IPL/Photofacials: One Tool to Improve Brown Spots, Spider Veins, Pores, Wrinkles & Skin Aging

Most people (including many practitioners) think that the goal of aesthetic medicine is to make people look younger. A lot of aesthetic doctors believe this too and practice accordingly. I disagree. The more time I spend in aesthetics, the more I feel strongly but I believe that the main goal should be to make people look healthy, not young. What people universally find most attractive, both in faces as well as bodies, is an external appearance that reflects internal good health.  "Healthy" sometimes means the same thing as "younger", but not always.  Most aesthetic physicians will take a 50-year old patient and try to make her look 40. I don't think that is the best thing to do - the goal should be to make her look 45, but in a natural and healthy way. When she meets people they should think: "Wow, she looks fantastic for 45!". This is a lot better than looking like a stretched and unnatural 40-year old.

For all that can be done with botox, fillers and plastic surgery, when the skin of your face, neck, chest and hands glows with health, clear of signs of sun and other environmental damage, it just looks good and people notice.

Many people I know are uncomfortable with the "vanity" of doing cosmetic things with their faces. These same people watch what they eat, spend hours each week working out and are careful shopping for clothes to complement their fit physiques. This feels good because they know they are improving the health of their body, and a healthy body looks good.

Unfortunately, some of those same people are afraid to take the same care with the health of their faces. Over the years, if you don't eat well and exercise, your body will become less fit, and to many, less attractive. Faces take the same maintenance and care if your face is to look as healthy and vibrant as your fit body. Sun protection, hydration and taking in the nutrients your body needs all help your skin and face look healthier. Much like working out with a trainer, a physician can also offer tools to help your skin achieve its best, radiant health.

There are many options, including customized prescription creams, microdermabrasion and peels, and lasers which can help your skin. Recent research out of Stanford is confirming what most doctors who treat skin already know. Intense Pulsed Light/IPL (commonly known as photofacials, fotofacials, or when provided by a Sciton branded system, Broad Band Light/BBL) actually reverses many of the changes which occur as skin is exposed to the stresses of sun and aging.

Although a treatment with IPL looks and feels like a laser treatment, it isn't. IPL uses a selected spectrum of light waves to interact with targets in the skin, such as brown spots or spider veins. In contrast, laser is in part defined by only using a single wavelength of light.

As the spectrum of light used can be filtered for specific concerns, this is a valuable tool which can help improve a wide range of skin conditions from acne and rosacea, scars, spider veins or telangectasias and the brown spots or hyperpigmentation that so many of us notice over years playing in the Tahoe sun.

Treatments are very gentle, taking only 15 minutes to treat the entire face, and this therapy is safe enough to use on the neck, decollete, hands or any other area of the body. Topical numbing cream keeps treatments comfortable and one of the great things about  IPL is that there is no peeling or other signs that a laser treatment was done. Clients can immediately apply makeup and return to work with only minor redness lasting about 30 minutes after a treatment. Brown spots often become a bit browner before fading or flaking off and most people see their results within 1-2 weeks. Because this is such a a gentle treatment, most people do need a series of sessions, usually 4-6, to get their optimal results.

Interestingly, biopsies of skin treated with a series of IPL over the years behave as younger skin than biopsies on the same patients in areas where they weren't treated. There is less DNA damage and the DNA expresses proteins usually seen produced by younger, healthier DNA. IPL combined with certain photosensitizers such as Levulan can be used to treat both resistant acne as well as sun damage and even precancerous lesions such as actinic keratoses.

The hardest thing for most patients to do with IPL treatments is avoid playing in our lovely Tahoe sun. It is critical that individuals avoid any significant sun exposure, tanning beds or even self-tanners for two weeks before and after each session. That being said, once people see the results they're getting, they find it's well worth taking the care of hats and sunblock for younger, healthier skin.