- Photorejuvenation treats sun-damaged and most common skin issues using broad-spectrum light technology
- Intense-pulsed light [IPL] and light-emitting diode[LED] technology penetrates deep within the skin to stimulate dormant cells and encourage new collagen to develop
- Non-invasive, safe, and with minimal side-effects, photorejuvenation treatments require no recovery time
- Photorejuvenation can be applied to almost any part of the body
- Scientifically proven to be an effective treatment for acne, rosacea, and most pigmentation issues.
Photorejuvenation, sometimes referred to as a photofacial, is a quick, non-invasive skin treatment that employs high-intensity pulses of broadband light to effectively treat skin discoloration and photoaging at the cellular level. With little to no downtime involved and few side-effects associated with the procedure, doctors are increasingly turning to photorejuvenation to not only repair sun-damaged skin but reduce the appearance of a variety of common skin conditions, including rosacea, acne, spider veins, liver spots, and hyperpigmentation.
What is Photorejuvenation?
Photorejuvenation uses intense-pulsed light (IPL) or light emitting diodes (LED) to penetrate deep within the skin and stimulate dormant skin cells while encouraging new collagen and elastin to develop.
A relatively new treatment, photorejuvenation has proven itself to be a safe and highly effective procedure for those looking to reduce the appearance of blemishes and address a wide variety of skin discoloration issues. There are two types of broadband light used in photorejuvenation procedures; IPL and LED, each with their respective pros and cons.
Intense-pulsed light treatments [IPL]
IPL is an powerful broad-spectrum light that emits high-intensity pulses of light energy deep into the epidermis, causing blood vessels and collagen fibers to constrict without damaging the surface layer of skin. It treats skin conditions so effectively because once targeted the light is immediately absorbed by red blood cells and melanin deep within the skin, purposely damaging the areas where it’s been directed. This results in pigmentation being broken up while simultaneously speeding up cell turnover, with the effect of ultimately transforming red, patchy, sun-damaged skin into a more even complexion.
Because IPL is a broad-spectrum light that employs a wide range of wavelengths, doctors typically prefer it over LED to treat patients suffering multiple skin discoloration issues over one large area, such as the face, chest, arms or back. As its name suggests, IPL delivers a particularly intense, high energy to the skin, with the light penetrating more deeply than with LED therapy. Because it’s a stronger treatment than LED, results are typically achieved in less time, requiring fewer sessions. However, due to its greater intensity, IPL treatments tend to be more uncomfortable and leave more redness immediately following a session.
Light-emitting diode treatment (LED)
In contrast to the broad-spectrum light of IPL, LED photofacials utilize different colors and wavelengths specific to the skin issue being treated. For example, blue light kills acne-causing bacteria so it’s used to treat that condition, whereas red light stimulates collagen production and is typically employed to address issues like fine lines and wrinkles. LED green light is similar to IPL in that it breaks up pigmentation for easier absorption, and as such is ideal to reduce the appearance of brown spots and other melanin-related problems.
Benefits of Photorejuvenation
Especially when compared to other skin rejuvenation procedures such as chemical peels or surgery, many requiring significant post-treatment recovery time, photorejuvenation has many notable advantages. For starters, sessions are generally completed within an hour or less and, as mentioned earlier, it’s a truly non-invasive procedure scientifically proven to:
- Reduce hyperpigmentation and redness
- Reduce or eliminate fine lines and wrinkles
- Provide a more youthful appearance
- Reverse photodamage
- Eliminate acne-causing bacteria, reducing the frequency of breakouts.
- Increase blood circulation to the target area while reducing inflammation.
Photorejuvenation vs. other types of skin rejuvenation
Photorejuvenation vs chemical peels
While there are several situations where a series of photofacial treatments would be considered preferable to undergoing chemical peels – and vice versa – one big plus to the former is that patients are usually able return to work the same day. There is virtually no recovery time associated with the procedure, as there is with chemical peels. Given both treatments require multiple visits to the doctor or practitioner, this can be a major consideration for people who can’t afford to take a few days away from work following each session.
Chemical peels, on the other hand, present a series of potential side effects, the degree and seriousness largely determined by how deep and invasive the respective peel. For example, chemical peels are vulnerable to infection and scarring, and can leave redness that sometimes lasts for several months. People with darker skin can also be left with temporary or permanent discoloration following a peel. While blistering, bruising, infection or scarring sometimes results from IPL treatments as well, reported incidents are so rare as to be factually insignificant.
Photorejuvenation vs. microdermabrasion
Microdermabrasion is another safe, non-invasive treatment that addresses many of the same skin issues as photorejuvenation. Microdermabrasion, however, functions by directing a flow of crystals over the skin to exfoliate the top layer while also stimulating collagen production. The primary difference between the two approaches is the depth on which they work. Whereas photorejuvenation is a more advanced complex technology that destroys damaged cells deep within the skin, microdermabrasion only peels dead cells on the surface layer. The results of a photofacial are also more visible and last longer than with microdermabrasion.
What to Expect from the Procedure
Patients are advised to avoid sun exposure and tanning beds for at least one month prior to any IPL treatment. This is imperative as if you arrive with a tan, it could interfere with the light’s ability to target brown pigmentation, rendering your session useless and potentially damaging. Avoid alcohol, ibuprofen and aspirin for one week prior to your session and inform your doctor if you’re taking antibiotics, blood thinners, or have used Accutane over the past year.
There are no advance preparations required for LED photofacials.
Day of treatment
Don’t wear makeup to your appointment or apply any creams to the area being treated. Once in the treatment room you will be given protective eye shields and a cold gel will be applied to your face. Your doctor will then scan the IPL handpiece across the area being treated. This can hurt a little, so be prepared to feel some discomfort. On the positive side, depending on the size of the area being treated the sessions are short, sometimes as little as 20 minutes and rarely lasting longer than an hour. With LED treatments, there is no discomfort whatsoever.
At the conclusion of your session, your technician will wipe away any remaining gel and give you a cold compress and sunscreen to place on the treated area. There will be redness for a few hours post-treatment, but should you desire you can safely apply makeup to the affected area immediately.
Your skin may be more sensitive to temperature for a few days following treatment and brown spots and freckles will appear darker while you heal. It takes between four and six weeks to see full results. Two to six treatments, spaced three to four weeks apart, are typically required for best results. There is no downtime with photorejuvenation, although some patients experience minor puffiness on their cheeks and under-eye area for a few days post-treatment.
Expect to see a more even skin tone, with a considerable decrease in the appearance of brown spots, sun damage, fine lines, acne scars and wrinkles. Based on three treatments spaced one month apart from each other, full results should become visible in three to five months time, while some improvement will be noticeable roughly one week after each individual session.
Is Photorejuvenation Right for You?
Photorejuvenation is best suited for people with light skin types and some degree of skin elasticity. Most experts agree the treatment is most beneficial to address more superficial skin issues, like wrinkles, acne and pigmentation. Those with deep tans or darker skin tones may not be eligible for the procedure as it could potentially cause permanent skin discoloration through hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation. This happens when there’s not enough contrast between the unwanted skin markings (like brown spots) and the skin itself, which throws the computer regulating the IPL or LED light source off-balance.
Photorejuvenation is scientifically proven to be effective on mild to severe inflammatory acne, notably reducing sebaceous gland activity. The powerful light energy kills acne-causing bacteria on the skin, reducing the frequency of outbreaks. It’s also one of the safest procedures currently available to treat the condition.
By targeting problem pigmentation areas and encouraging new collagen to develop, photorejuvenation has been proven to greatly improve the appearance of rosacea-prone skin.
LED photofacials are safe for all skin types, whereas IPL treatments work best on people who have light and medium skin tones. This is because there are only small amounts of melanin in people with lighter skin, making it easier for IPL energy to target undesirable pigmentation without harming the skin’s surface. IPL treatments are highly recommended for lighter skinned individuals looking to target brown [or red] discoloration, age spots, and freckles, particularly on the face and chest.
Because of the higher concentration of melanin in darker skin, the contrast between problem discoloration areas and the rest of the epidermis is notably reduced. The result being the surface of darker skin can also absorb the light energy, converting it to heat and causing pain, blisters and burns. Further, with darker tones the skin can also temporarily (or permanently) change color, becoming darker or lighter. While there are filters available to better address this issue, your doctor will determine whether you have the right skin type to safely undergo an IPL treatment.
Side Effects of Photorejuvenation
While LED photofacials have no significant side effects, IPL photofacials typically do carry some minor issues that are apparent immediately following the procedure and can last from a few hours to several days. They are as follows:
- Redness – While a common side effect, it’s simply a sign that the skin has been irritated. Any redness will fade within a few hours.
- Minor swelling – An ice pack over the area will reduce any swelling should it occur.
- Temporary brown spots — These can sometimes last for as long as a week but will gradually fade over that time.
- Crusting – Sometimes treated dark spots grow hard before eventually flaking. This is nothing to worry about as it’s a totally natural, normal process.
- Small blisters – Similar to sun blisters, they fade fairly rapidly.
- Minor bruising — Incidents of bruising are very rare.
While prices typically vary based on your location and individual provider, expect to spend between $400 and $600 for a professional IPL treatment. Most people require multiple sessions, with three to four treatments usually being optimal for photorejuvenation to be most effective.
The price of LED photofacial treatments vary greatly, from as little as $40 to as much as $200 a session, with the cost typically dependant on the skin issue being addressed.
At-Home Photorejuvenation Machines
While there are several at-home photorejuvenation machines on the market, none of these products will provide the same quality of results as a professional treatment. Most at-home IPL machines are limited in scope and primarily designed for hair removal, so if your looking for an at-home photofacial device, your likely best bet is to go with LED technology, which is most effective for superficial skin issues.
At-home LED machines only employ one wavelength of light, so if you’re looking to treat fine lines and wrinkles, you will need to find one that uses blue light, whereas if acne is your primary problem, you’ll need to purchase a machine that operates on red light. Pay attention to be sure you purchase the right unit for your specific skin condition.
While there’s a far greater variety of at-home LED devices currently available to consumers, there are still a few quality machines that use IPL technology.
Among the more popular at-home IPL machines are:
- HoMedics IPL and Skin Rejuvenation Hair Remover
- VISS Advanced At Home IPL Skin Rejuvenation System
- DEESS IPL Photon Skin Rejuvenation
Photorejuvenation is a proven effective non-invasive treatment to address photodamage and many other common superficial skin issues. While it may cost a little more than other treatments, the fact that it has few side-effects [none at all with LED] nor associated recovery time make it a skincare option well worthy of consideration for anyone looking to improve their complexion without needing to take time away from work.