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The Magic of Intense Pulse Light Photofacial

Do you know the song, “Oh, Oh, Oh, It’s magic!…. Ya knooooow. Never believe it’s not sooo” by Pilots? I hear that song on repeat in my head anytime I think about this treatment and the results. 

After earning my certified laser technician license from the National Association of Laser & Aesthetics Institute, I am eager to share my newfound knowledge regarding skin and laser technology! The advanced integration between technology and medical aesthetics is quickly making its mark in this growing, multi-billion dollar industry. It amazes me to think about how far we have come within the last 70 years and where the future is heading.

I had the honor of treating my grandmother for her very first Intense Pulse Light (IPL) Photofacial! She was born around the 1950s 😉 and grew up on a farm in Southwest Iowa. Throughout her adult life, she lived in the desert of Arizona and spent many hours by her backyard pool. My grandma agreed to an impromptu interview, where she dove into the history of her sun damage and age spots that have left evidence of unprotected skin throughout her life experiences. It was fun to discuss how much education and skincare have evolved. 

What is a photofacial?

Start by thinking about the way the name breaks down, photo and facial. During the treatment, once the laser is fired, you will experience a quick flash of bright light, just like having your picture taken. Of course, the difference is that the flash of light in the treatment room is designed to cause damage to tissue and initiate new. The client, as well as the provider, will both wear safety glasses to protect against any damage to the eyes. What is happening to the skin below and above the surface? Why is it cold and then hot? What is the downtime? Can I apply makeup? Who is an ideal client for this treatment?

IPL treatments work by transferring energy to targeted areas within the skin.

Energy from the laser passes through the outer surface of the skin, called the epidermis, and penetrates the deeper layer of skin, called the dermis. To have an effective treatment, we must transmit enough light to reach the target tissue, so that light will be absorbed and converted into heat. The converted heat must raise the temperature of the target just enough to cause damage, while simultaneously leaving the non-targeted tissue undamaged. We call this process “selective photothermolysis”. 

To break it down, even more, it is the selection of the proper light wavelength (photo), which turns into heat (thermo), to destroy (lysis) the selected or targeted tissue. The way the laser works is by delivering enough heat to damage the selected target; based on the pigment contrast, extreme caution is used. With a setting that is too high, there is a possibility of burning or blistering. To assist us in achieving a safe, comfortable treatment, our laser has an integrated cooling crystal designed on the applicator. 

We can adjust the cooling to target chromophores deeper within the tissue. The sensation that you feel is going to be very cold. Once we click the trigger that causes the laser to fire and transfer the energy, you’ll feel a hot sensation for a quick second and then immediately feel the cold crystal again on the skin.

If you are familiar with the anatomy of the skin, you know that there are many nerve receptors located within the epidermal and dermal layers. Therefore, you can feel a cooling and heating sensation. The laser targets chromophores that are located within the dermal layer. By bypassing some of the nerve receptors in the epidermis, we can provide comfortable treatment.

Absorption works by choosing the correct wavelength of light to target the chromophore within the tissue.

I like to refer to the chromophore as the “aesthetic target of concern”. There are different types of chromophores for which we use specific wavelengths to target. For example in hair reduction, the target chromophore is the melanin of the hair. With an IPL photofacial, the target chromophore is melanin within the hyperpigmentation and oxyhemoglobin (red blood cells), within the tissue. It also works wonders for treating acne, because we can target specific types of bacteria and sebaceous glands with the correct settings. 

Once in the dermis, the energy stimulates a cell called fibroblasts to produce new collagen. Over several treatments, this new collagen that is produced results in a rejuvenated look and softens the appearance of wrinkles, outsized pores, and textural irregularities. With today’s technology, special filters are integrated within the laser that allows us to target more than hyperpigmentation or sun damage. Rosacea or spider veins can be treated with the laser by targeting the pigment in red blood cells.

After clinically damaging the target tissue, the body begins to repair right away. It is normal to see a redness response on the surface of the skin. In the medical world, this is also known as erythema. Many clients’ main concern when it comes to any aesthetic treatment is the downtime. If you are in a time crunch and looking for a treatment with minimal downtime, this is the one to consider! 

With an IPL photofacial you can expect the redness to subside within 4-6 hours. If that redness persists after 24 to 48 hours, contact your treatment provider. Following the treatment, a moisturizer can be applied. We recommend one with an SPF of at least 15. When it comes to make-up application, light powder is an advisable option, post-treatment. Try to avoid concealer or foundation following your treatment as it is best to allow your skin time to breathe and heal.

The Best Part of All!

Over the next 7-12 days, the hyperpigmentation, or sun damaged spots begin to darken. The body works to get rid of the damaged cells, so you notice the spots almost dissolve and lift towards the upper layer of skin until it is exfoliated out as new cells regenerate.

This is a powerful and effective treatment. However, it’s not ideal for all skin types due to the concept behind selective photothermolysis as explained above. Clients with a darker complexion may be offered other treatment options that are just as efficient. Keep in mind, there is no way to achieve the same skincare goal for each individual in the same way, as we are all beautifully different from one another. Each treatment plan should be specially formulated based on the history of the skin and many other factors. To ensure client safety, there is an extensive amount of education and training that happens behind the scenes before qualifying a client for an IPL treatment. You should have all of your questions answered, as well as a list of different options to achieve your specific skincare goals before the treatment.

Zero Redness

On the day of my grandma’s treatment, after applying our Daytime Defense SPF 30 by Rhonda Allison for protection, she left the spa with zero redness. The hyperpigmentation blemishes that were targeted with the laser immediately darkened just as expected. We did the treatment on a Thursday. She was concerned about a dinner that she had planned with some friends that upcoming Sunday. I continued to follow up

with her for many days post-treatment. The dinner went great and no one suspected she received any aesthetic treatment.

You can see the results in the picture. With my grandma’s skincare goals, she will certainly need more than one treatment. We always recommend at least 3 treatments to see satisfactory results, but as I mentioned, everyone is different. You may love the results after one! This is not a one-time miracle treatment, results cannot be guaranteed.

At Revive Med Spa and Regenerative Medicine, we utilize skincare professionals, licensed aestheticians, and certified laser technicians to perform a detailed consultation before receiving any treatment. It is our goal to provide you with informative options, flawless results, and affordable prices. We love being able to answer questions, provide clarity and education not only to our clients but friends as well. This is our passion.