- Photorejuvenation treats sun-damaged skin as well as other 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 collagen production.
- Treatments are noninvasive, have minimal side effects and require no recovery time.
- Photorejuvenation is proven to be an effective treatment for acne, rosacea and hyperpigmentation.
- Photorejuvenation can be used on almost any part of the body.
Photorejuvenation, sometimes referred to as a photofacial, is a fast, noninvasive skin treatment that employs high-intensity pulses of broadband light to effectively treat skin discoloration and photoaging at the cellular level.
What Is Photorejuvenation?
Photorejuvenation uses light and laser therapy to rejuvenate the skin and give it on overall smoother and younger appearance. There are two types of broadband light used in photorejuvenation procedures: IPL and LED.
Both types penetrate deep within the skin to stimulate dormant skin cells while encouraging new collagen and elastin to develop.
Intense-pulsed light treatments (IPL)
IPL is a 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, effectively transforming red, patchy, sun-damaged skin to a more even complexion.
IPL can be used to improve multiple skin discoloration issues such as pigmented vascular lesions (telangiectasis, port wine stains, etc.) as well as pigmented skin spots or scars, stretch marks, fine lines and wrinkles, and dark hair. IPL uses light energy to target specific areas in the skin.
Because IPL employs a wide range of wavelengths, professionals typically use it to treat patients suffering from multiple skin discoloration issues over one large area, such as the face, chest, arms or back.
Light-emitting diode treatment (LED)
In contrast to the broad-spectrum light of IPL, LED photofacials uses different colors and wavelengths specific to the skin issue being treated. For example, blue light kills bacteria as a treatment for acne; red light stimulates collagen production to treat fine lines and wrinkles.
LED green light is similar to IPL in that it breaks up pigmentation for easier absorption, and is effective in reducing the appearance of brown spots and other melanin-related problems.
Benefits of Photorejuvenation
With little to no downtime involved and few side effects associated with the procedure, professionals are increasingly turning to photorejuvenation to repair sun damaged skin and even out skin tone.
“IPL can be used to improve multiple skin discoloration issues,” says Dr. Rafi Fredman, MD, a plastic surgeon specializing in facial rejuvenation procedures, “such as pigmented vascular lesions—like telangiectasia and port wine stains—as well as hyperpigmentation, scars, pigmented stretch marks, fine lines and wrinkles.”
Photorejuvenation vs. other types of skin rejuvenation
Photorejuvenation is comparable to other procedures which address many of the same superficial skin conditions. However, many patients prefer photorejuvenation over other treatments because it is a noninvasive procedure that requires no downtime.
Sessions are generally completed within 1 hour or less
Reduces hyperpigmentation and redness
Reduces or eliminates fine lines and wrinkles
Provides a more youthful appearance
Eliminates acne-causing bacteria, reducing the frequency of breakouts
Increases blood circulation to the target area while reducing inflammation
|Typically more expensive than chemical peels or microdermabrasion|
Some treatments aren’t suitable for darker skin
Requires multiple sessions
Skin redness, tenderness and swelling can sometimes last from 2 days to 1 week post-treatment
|Chemical peels||Typically require fewer sessions|
Reduces acne breakouts
Reduces hyperpigmentation and lightens acne scars
|Can lead to infection and scarring |
Skin redness that may last for several months
Darker skin may experience temporary or permanent discoloration
Requires multiple sessions
Reduces acne breakouts
Reduces fine lines and wrinkles
Increases skin permeability
Reduces visibility of stretch marks
|Only removes dead cells on the surface layer of skin|
Results are not as visible
Effects don’t last as long
Requires multiple sessions
What to Expect from the Procedure
To ensure you achieve optimal results, it is important to follow all instructions from your provider.
Before the day of treatment
Patients are advised to avoid sun exposure and tanning beds for at least one month prior to any IPL treatment to avoid any issues with the light’s ability to target brown pigmentation.
Avoid alcohol, ibuprofen and aspirin for one week prior to your treatment, and inform your provider if you’re taking antibiotics or blood thinners, or if you have used Accutane over the past year.
There are no advance preparations required for LED photofacials.
Day of treatment
Do not wear makeup or apply any skin care products to the area being treated.
In the treatment room you will be provided with protective eye shields and a cold gel will be applied to your face. Your provider will then scan the IPL handpiece across the area being treated. You may feel some discomfort. Sessions are short—sometimes as little as 20 minutes—and rarely last longer than one hour.
With LED treatments, there is no discomfort whatsoever.
After your session, any remaining gel will be wiped away and you will receive a cold compress and sunscreen to place on the treated area. Expect some redness for a few hours. You may safely apply makeup to the affected area immediately.
You should 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 1 month apart, full results should become visible in 3–5 months, while some improvement will be noticeable roughly one week after each individual session.
Before and Afters
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, such as wrinkles, acne and pigmentation.
IPL procedures are not advised for those with with deep tans or darker skin tones. “People with darker skin tones have a higher risk of experiencing pigmentation changes, blistering, and even burns,” explains Dr. Fredman.
“Light-based therapies, such as IPL, target and decrease levels of Propionibacterium acnes, an acne-causing bacteria,” says Dr. Fredman. “These treatments also reduce the amount of excess sebum produced by the sebaceous glands, which can lead to the formation of acne.”
Photorejuvenation is one of the safest procedures currently available to treat the condition – more so than many popular acne treatments, such as chemical peels, Isotretinon, birth control pills and other pharmaceutical solutions.
By targeting problem pigmentation areas and encouraging new collagen to develop, photorejuvenation has been proven to greatly improve the appearance of rosacea.
The red light used in LED treatments decreases inflammation and increases the skin’s ability to heal itself. The time needed to manage rosacea flushing is also reduced. IPL photorejuvenation also uses specific wavelengths to alleviate the inflammation, redness, pimples and uneven skin tones caused by rosacea, offering a gentle, gradual improvement to skin’s appearance.
Light and medium-toned 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 to target brown or red discoloration, age spots and freckles, particularly on the face and chest.
Older laser treatments were known to injure or discolor dark skin tones, because they functioned by targeting darkly pigmented skin. This means they would be unable to target a noticeably darker patch of skin on already dark skin; it would simply affect the entire area, leading to discolored patches.
There have been many advancements in laser treatments in recent years to address this issue. Currently, nonablative fractional lasers are one of the best options for skin rejuvenation in dark skin tones.
Intense pulsed light treatments and radiofrequency lasers have also been found to provide benefits to the skin with low risk. However, there have only been a few studies assessing the effects of these photorejuvenation treatments on dark skin, and patients should still proceed with caution, using the less intense options when possible.
Side Effects of Photorejuvenation
While LED photofacials have no significant side effects, IPL photofacials typically do have some minor side effects that are apparent immediately following the procedure and can last from a few hours to several days. They are as follows:
- Redness – is common and will fade within a few hours
- Minor swelling – an ice pack will reduce any swelling should it occur
- Temporary brown spots – can sometimes last for as long as a week
- Crusting – treated dark spots sometimes harden and flake
- Small blisters – may appear but fade fairly quickly
While prices typically vary based on location and individual provider, expect to spend $400 – $600 for a professional IPL treatment. Most people require multiple sessions, with 3–4 treatments usually being optimal for photorejuvenation to be most effective.
The price of LED photofacial treatments vary greatly, from $40 – $200 a session, with the cost dependant on the skin issue being addressed.
At-Home Photorejuvenation Machines
While there are several at-home photorejuvenation machines available to purchase, they will not provide the same quality of results as a professional treatment.
“In order to be safe for general use,” says Dr. Fredman, “they are far less powerful than devices used by medical professionals.” Most at-home IPL machines are limited in scope and primarily designed for hair removal; LED devices are primarily designed to treat superficial skin issues.
Most at-home LED products only employ one wavelength of light, so it’s important to purchase the right machine for your specific skin issue: red light treats acne, and blue light treats fine lines and wrinkles.
Photorejuvenation is a proven effective noninvasive treatment to address photodamage and many other common superficial skin issues such as acne, rosacea, spider veins, broken capillaries. liver spots, sun spots and hyperpigmentation.
While it may cost slightly more than other treatments, that it has few side effects (none at all with LED) nor associated recovery time makes it a skin care option well worthy of consideration for those looking to improve their complexion without any downtime.
Although IPL photorejuvenation is best suited for people with light skin and some degree of skin elasticity, LED treatments can be safely administered to people of all skin types. Those with darker skin can undergo photorejuvenation procedures, but should opt for less intense treatments to avoid potential pigmentation issues.
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