Most people I know, including myself, deal with some sort of facial pigmentation issue. Whether it be melasma, dark spots, freckles, rosacea, etc. One of the questions I’m asked most often is “how do I get rid of dark spots?” So I wanted to focus this post on as much info as I can possibly give you on IPL Laser Treatments.
Photorejuvenation (IPL- Intense Pulsed Light) laser treatments are most commonly used to:
1.) Lighten and remove dark spots (also known as “sun spots” or “age spots”), and melasma (brown blotches). Typically on the face, neck, chest and hands. These issues are also known as “hyper-pigmentation.”
2.) Lighten and reduce redness, rosacea, dilated blood vessels and broken blood vessels on the face, neck and chest. 3.) Improve skin texture through collagen stimulation.
Ok, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can focus on what this really means, how the lasers work, and what you can expect during and after the treatment.
The first time I experienced hyper-pigmentation I was around the age of 29. I was actually on vacation in Hawaii and had spent the day at the beach. When I arrived back to our condo, I had developed a dark spot on my cheek and my entire upper lip had turned brown! Now… I’m more than a little vein when it comes to my skin so I completely freaked out. I went to my dermatologist as soon as I returned home. He explained that hyper-pigmentation on the face and neck happen primarily to women in their reproductive years. It is a combination of sun exposure and hormonal changes that cause our melanocytes, cells in the skin that make pigment, to produce too much pigment. This is commonly seen in pregnant women known as the “pregnancy mask” or in women taking birth control pills. My doctor prescribed me hydroquinone (bleaching cream) and sent me on my way. Although hydroquinone does fade these dark areas, it is not a permanent fix. Hence, why I began doing IPL Laser Treatments.
IPL Lasers are actually one of the most gentle skin rejuvenation lasers in modern dermatology. That being said, the recovery downtime is very short compared to other dermal lasers. I don’t mean gentle in the sense that it doesn’t hurt…we will get into that a bit later. For brown spot treatment, The IPL laser device emits a range of lightwaves that are tuned and targeted at melanin (the brown pigment in freckles and age spots). The light beam passes through the skin and is absorbed by the melanin resulting in fragmentation of melanin pigment. Because of this fragmenting, the pigment is then absorbed by the body, rendering the dark spots less visible. The same process occurs when treating rosacea and blood vessels. However, rather than targeting melanin, the hemoglobin is targeted (the red blood cells in the blood vessels). The light beam is absorbed by the hemoglobin resulting in damage to the vessel wall. The tiny vessels that have been damaged are then absorbed by the body and become less visible on the surface. You still with me??? I know, it’s pretty scientific stuff.
After the treatment, your skin will feel a bit sensitive and will be red and splotchy. However, this irritation will go down within a few hours. You can expect the treated areas to become dark and crusty. This will last between 3-7 days until the crusting flakes off. This is literally your brown spots or broken blood vessels flaking off. Crazy right?! After just 1 treatment, you will notice a huge difference in your complexion and spot visibility. Even though you will be pleased with the results after just 1 treatment, please continue to receive 3-5 treatments as that’s what it takes to truly get to the root of the problem and get rid of it for good. But please prepare yourself for the stinging, shock factor of how these lasers feel on your skin. If anyone tells you it doesn’t hurt, they are LYING! It feels like a rubber-band snapping on raw skin. Not kidding. I suggest applying a numbing cream 45 minutes prior to the procedure.
Even though any dark spots I had previously have now disappeared, I still get 3 or 4 IPL laser treatments a year as they are great for collagen production and anti-aging. The light from the laser gently heats the cells in the deeper “dermis” layer of the skin. The heated cells then start to produce more collagen improving skin texture and fine wrinkles.
The best advice I can give you is to find a dermatologist or MedSpa with a good reputation in laser treatments. The laser machines have different strength levels so your technician needs to understand what will work best on your skin type. Also, make sure your technician knows the difference between melasma and dark spots. Although both are pigmentation issues, melasma is quite a different beast. One of the challenges in treating melasma is that it can occur in the dermis (deep skin layer) and can sometimes be resistant to treatment. Lasers can help treat melasma, but it needs to be done at a slower and less intense pace so the pigmentation can be broken up more gradually.
It is not recommended to do IPL Laser treatments during the summer months as you could increase the sun damage to your skin by doing so. Your doctor or technician will have specific instructions for you to follow on how to prepare for the laser treatment.
If you are in the Atlanta GA area and are interested in laser treatments, please go for a free consultation at Shape Med. I’ve been going there for 5 years now and have never been disappointed 🙂
I’ll leave you with this…WEAR SUNSCREEN PEOPLE!
And remember…Be Forever Young xo