I'm Confused Why the % Ratings Are Different for Photofacial Reviews Vs. Specific IPL Laser Ratings?

I wanted to get a photofacial because the ratings are so good... I went and asked the gal about the laser she was using. I asked if it was a 'photofacial' laser. She said well, it's a type of a photofacial laser, there are many. She said this one is a limelight. I went home and searched those reviews - horrible - even scary!! Then looked at other photofacial laser reviews, also bad. So, I'm really confused. What is a photofacial and how can I be sure to get the 'right' laser treatment?

Doctor Answers 2

Photofacial vs. Laser, etc.

Hi Onea.  Yes, the laser world can be very confusing, we agree.  The first issue we would like to address is that the "photofacial" is a service not a laser.  Photofacial is a generic term for using a light based device to improve the color or texture of the skin.

The second issue is that an IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) device which is used to provide a photofacial is NOT a laser.  Because it is not a laser it's not as specific at target sun spots, blood vessels or wrinkles and therefore is not as effective as lasers.  We use lasers only and therefore are predisposed to suggesting a laser treatment vs. a photofacial or IPL because we believe the results will be better.

Finally, there are many different types of IPL machines.  Some are good and some are bad.  In addition, the person doing the procedure is goign to have a large effect on whether you get good results as their skill and experience matter.  

We would suggest you go to three or four consultations to get more information and instead of focusing on the piece of equipment, focus on the practice and whether that practice has a good reputation for delivering excellent results (a referral works best).  Good luck.

Los Angeles Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.3 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

Photofacial vs Fotofacial vs IPL

Thank you for your question. The world of lasers and laser treatments is certainly confusing! Photofacials (also called FotoFacials) are a procedure, not a machine. They are done by IPL (intense pulsed light) and the term was coined by some of the original creators of the devices to describe the activity taking place. Fortunately, and unfortunately, both names kind of stuck, and so there is much confusion. Also confusing is that IPLs are lights, not lasers, but they are often referred to as "laser treatments" or "laser therapies" and used simultaneously, even by those of us in the field. Therefore, we sometimes make it even more confusing!

There are many, many IPL machines on the market and many ways to do the treatments, so that is the first thing. Personally, I have had three different types of IPL machines in my office - Cutera (Limelight), Lumenis, and Syneron (FotoFacial). I have always been most impressed with Syneron's technologies because it is IPL with a RF (radio frequency) component to it. IPL, regardless of the machine, targets heat and color in the face. We use a very cold air chiller during the treatment that does two things: 1. helps with patient comfort, and 2. helps drive the IPL deeper to the pigment because if the surface is colder the IPL is forced to go into the skin farther to find the heat. This allows our machine to target much deeper pigments like freckles, age spots, and melasma. Certain types of pigment is in the skin at different depths and specific IPL machines just can't get in deep enough if there's not a cold source or RF driving the IPL light in deeper. We also do multiple passes of the treatment head, and sometimes use an additional treatment called Laser Genesis (which is a part of the Cutera machine but not the LimeLight portion (which I don't think works well), along with our FotoFacials.

We normally recommend a series of 5 treatments to the face. While some offices will say 3 is acceptable, we just don't think patients get enough response with only 3 and have found over the years that a minimum of 5 is needed so that is why we do a package. As the pigment starts rising after each treatment, you will see certain pigments and areas of pigmentation fade, and some will rise. Doing additional treatments allows the pigment to rise all the way out.

Additionally I will let you know that most patients don't see a tremendous amount of skin change after just one treatment. It's after two and three that their skin really starts seeing the benefits and they are able to see more of the changes in the skin tone, color, and texture.

Besides the machine and how the treatment is done, the technicians' training is also key. I will tell you that each member of my staff who performs these treatments has been with me for years. I don't even let them touch the machines until they have worked with me for a minimum of 6 months. I have 4 technicians who do the treatments, and together, they have done over 150,000 treatments in 12 years' time.

I would recommend you do some consultations with offices. Many will do these for free. Make certain that a physician is actively involved in your care, and following your progress. I'm attaching a video that I put together with my marketing team to help people understand FotoFacial IPL treatments. Hopefully that will help you get some questions down to ask too.

F. Victor Rueckl, MD
Las Vegas Dermatologist
4.6 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.