Article by Daniel Levy, MD
Bellevue Dermatologic Surgeon
Photorejuvenation (also referred to as a photofacial or IPL) is a laser treatment commonly used to:
• Lighten and remove "sun spots," "age spots." and brown blotches on the face, neck, chest, hands and other areas of the body with minimal downtime
• Reduce redness, rosacea, dilated blood vessels and "broken" blood vessels on the face, neck and chest (and anywhere else on the body)
• Improve skin texture through collagen stimulation and improve pore size by reducing oiliness
The IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) laser device emits a range of light waves that are tuned and targeted at hemoglobin (a component of red blood cells in 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. The residual vessel and pigment fragments are then absorbed by the body, leaving the skin with an even color and tone.
While some of the benefits are noticeable within 1-2 weeks, most people achieve noticeable results in 3-5 months after a series of treatments about a month apart. You’ll see some improvement with each treatment, but it's common for your response to be slightly different with each treatment. The more sun damage or redness you have, the more likely you are to need more than three treatments. Expect to see gradual clearing over time.
How long the results last depend on how much sun exposure your skin gets after your laser treatments. If you’re in the sun a lot and don’t use sunscreen, the underlying issues (whether 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.
The treatment also increases collagen. As 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, improving texture and smoothing fine wrinkles. To maintain collagen growth, we recommend a treatment every 6-12 months.
What to expect
When you come to the Medical Spa, you’ll be shown to a laser room. Our lead laser esthetician, Staci Sakariassen, performs the treatments. Staci has more than 10 years of experience with lasers and has performed more than 10,000 photorejuvenation treatments. She has trained many other providers in the region.
Protective glasses or eye pads are placed over your eyes. A cool gel is then applied to the skin being treated. The smooth glass surface of the hand piece is gently applied to your skin and pulses of light flash.
There may be mild discomfort during the treatment, but most people tolerate the treatment very easily. You may feel a slight sting, like the snapping of a small rubber band. The first treatment is usually the "zingiest." As your skin begins to clear, the treatments usually become more comfortable. Treatments take 30-90 minutes, depending on the size of the treatment area.
At the end of the treatment, Staci will wipe off the gel, clean the area, and apply a moisturizer with sunscreen. If there’s any mild swelling, you might be given a cold pack to apply for five or ten minutes. If needed, Staci will also reapply foundation or concealer immediately after a treatment.
For veins, generally, the skin looks slightly redder after the treatment for one to two days. Makeup can be applied immediately after the treatment, as long as it is applied and removed very gently. Rarely, there may be bruising, which can take 1-2 weeks to resolve.
For freckles and age spots, a successful treatment makes the spots look darker for 3-7 days before they fade away. A gradual decrease in overall redness, flushing, age spots, and fine lines will be more visible after each treatment.