Photofacial Side Effects

I got my first Photofacial today and it feels like a really bad sunburn, and also I noticed a lot of dark brown small to medium spots all over. Is that normal? I am worried!

Doctor Answers 14

What to expect after a photofacial

The photofacial targets pigment in your skin- this is what causes freckles and age spots.  After the treatment, the pigment darkens, then flakes off over the next 1-2 weeks.  The flaking is more noticeable on the hands and arms, and less noticeable over the face.

It is common to have a sensation similar to a sunburn for 1-2 hours afterward.  Aloe or icepacks can help soothe this sensation.

Cleveland Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Photofacial Recovery

You should call your provider and follow-up with them if you are seeing any blisters or if you are concerned.   Without seeing you it is difficult to be sure.  This being said, it sounds like your response to the photofacial is totally normal. It is common to have a "sunburn" type of feeling.   Cool compresses can help with the burning feeling.   The brown spots that you are seeing are actually the deeper pigmentation and sun damage coming to the surface.   They will get darker and more apparent over the course of a few days and then will come off.   It sounds like you had a great treatment and are getting a great result.

Dark spots post Photofacial

It is typical to feel heat and burning immediately after having a photofacial. The heat should subside within a few hours at most. Any dark spots you had will continue to darken and even "crust" over at which time the spots will just "shluff" off. You will notice this darkening of the brown spots should be less and less with each treatment.

Robert Sleightholm, MD
Brampton Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

After photofacial, you can expect some initial skin redness and darkening of your brown spots

Photofacials (and BBL or IPL) are a very effective treatment for brown spots, red spots, acne, and skin discolorations. Using highly specialized filtered light, photofacials target specific skin lesions, while minimizing trauma to the surrounding skin. Some generalized redness, like a sunburn, may be present for a few days after treatment. After a photofacial, pigmented spots will initially become darker, and will then flake off around 2 weeks after the treatment. 

Dara Liotta, MD
New York Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

Photofacial side effects

That is very normal. It will feel like a sunburn for about 2 hours and then stop. The brown spots may continue to darken for the next 24 hours. They will then flake off over the next 4-7 days.

Jeffrey W. Hall, MD
Austin Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

No worries - Normal Result

The heat you are feeling is normal and expected after having an IPL/Photofacial treatment. Applying a cool compress is a great way to help resolve the sunburn-like sensation you are experiencing.  Based on what you have described, you are most likely, "microcrusting." This is the result of pigmentation rising to the surface.  When treating sun damage (sun spots,age spots, mottling, freckling) this is the desired result.  Do not fret. Those coffee grounds will slough off in about 10 days.  In the meantime, be kind to your skin. A gentle cleanser,light moisturizer and SPF 30+ is all you need. DO NOT attempt to exfoliate away the brown spots. They will fall off on their own revealing a more even toned complexion. 

Larry C. Leverett, MD, FACS
Phoenix Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

Normal recovery after photofacial

You are describing a pretty normal recovery after a photofacial treatment.  The dark spots are a good sign because it means your treatment was effective.  The dark pigment absorbs the light energy and is destroyed.  As they come up to the surface you will notice them flake off - and you'll be left with a more even complexion.  Don't use anything abrasive, limit your sun exposure, and wear SPF 30 or greater when you are in the sun.  

Donald B. Yoo, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 57 reviews

Photofacial results

This sounds like a normal result from a photofacial.  Depending on how much sun damage that you have, you will experience your brown spots becoming darker, like coffee grounds.  Over the next few to several days, these darker spots will flake off.  It is important to not pick at these.  It is also very important to wear a good sunscreen. 

Sam Naficy, MD, FACS
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 221 reviews

Brown Spots after IPL

After you have IPL, it is totally normal to have what appears to be additional, darker brown spots on the surface of your skin.  These brown spots will look like "coffee grounds" and will typically shed/flake within 3-7 days of your treatment.  Do not pick these spots!  This is generally the sign of a good, results driven treatment.  The sunburn feeling should go away within several hours-  however you can use cold compresses or hydrocortisone cream to help alleviate the feeling of heat.

Dr. Grant Stevens


Grant Stevens, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 145 reviews

Redness, slight swelling, and brown spots after IPL

Redness, slight swelling, and darkening of brown spots can all occur after IPL.  Cooling the skin with cooled gel or air can help with patient comfort during the procedure and also protect the skin following the procedure.  Redness usually lasts 0-2 days, swelling 1-3 days, and dark spots flake off typically in 1 week.

Melanie D. Palm, MD
San Diego Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 23 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.