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Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) or Broad Band Light (BBL) systems refer to a class of devices in which a flash lamp is used to produce light energy of many wavelengths at the same time. IPL systems work on the same principles as lasers in that light energy is absorbed into particular target cells with color (chromophores) in the skin. The light energy is converted to heat energy, which causes damage to the specific target area. IPL systems are different than lasers in that they deliver many wavelengths or colors in each pulse of light instead of just one wavelength. Most IPL systems use filters to refine the energy output for the treatment of certain areas. This enhances penetration without using excessive energy levels and enables targeting of specific skin components that absorb light.
IPL therapy is considered a non-ablative resurfacing technique, which means that it targets the lower layers of skin (dermis) without affecting the top layers of skin (epidermis). The results are not as dramatic as ablative resurfacing with lasers in which both the dermis and epidermis are injured to produce a much more noticeable overall outcome. The advantage of IPL therapy is its minimal downtime.
Intense Pulsed Light is appropriate for the treatment of spider veins and some vascular lesions. Light pulses target the red pigment or hemoglobin in the blood which heats and destroys the pigment without affecting the skin or other tissues.
Intense Pulsed Light is also effective for the treatment of age spots, freckles, flat pigmented birthmarks and other skin discoloration problems such as melasma. IPL targets the melanin on the skin’s surface which heats and destroys the discoloration.
Photorejuvenation therapy is called by different names depending on the specific laser company, however, the therapy operates on the same principles as described above. At Paragon, the Cutera company calls this treatment photogenesis.
Photofacial Photorejuvenation Process
The photofacial is an effective and comfortable treatment for skin redness (rosacea), brown spots and sun damage. Prior to the procedure, your provider will explain the process to you and clearly define your expectations of the treatment. He/she will be able to tell you whether or not the results you desire will be achievable using this method. A complete health and skin consultation will be performed by the provider prior to performing the treatment.
IPL treatments are normally straightforward. It is imperative to avoid sun exposure in the days and before and after treatment, and a physical sunblock that contains micronized zinc or titanium dioxide must be used after the treatments. Tanned skin will not be treated.
- The smooth, glass surface of the IPL treatment head is applied to the skin, delivering precise pulses of light to the area being treated. When the handpiece is placed on your skin, it will feel cool and comfortable. When the pulse of light is delivered, you will feel a snapping or pinching sensation. The handpiece will immediately cool to lessen any discomfort.
- Treatment sessions usually last about 10-15 minutes. A course of 4-6 sessions spaced 4 weeks apart may be needed to achieve desired results.
- Most patients can return to work or activities immediately after treatment, but a physical sunblock must be used.
Throughout the treatment session the patient must wear protective eyewear. IPL treatments are relatively painless compared to other facial rejuvenation techniques. After the treatment, the brown spots will start to darken to the color of chocolate chips. Over the course of the next one to three weeks, darkened spots will fade and flake off, and you will notice clearer, younger-looking skin. Over time, new spots may appear if there is sufficient sun exposure without proper protection.
Side effects of the treatment are minor and may include:
- Pain during treatment (reduced by contact cooling).
- Skin turning pink and a little sore immediately after the procedure.
- Sensation of mild sunburn (redness, peeling, swelling) that may last a few days after treatment.
- Rarely, skin pigment may absorb too much light energy and blistering can occur.
- Sometimes the pigment cells (melanocytes) can be damaged leaving darker or paler patches of skin. White patches or scars are rarely permanent.
- Hair loss may occur.