What is a photofacial?
Photofacial is a treatment that utilizes Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) technology to promote a more even skin tone.
IPL utilizes a broad spectrum of wavelengths to target a variety of red and brown lesions.
IPL is different from laser energy, which uses a single wavelength to target a specific chromofore.
How does the photofacial work?
The Photofacial works by targeting the melanin in pigmented lesions.
When the melanin is treated by a pulse of light, it causes the melanin to break down and the surrounding unaffected cells regenerate new cells.
While the settings can be made more or less aggressive, there is a small window in which treatment is safe.
If set very low, it is not as effective, and if too high, one runs the risk of having a superficial burn or blister.
The treatment can also bring up deeper pigment to the surface. It is for this reason we often recommend a series of treatments for the best results and greatest improvement.
Often times, our patients find that a series of 3-6 treatments, with a maintenance treatment every 6-12 months is sufficient to achieve optimal results.
Who is a candidate?
Photofacial is an excellent laser treatment for anyone with unwanted pigmented lesions.
Sun damage, broken capillaries, brown spots from aging, and melasma conditions are just a few of the common conditions that are effectively treated with the Photofacial. The laser settings are modified according to the skin type, and safety is a top priority.
Dr. Patel has effectively and safely treated patients that ranged from very fair complexions to dark complexions, and all different types of ethnicities.
A complimentary consultation is offered for anyone considering this laser, in order to give you an opportunity to discuss your goals and have Dr. Patel evaluate your skin and history to see if you are a good candidate for the Photofacial laser.
Treatments should not be scheduled at a time when you have had significant sun exposure or tanning treatments within the last 4 weeks. Any self-tanners applied to the areas being treated should be discontinued 3-4 weeks prior to the treatment.
What parts of the body is Photofacial good for?
While often called “Photofacial”, the laser technology can in fact be used on almost any area of the body.
The face, neck, chest, and hands are the most commonly treated areas. Often patients start with their face, and like the results so much that they now want their neck, chest, and hands to match the more even toned looking skin on the face.
What to expect at your visit
Once you have been evaluated and found to be a good candidate for the Photofacial, topical numbing cream will be applied to your skin to provide the most comfortable treatment for you.
Topical numbing takes about 20-30 minutes to take effect. While most patients find the topical numbing to be sufficient for pain control, some patients prefer to be given pain medication (injection or oral).
This decision is dependent on each individual patient and their pain tolerance. If you choose to have pain medication, you must have someone available to drive you home after the treatment.
If you have a history of cold sore or herpes breakouts, we recommend pre-treating and post-treating with an anti-viral such as Acyclovir, as Photofacial treatments can activate outbreaks in some patients.
A prescription for medications determined by your provider will be written for you and you will have the option of using your insurance or to pay cash for the medication.
After the topical numbing has had time to take effect, the numbing cream will be wiped off, and you will be given a gentle cleanser to use to wash the area completely clean of any makeup and numbing cream.
After drying the skin, you will be given a headband to keep hair out of the area, and protective eyewear to wear during the procedure.
It is also recommended to remove jewelry at this time.
Next aloe vera gel is applied to the areas to be treated. When the smooth surface of the Photofacial laser tip is applied to the skin, a pulse of light is delivered to the skin you may feel a brief “rubber band snap” sensation delivered to the skin you may feel a warm sensation, like a sunburn over the areas being treated.
On average, the treatment time of a Photofacial is about 30 minutes.
After the treatment is finished, a soothing recovery cream or lotion will be applied to the skin.
Sun protection is of utmost importance after Photofacial treatment, and you must be vigilant in avoiding sun exposure while healing.
Those with more pigment in their skin or darker skin should be careful since they are more likely to hyper-pigment than those with fair skin or less melanin pigment.
In general, you should avoid unprotected natural and artificial sun exposure until healed and always use a broad spectrum sunscreen (UVA & UVB) with a SPF of 30 or greater between treatments. Make sure you reapply throughout the day, not just once in the morning.
Pigmented and vascular lesions will appear worse for approximately 3-7 days and then the areas should begin to fade or flake off over the next 2 weeks. Do not exfoliate or use scrubs on the treated areas for 2 weeks, or wear clothing that creates friction.
If you note any pink areas or blisters, apply antibacterial ointment to those sites until they are healed.
Risks of Photofacial laser treatments
While the Photofacial is very safe there are some risks associated with the treatments.
These risks include: pain; infection; bleeding; redness; local tenderness; swelling; allergic reactions; bruising; painful or unattractive scarring; pigment changes (hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation); recurrence of lesions; poor or delayed healing; burns/blisters; visible skin patterns; unsatisfactory result; lack of permanent results; sun exposure sensitivity; eye damage; hair growth disruption; risks of any medications used.
Recovery -what to expect & when
Immediately following a Photofacial, you may notice redness to your skin which typically subsides within a couple of hours.
Signs of sun damage and hyperpigmentation darken and over the course of the next 7-10 days, and darkened spots will fade and flake off.
Many patients see improvement within 2 weeks of photofacial treatment. The Photofacial provides gradual improvement with excellent long-term results.
You will notice a reduction in redness, sun damage, and dilated capillaries. Photofacial treatments are recommended every 4-6 weeks, for a series of 3-6 treatments, with a maintenance treatment every 6-12 months.