Although bursts of bright flashing lights are often associated with the arrival of an alien invasion a la so-bad-they’re-good-sci-fi-flicks, did you know that when it comes to anti-aging treatment, intense bursts of light can actually target and treat several of the signs of aging?
In fact, research, indicates that IPL photorejuvenation – also commonly referred to as Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) or photofacials – helps treat freckles, redness (rosacea, broken capillaries, etc), sun damage (age/brown spots), fine lines and wrinkles, as well as general uneven skin tone.
IS IPL PHOTOREJUVENATION A LASER TREATMENT?
Often confused with being a non-ablative laser, IPL photorejuvenation therapy actually uses a broad spectrum of light instead of the one focused wavelength used by traditional lasers. Photorejuvenation is also considered to be a more gentle anti-aging procedure than laser treatment that, although may produce subtler results, has minimal to no downtime.
If you’re interested in comparing which treatment may work best for you check out our in-depth guide on the benefits of anti-aging lasers.
HOW DOES IPL PHOTOREJUVENATION WORK?
After the device releases the flash of light over the area of skin being treated, the light energy is absorbed and converts to heat as it penetrates through the epidermis (the top layers of the skin) to the dermis (the deeper layers), resulting in slight damage that triggers increased collagen synthesis, cell turnover, and boosts overall skin rejuvenation.
BECAUSE KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
We understand the apprehension of using an anti-aging treatment with uncertainty, especially those that have some risks associated with them, however minimal they may be. Below are some of the parameters of IPL photorejuvenation to help you better understand how the treatment works.
IPL devices have filters that allow you to control how powerful the photorejuvenation treatment is depending on the concern and skin area being treated. Generally, devices have 1 to 2 cutoff filters that range from 400-755nm. For example, when treating fine lines higher wavelengths of light are blocked compared to when targeting deep scars.
Light sources use a high-output flashlamp to produce a broad wavelength of light, usually in the 500-1200nm range. These light pulses are produced by bursts of electrical current passing through the device. Your practitioner decides upon the different levels of pulsing and speed during your consultation period based on your skin’s needs.
Different photorejuvenation devices have different sized faces. Depending on devices your practitioner uses, either smaller or larger areas of skin can be treated. If you have skin tone that varies from area to area, a device with a smaller face maybe the way to go.
A GOOD TEAM IS EVERYTHING
As everyone’s skin is different, the most important factor when looking into photorejuvenation treatment is finding a knowledgeable team that does accurate skin tone scoping. The team should be able to set accurate device parameters to maximize effectiveness and minimize side effects based on this assessment. This is especially important in the case of medium toned patients who tan easily, and for darker toned patients (where lower energy settings may be required). In fact, we suggest those whose skin tone falls within the darker end (Type V & TYPE VI) on the Fitzpatrick skin chart avoid photorejuvenation treatment altogether.
In general, we highly recommend asking for a patch test, where the photorejuvenation treatment with the correct settings is done on a small discreet area of the skin to see if there are any adverse reactions. Should you see no negative effects after one week, your skin is likely a good fit for treatment.
POPULAR IPL PHOTOREJUVENATION MACHINES
LimeLight is a common photorejuvenation device that uses a 3 in 1 programmable wavelength device for skin rejuvenation in order to accurately target skin concerns.
Palomar StarLux 500 has 8 different hand pieces for adjustable settings when it comes to spot size and targeting.
Lumenis 1 is used by many skincare practitioners and has a loyal following.
TARGETED SOLUTIONS FOR ANTI-AGING CONCERNS
DISCOLORATION AND SUN DAMAGE
Skin discoloration (freckles, age spots) and pigmentation can be treated with the light pulses from photorejuvenation, which targets the red pigment (hemoglobin) in the blood. With the heat from the light pulses, the pigment is destroyed without affecting other tissues, leaving you with an even, brighter skin tone.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SUNSCREEN
When it comes to sun damage, we say prevention is always the best anti-aging treatment. As one of the leading contributors to aging and discolored skin, sun damage can easily be avoided by daily usage of a proper sunscreen that boasts broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. Using a good sunscreen is especially important after a photorejuvenation treatment when your skin is extremely vulnerable.
Skinceuticals Physical Fusion Defense ($26.54)
Best For: Normal to Combination and Sensitive Skin
The lightweight SPF 50 formula combines zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to provide full range (UVA & UVB) protection from the sun’s aging rays. The universal tinted formula not only reduces the white cast often caused by mineral sunscreens, it also works well under makeup.
Check out our guide if you’re interested in reading about our recommended sunscreen options or learning more about how to pick a good sunscreen.
In order to heal scarring, the skin must heal and regenerate itself. With IPL photorejuvenation, light pulses target the melanin (the pigment that creates color) on the skin’s surface. This heat then destroys parts of the melanin to remove discoloration and the appearance of noticeable scars.
THE WONDERS OF CHEMICAL PEELS
Chemical peels can help to reduce the visible appearance of scars, stretch marks and wrinkles. By removing the surface layers of the skin, this treatment can boost collagen and elastin production.
Skin Obsession 20% TCA Chemical Peel ($13.99)
When done correctly, TCA peels are a very effective option when it comes to scar reduction. Although since TCA peels are a medium peel, we recommend them for our more advanced home peelers.
Make sure to explore our guide on the benefits of chemical peels for anti-aging which covers several of the different types of chemical peels, including what anti-aging concerns they are best used for as well as product recommendations for beginners.
FINE LINES AND WRINKLES
By boosting the skin’s reparation and rejuvenation abilities, the light pulses from IPL photorejuvenation therapy penetrate the dermis and epidermis to boost collagen reproduction. This rebuilds the surface of the skin where wrinkles, fine lines, and uneven surfaces from scarring are most visible.
RETINOL THE FINE LINE & WRINKLE MIRACLE
Retinol is a gentle form of Vitamin A that leads to effective results in terms of evening out skin tone, eliminating discoloration, and reducing fine lines and wrinkles. Studies show that the regular use of retinol in your skincare routine leads to ongoing improvements within a matter of 3 months.
Skin Medica Retinol Complex 1.0 ($54.89)
Made for nighttime use, SkinMedika’s fragrance-free lotion is an anti-aging powerhouse packed with a multitude of active ingredient: Tripeptide-8 is a peptide that helps boost collagen production while Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) along with the formula’s 1% Retinol help diminish uneven skin pigmentation and target fine lines and wrinkles. Other key ingredients include ceramides, Tocopherol (Vitamin E) and Squalene to help sooth the skin and retain hydration. As the 1% lotion maybe too potent for some, gentler strengths of 0.25% ($62) and 0.5% ($78) are also available.
A FEW THINGS TO NOTE
- In order to maximize the benefits of photorejuvenation, be sure to minimize exposure to the following:
- Avoid tanning beds, self-tanner, and sun exposure in general for one month before and after each treatment as pigmentation changes affect the treatment from functioning properly.
- Avoid AHA & BHA products, chemical peels, and Vitamin A (Retinol & Trentinoin) based products for one week before and after the treatment.
IPL PHOTOREJUVENATION PROCEDURE
Expected Procedure Time: 20 to 60 minutes
- A topical anesthetic may be applied to the targeted area to avoid discomfort
- You will be given protective eyewear for the treatment
- A cool gel will be applied to the area being treated to help the device move smoothly across the surface (many IPL photorejuvenation lasers have a cooling system integrated into the treatment)
- The smooth, glass surface of the laser will deliver pulses of light to the treated area
- Most can return to a normal daily routine or work immediately following a photorejuvenation session.
- For the next 24 hours after a photorejuvenation treatment avoid:
- Direct sunlight. Be persistent with applying SPF 30 sunscreen with broad spectrum (UVA & UVB) protection.
- Hot baths, showers and swimming.
COMMON SIDE EFFECTS
The main side effects that can be expected are mild, temporary swelling, darkened skin pigmentation on scars and spots, and occasional bruising. These side effects should only last up to two weeks after the treatment, and will subside over time.
HOW MANY TREATMENTS ARE NEEDED?
Repeated treatments for optimal results can be expected, with about 4 to 6 treatment sessions every 3 to 6 weeks as a good estimate.
DISCOLORATION AND SUN DAMAGE (3 TO 5 TREATMENTS)
Skin pigmentation especially those that are hyperpigmented may become slightly darkened immediately after treatment lasting for up to 7-10 days. After that, the skin will slowly even out with initial results expected within the month.
Another non-invasive anti-aging treatment known for being gentle, having no downtime and also effective for targeting uneven skin tone is LED light therapy. Check out our guide in order to explore the anti-aging benefits of LED light treatment and learn all about the different kinds of light and what they treat.
SCARRING (4 TO 6 TREATMENTS)
Scars may generally appear slightly redder than usually the first few days after treatment, with results beginning to show around the seventh day.
If you’re looking at alternative treatments to help eliminate scars, these two might be interesting:
Microdermabrasion works well for scars that are not raised, by physically exfoliating the top layers of skin and removing them. If you’re interested in learning more take a look into our article on what microdermabrasion does.
Micro-needling works through creating small wounds on the epidermis in order to induce skin regeneration and heal scars. Check out our feature that covers the benefits of micro-needling including how to pick your micro-needling device and a look into home treatment.
FINE LINES & WRINKLES (3 TO 6 TREATMENTS)
You may notice quite fast results for fine lines and wrinkles when using IPL photorejuvenation therapy. Slight improvements can be seen over time with the repeated sessions.
Depending on the type of lines and wrinkles you have there are three main alternative anti-aging treatments you can look into:
Botox works by temporarily preventing muscles contractions that we use to make certain facial movements such as frowning or raising our eyebrows, giving our skin a break and allowing it to smooth itself out. Check out our coverage on the different types of botox and the different ways it can be used.
Fillers help restore volume to areas of the face including under the eyes, cheeks and what are commonly referred to as jowls (the lines that extend from the side of our nose towards our chin). To learn more, take a look into our full run down of how fillers work including the different types and some of the more popular areas targeted by fillers.
Lasers, as discussed earlier, use a very focused wavelength of light when compared to IPL photorejuvenation therapy in order to address aging concerns. Take a look at our guide to discover how lasers target fine lines and wrinkles and explore their anti-aging benefits.
After your completed sessions, you may have to keep up with photorejuvenation treatments 1-2 times per year to maintain results. If you are very diligent with your anti-aging skincare routine in general and your sun protection in specific, results can be expected to last a number of years before a repeated set of sessions are needed.
Though it’s a nice idea to think that we can zap away our past mistakes when it comes to our skin, it’s important to be cautious with IPL photorejuvenation or any anti-aging treatment in general. Make sure to do your research and ask the skincare practitioners you trust the right questions. If strict guidelines are followed and diligent after-care is adhered to, results can be well worth it.