Photofacial Review

IPL (intense pulsed light), also known as a Photofacial, Photo Rejuvenation,  or BBL (broad based light) is a light-based (non laser) technology through a handheld device used to improve brown spots (hyperpigmentation) from sun damage and age spots, overall redness, can improve redness from rosacea, overall skin tone and texture and can boost collagen, thus improving skin laxity and wrinkles. A consultation is recommended as IPL is not suitable for all skin types. There is minimal down time and the process takes about 30-40 minutes per session, with the number of sessions two to three weeks apart and determined by results one would like to achieve. The consultation determines the proper settings for the IPL.

The IPL device emits broad based light waves that are targeted at hemoglobin and melanin. Melanin is used as the target for the pigment in hyperpigmentation, sun damage and age spots. Hemoglobin is the large molecule in red blood cells. Hemoglobin is used as the target for redness of the skin, flushing and red lesions and vessels. The hemoglobin and melanin are targeted by the light waves. The light waves penetrate deeply through layers of the skin targeting melanin and hemoglobin without damaging cells. The brown pigment (melanin) stored in the cells are released and come to the surface of the skin where they flake off or are absorbed by the body and fade. For the redness, hemoglobin is heated and thus, red blood cells in vessels near the skin surface are heated. When heated, the vessels close down resolving the appearance of broken vessels, redness, flushing and lesions.

My skin is oily, tends to redness (not from rosacea), breakouts and blackheads and I have many freckles from sun damage on my upper cheeks and nose. I also have some dimpled scarring from acne on the lower right side of my cheek.  As a kid and young adult I spent a lot of time in the sun, used tanning beds in my early 20s and never used sunscreen.

About 2 years ago at about age 32-33, I had gone to Fresh Laser Skin Studio for the first time having never heard of IPL or Photofacial. I was actually going there for a microdermabrasion. I had never had any procedures done on my skin and had really just started getting into skin care. After having a consultation with a questionnaire, skin typing and photographs of my face, Coral, the owner and skin specialist at Fresh Laser, suggested an IPL. Before getting this done, I was given some information and read some reviews online. There were reviews that proved to have great results and some that were a little scary, with photos showing tiger stripe burns all over the face. I’m thinking to myself, after the obvious pain one would be in after the first burst or two of light, would you not tell the person doing the IPL to stop because it hurt so much and there is obviously something wrong? If you say something feels wrong, and they say that’s how it’s supposed to feel…you may want to leave and find someone else. There should not be a lingering heat.  It is certainly very important to do your research on the procedure itself and the specialist doing the Photofacial and find someone who is knowledgeable and who you can trust.

With the above in mind, I went back to Fresh Laser to have my first of three treatments on my face and neck. I got before pictures taken. Coral was very reassuring, explained the procedure and said if anything hurts too much or doesn’t feel right, to let her know. She started by cleansing my skin and putting cold gel on my face and goggles on my eyes. Time to start. I was nervous. At the first pulse of light, it was bright despite the goggles and the pulse felt like a warm rubber band snapping on the skin. It was definitely tolerable. I felt the snap more on my upper lip. The handheld device moved bit by bit over my face and neck. It took about 30 minutes. The gel was then washed off and the skin moisturized. Any redness from the procedure can be covered with powder mineral makeup.

For me, right after the procedure my skin was slightly red in a couple patches more so on my neck (the skin on the neck is thinner and more sensitive than the face). My face and neck felt like it had a slight sunburn. That feeling lasted about 20 minutes and the redness about an hour.

I had three sessions in total, about 2 weeks apart. The second and third sessions were easier than the first, in part due to knowing what to expect. A few days after the first session some freckles got darker, more came to the surface and some just disappeared. The freckles that got darker flaked off the skin in pieces. After each subsequent session more freckles came off. The small red spots were reduced and overall redness of my skin was reduced.

Photofacial Before and After
Photofacial Before and After (Courtesy of Fresh Laser Skin Studio)
Photofacial Before and After
Photofacial Before and After Courtesy of Fresh Laser Skin Studio

Looking back on these photos I am amazed by the difference in my skin. The freckles were definitely gone and redness was reduced. My skin seemed less oily for a while. At this time, I didn’t really have any wrinkles, other than a line between my eyebrows and a few fine lines on my forehead. The fine lines on my forehead were a bit reduced and I didn’t notice any difference in the line between my eyebrows. The texture of my skin was improved and felt softer, but the scarring on the right of my face was not diminished. I may have needed a few more IPL sessions. Overall, I love the results and will definitely get IPL done again as now, a couple years later, I have some hyperpigmentation again. I’d probably want to try to do maintenance IPL once a year.

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