How soon after a non-ablative fractional laser treatment can I do a photofacial (IPL) treatment? In order to be "pretty" and recovered for an event in few weeks, I was thinking about having a fractional treatment, with an IPL about 10 days later. Is that too soon?
IPL After Non-ablative Fractional Laser?
Doctor Answers 4
It might be worth waiting
Thank you for your question.
Theoretically, you should have no problem doing IPL right after doing a nonablative fractional treatment, but my only caution is this: nonablative fractional treatments do result in redness that may last longer than 7 days in some patients. In some cases, as this redness resolves, it may even lead to slight darkening of the skin that may take even longer to go away. This redness and resulting darkness is primarily due to the inflammation that is caused by the nonablative fractional procedure.
If you do IPL, you will also get some degree of inflammation and redness, but in combination with inflammation that might already be present from your fractional treatment, you are likely to be at higher risk for hyperpigmenation (darkness). That would likely be undesirable for you, so I would recommend waiting for the redness from the fractional treatment to completely resolve, and then pursue the IPL treatment. You don't want to race when dealing with cosmetic procedures - slow and steady always provides better results.
Waiting time after fractional laser for IPL
It's probably important to first clarify what is meant by nonablative fractional laser. That term is often misused. Ablation means to remove the surface with vaporization. Most fractional lasers are not truly nonablative. For example, fractional CO2 such as ActiveFX, DeepFX, Repair, CORE, Mixto, all cause an injury to the skin and are not nonablative. Other fractional lasers such as the Restore, Refine, Pearl, Profractional also cause an injury to the skin but they are often called "nonablative" resurfacing.
So if you're having a fractional laser that causes a thermal injury to the skin, then It's better to wait until your face is properly healed. I usually advise my patients to wait at least a month before having an IPL treatment after fractional resurfacing.
There can be residual redness or discolorations after fractional CO2 that can improve or completely resolve with time. As with any resurfacing procedure that causes a thermal injury, a patient can develop prolonged redness or discolorations that may not resolve on their own without assistance. Performing IPL after fractional laser can help speed up the healing time if it's done properly. This should only be done by an experienced physician who understands how and when to perform IPL after resurfacing. It should not be done at the normal settings because the patient's skin is more sensitive after resurfacing, has more density of oxyhemoglobin (causes red) and melanin (causes brown) which absorbs more of the IPL energy. If the IPL treatment is performed incorrectly (ie: too high fluence or energy, incorrect settings, etc.) the redness and discolorations can actually worsen, and the patient can develop worsening pigmentation known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
There are noninvasive lasers that work better than IPL at clearing redness and pigment because they are more specific for oxyhemoglobin and melanin and penetrate deeper, therefore are more effective at clearing the targeted lesions. These include KTP, Nd:YAG, and pulsed dye lasers. It's also possible to combine IPL with different lasers to achieve a better effect. Once again, these procedures should only be performed by a highly skilled physician who has a lot of experience doing resurfacing and understands the ins and outs of when and how to utilize different lasers or IPL after fractional laser in order to enhance the results or speed up healing.
IPL after non-ablative Fractional Laser
If you are having the Fraxel procedure I would definitely wait a few weeks for the skin to recover. Your skin may look back to normal in a week but it can take longer to really recover and I would not rush to do the IPL 10 days after your initial treatment. Please find a board certified dermatologist in your area with experience in lasers.
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If you wanted to you could do both lasers at the same time, its not uncommon to pair treatments together, I would be cautious on doing any treatments close to any events you have planned as you can never guarantee 100% recovery time.
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