you are getting much sun exposure. You can wear a sunscreen every morning and wear hats to protect your skin and decrease redness, brown spots, wrinkles, and skin cancers.

What should I do prior to my photorejuvenation treatment?

Your laser center will give you their instructions prior to your first treatment but here are some of the basics.

  1. For 2-4 weeks before your treatment, avoid self-tanners and excessive sun.
  2. You may be asked to discontinue minocycline, tetracycline, doxycycline or Retin-A/Renova several days prior to each treatment.
  3. You may be asked to avoid taking aspirin, ibuprofen, or Aleve one week prior to treatment unless medically indicated to help prevent bruising.
  4. Protect your improved skin with sunscreen every morning. Hats and sunglasses are also good protection from the sun.

Who should not get these treatments?

Avoid laser treatments in pregnancy because no testing has been done.

Are there any side effects?

The main side effects are mild, temporary swelling, redness, an accentuation of the brown spots, crusting, and an occasional bruise or small superficial blister (like a sunburn blister).  There are rare other side effects which your laser center will review with you in your consent form.

Link to Video Demonstration of IPL/Photorejuvenation Laser

Next, learn about Dr. Irwin's personal skincare product regimen.

See Dr. Irwin's expert answers to other reader's questions on IPL Photo Rejuvenation Laser:

Could IPL have caused my brown patches? 

Can IPL be used if I'm on HRT?

Is eye injury a risk with IPL photo rejuvenation treatments?

Will IPL leave me with a completely pale face?

What about IPL for Melasma?

See all of Dr. Irwin's Expert Answers to IPL Photo Rejuvenation Laser. 

From www.SkinTour.com and Dr. Brandith Irwin. Copyright 2008-2014 SkinTour LLC. All rights reserved. Journalists, bloggers, and media may reprint this without permission so long as they include this credit box with the article.
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