Heat and your skin: Can lasers, IPLs, or hot water damage the skin?

Hi Dr. Irwin, Loving this site! I did read your answer on lasers etc thinning the skin. that was something I'd heard as well. My Q. is, does the heat generated during Older IPL, and any current IPL, or laser etc. damage the capillaries that feed the skin the nutrients, etc that the skin needs to stay as healthy and firm as possible? I read years ago that not only the Suns' UV damages the skin, of course, but also just the sheer heat on the skin, and that French women never use hot water during cleansing but tepid? Would a facial steamer have injured my skin years ago? I'm 63, and complexion is very good, but would like to know...What do you think?

Thank you!   Skin care on the web is not immune from rumors and fake news (ok since this term is clearly overused…maybe I’ll stop) :). Let’s tackle these questions about heat and your skin separately.

Laser heat – is it safe for skin?

Lasers are just a long tube of light that passes through a filter that narrows it to one wavelength.  For example, the VBeam is a 595 nm beam.  There is over 20 years of data now on many of these lasers (more about them here).   They generate very small amount of temporary heat, usually a few minutes.   The sensation of heat (almost like a sunburn) you get, for example, from a Fraxel or CO2 laser is produced by the nerves in your skin, and is part of the natural wound healing response that helps you produce more collagen and heal.   As the skin heals, new healthier small blood vessels often form.

Can the heat from IPLs damage the skin?

I call IPLs laser cousins because they are also light based.   The difference is that they use that long tube of light, but then use a “cut off filter” to block the lower UV range.  But they still allow some of the higher infrared waves which help to build collagen.   These help to shrink and remove the excess blood vessels that have enlarged or are causing flushing, but don’t remove the ones needed to keep the skin healthy.   These have also been in use for 20 + years with a great safety record, when used properly. More on how these work and what the procedure feels like here.

Hot water and skin health

Erno Lazlo, the now passed American Hungarian skin care entrepreneur, swore by the hottest water possible! Some think that the pore opening effects of hotter water is better for cleaning skin.  Follow it with a cold water rinse.  Steaming skin, including saunas and steamrooms, may make the skin flush more and isn’t recommended with rosacea generally, but isn’t known to cause any damage.

Hope this helps,  Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skincare advocate.

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