Dear Dr. Seckel, I am writing about Photofacial skin rejuvenation. I have a lot of brown age spots on my face, neck and chest and a few broken blood vessels around my cheeks, nose and chin. I have used the Obagi skin care system for 6 months but still have the brown spots. I think the broken blood vessels are worse on the Obagi. Is Photofacial the best course for me? Can Photofacial also be done on the neck and chest? The spa I go to offers Photofacial skin rejuvenation treatments, is there any difference between their machine and the one in your office? Is a Photofacial treatment as effective as the laser for removal of age spots and sun damage? Does the Photofacial treatment also help wrinkles? Sorry for all the questions but I want to get started with Photofacial as soon as I can. Thanks, Sandy, Boston, Massachusetts
Thank you for your question about Photofacial skin rejuvenation. The Photofacial or Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) is an excellent option for removing the brown spots and broken blood vessels on your face, neck and chest area. The IPL is gentler than the laser but works very well. I would have you stop the Obagi two weeks before your Photofacial treatment. The Photofacial machines that are used in a physician’s office are, by law, stronger than those allowed to be used in a Spa. You also will get medical advice about skin care, Photofacial, and other non-surgical skin rejuvenation options in a doctor’s office. To better answer your questions about Photofacial anti-aging skin care treatments please read further below.
Photofacial or IPL is not a laser and is a new non-surgical anti-aging skin care treatment method. Photofacial uses a flash of visible light to remove aging changes from the facial, neck, hand and décolletage skin. Anti-aging Photofacial skin care treatments do not require a topical anesthetic, are quick, and effective. Photofacial skin care treatments do not require the down time or recovery time associated with laser skin resurfacing or surgical anti-aging skin care methods such as the aggressive laser skin resurfacing skin rejuvenation method.
Photofacial anti-aging skin care treatments or IPL treatments can freshen aging and sun damaged skin to a clear uniform appearance without age spots, brown spots and broken blood vessels. See the before and after pictures of photofacial skin care treatment of the face below:
What Causes Age Spots, Sun Spots, Red Blotches and Broken Blood Vessels on the Face Neck and Décolletage?
Browns spots and broken blood vessels around the nose, chin, cheeks, neck, hands and Décolletage are classic signs of sun damage and aging of the skin. Brown spots, often called age spots are caused by pigment that is produced by the skin to protect the skin from the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. New blood vessels grow into the skin in response to skin injury by the sun. This process of new blood vessel growth is called inflammation.
The new blood vessels bring blood into the facial skin first to wash out damaged skin cell debris and later to bring in skin healing factors.
As our skin ages, the brown spots and broken blood vessels are left behind on the skin after the inflammation or skin injury has passed. These pigmented and red vascular spots create an aged variegated appearance to the facial skin which is called dyschromia, which is a sign of facial aging.
Photofacial skin care treatments or IPL treatments are the non-surgical anti-aging skin care treatment of choice for benign facial skin pigmentation, age spots, brown spots and broken blood vessels, the small red spots called telangiectasia, on the face, hands, neck and Décolletage. Photofacial treatments are now preferred over laser treatments for these specific pigment and vascular lesions.
How Do Photofacial or Intense Pulsed Light Non-surgical anti-aging Skin Care Treatments Work?
Photofacial or IPL anti-aging skin care treatments use a bright flash of visible light, like the light of a camera flash to remove pigment and blood vessels non-surgically from the skin. This pulsed or flashed light is very different from a laser and in most instances, less powerful and less dangerous that laser light.
I use a Photofacial IPL machine called the LuxGreen IPL made by Palomar Medical Laser Company in Burlington, Massachusetts. Palomar Medical is the premier manufacturer of Aesthetic Laser and Light therapy machines in the world. The LuxGreen Photofacial is the best Photofacial technology I have ever used. The LuxGreen Photofacial IPL machine is very effective and is the most comfortable for you the patient of any IPL device available.
Photofacial skin rejuvenation works by passing a flash of bright light through a filter that only allows a specific color of light in the flash to pass through the filter and hit the skin. In the case of the LuxGreen Photofacial, only light with a wavelength of 550nm (nm=nanometers or one millionth of a meter and is the measure of the green light wavelength in the visible light spectrum) to pass through the IPL filter and hit the skin.
The LuxGreen Photofacial 550nm light is selectively absorbed or taken up by the brown pigment in an age spot or the dark reddish brown color of blood in a blood vessel. When the Photofacial light energy is absorbed by the pigment or blood vessel, the heat from the Photofacial or IPL light destroys the pigment or blood vessel by heating it.
This process is called Target Specific Photothermolysis. A specific target, that is a color, is heated (thermo) with a light (photo) beam and dissolved or destroyed (lysis).
Using color filters placed in front of the Photofacial light beam, a wide variety of colors can be allowed through to treat many different skin conditions including hair removal (LuxRed), acne (LuxViolet), and others.
What Will My Skin Look Like Immediately After a Photofacial Skin Care Treatment?
Unlike lasers, which can cause the skin to peel and possibly leave scars, the Lux Green Photofacial treatments are very gentle on the skin. The pigment in the brown spot or age spot will darken very slightly, and the treated blood vessel will also darken a bit. However the skin will be intact. The treated areas may also be slightly pink for a few hours.
We place ice or a cool pack on the treated area immediately and this also may make the skin pink. However, the pinkness may be covered with makeup immediately. You may return to work. And your skin will be nearly normal the next day.
Does A Photofacial Skin Care Treatment Hurt?
There is minimal discomfort during a Photofacial skin care treatment. Anesthesia or numbing medicine is not required. When the Photofacial or IPL flash hits the skin you will feel a small snap or sting, but this is easily tolerated by all of my patients.
How Many Photofacial Skin care treatments will I Need?
Usually 3 Photofacial skin care treatments are required spaced 4-5 weeks apart for the best results. Multiple treatments are the price for gentle treatments that are not painful and do not injure the skin.
Technically enough power can be used to remove the brown spot or blood vessel in one treatment, but this energy level would be painful, blister the skin and possibly leave a scar. This is what happened with old time laser treatments, and the new Photofacial is designed to remove pigment and blood vessels painlessly and with no trace or scar left behind. To accomplish this we need to stage the removal in 2-3 treatments 4-5 weeks apart. The results are well worth the wait.
How Soon after My Photofacial Skin Care Treatment Will I See a Result?
Generally you will see the results of your Photofacial skin care treatment at 4-5 weeks. The brown spot will be lighter or gone and the red spot or blood vessel will be much smaller. Some patients with thin skin and very light pigment or small broken blood vessels will see complete removal after one treatment.
However most people see definite improvement 5 weeks after the Photofacial IPL treatment and require 2 more treatments for complete removal.
Who Should I Consult For My Photofacial or Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Skin Care Treatment?
The best Photofacial or IPL machines are found in a physician’s office. Less powerful Photofacial machines are allowed to be used in Spas, but results are not as effective with these downgraded machines. In my experience patients do not get the results that they want in a spa, and often come to my practice for repeat treatments with the LuxGreen Photofacial after having already spent money for IPL in a spa.
The other benefit of having your Photofacial treatment in a physician’s office is that you will be examined by a doctor who can properly diagnose your skin condition. Some brown lesions are dangerous and require medical evaluation and should not be treated with IPL. If you have Rosacea or larger blood vessels on your face, a different therapy is required. These are medical treatments and should be done in a doctor’s office. Your skin will be evaluated for more serious skin conditions, and you will receive more effective Photofacial skin care treatments.
How Do I Find a Good Doctor to Do My Photofacial Skin Care Treatment?
Light based and laser non-surgical skin rejuvenation treatments are best done by a doctor who is well trained and specializes in anti-aging skin care. Your safest bet is to seek consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist who has experience in laser and light based therapies such as Photofacial or Intense Pulsed Light.
I am of course prejudiced because I am a board certified plastic surgeon. However, a plastic surgeon is trained and capable of providing the full range of non-surgical and surgical skin anti-aging procedures and can customize your skin care treatments to your unique face. Doctors who cannot provide all treatments are tempted to “fit your unique face” into the particular skin care treatment they offer, and that is not the best situation for you.
Good sources of honest objective information about choosing a physician are available at the following links: