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What is Photorejuvenation: Overview, Benefits, and Expected Results

Definition & Overview

Photorejuvenation is a cosmetic treatment that utilizes intense pulsed light (IPL), lasers or photodynamic therapy to improve the appearance of the skin. It can transform red, blotchy, sun-damaged skin into an even, more radiant complexion. It helps reduce and treat common skin problems such as melasma, brown spots, liver spots, hyperpigmentation, and rosacea.

Photorejuvenation is a modern dermatological technique that lasts only about an hour. It causes minimal discomfort and delivers excellent results.

The procedure has many benefits because it:

  • Reduces hyperpigmentation and skin redness, creating an even and fairer complexion
  • Makes the skin appear more radiant and youthful
  • Helps reduce or eliminate wrinkles and fine lines by stimulating the production of collagen and elastin
  • Assists in the healing of acne breakouts
  • Eliminates acne-causing bacteria to minimize the occurrences of breakouts
  • Increases blood circulation in the target area while reducing inflammation
  • Helps speed up the healing process after invasive cosmetic procedures such as chemical peels

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

Photorejuvenation is highly recommended for those with various skin problems, such as:

  • Rosacea and abnormal flushing, a condition where facial blood vessels are enlarged, leading to a flushed appearance
  • Stretch marks
  • Hyperpigmentation or brown spots, or the darkening of the skin due to the overproduction of skin pigment called melatonin
  • Wrinkles
  • Spider veins, which are caused by dilated capillaries
  • Melasma, or blotchy, gray or brown patches on the face (also known as chloasma)
  • Freckles
  • Age and sun spots
  • Visible or broken capillaries
    Light therapy through photorejuvenation has shown many benefits on the skin. As the skin tissues absorb light, the light energy stimulates the underlying cells to enhance the body's natural process of cell regeneration. It works by simulating minor injuries, prompting the skin to renew itself and improve its texture.

The laser or IPL device also targets melanin (the skin's brown pigment) and breaks it down to improve and lighten complexion. In the same way, light waves are absorbed by the red blood cells, specifically hemoglobin, which damages the blood vessel walls, making red colorations on the skin less visible.

IPL photorejuvenation targets deeper layers of the skin, so they are usually recommended along with more superficial treatments such as microdermabrasion and chemical peels.

Photofacial treatments are usually performed in a series of 3 to up to 6 treatments scheduled about one month apart. Although noticeable effects can be seen after the first session, full benefits can be experienced with multiple treatments. The speed at which photorejuvenation takes effect depends largely on individual response and the gravity of the skin condition being treated.

How is the Procedure Performed?

Prior to the first treatment, patients are advised to:

  • Avoid sunbathing and visiting the tanning salon at least 2 to 4 weeks before treatment
  • Discontinue the use of retinoids, tetracycline, and minocycline few days before treatment
  • Avoid intake of aspirin or ibuprofen a week prior to treatment
    Photorejuvenation is done through a machine that subjects the skin to pulsed light. Before the procedure begins, protective eyewear is placed on top of the eyes to protect them from the bright light flashes. A cool lubricant is then applied to the treatment area and handpiece to cool the outer layer of the skin during treatment.

The skin care specialist then applies brief light pulses through the handpiece. While the procedure is being performed, patients usually feel a warm sensation as light waves strike the skin. Depending on the size of the treated area, the procedure can take a few minutes to an hour.

Once the procedure is completed, the treatment area may be cooled down with an ice pack to help soothe discomfort, if any.

After the procedure, patients may notice minor swelling, redness, and the appearance of small capillaries in the treated area, which usually resolve on their own within hours or a couple of days following the procedure. Makeup can immediately be applied after the treatment.

Skin care specialists advice patients to protect the affected area after the procedure, which means avoiding unnecessary sun exposure. Wearing hats, sunscreen, and sunblock everyday are crucial to experience the maximum benefits of an IPL treatment.

Possible Risks and Complications

Photorejuvenation is a highly safe procedure, and does not pose much risk especially when performed by a trained skin care specialist. However, there are rare cases when complications can set in, such as:

  • Scarring
  • Blistering
  • Bleeding
  • Hyperpigmentation or darkening of the skin
  • Hypo-pigmentation or abnormal lightening of the skin
    To avoid these risks and complications, it is important that patients are upfront about their existing medical conditions and history. Among common concerns that need to be consulted before photorejuvenation include pregnancy, skin cancer, susceptibility to keloid formation (raised scarring), and open lesions.

    References:

  • Ablative CO2 Lasers for Skin Tightening: Traditional Versus Fractional.". Dermatol Surg. 40 Suppl 12: S147–51. Dec 2014.

  • Purschke, M; Laubach, HJ; Anderson, RR; Manstein, D (2010). "Thermal injury causes DNA damage and lethality in unheated surrounding cells: active thermal bystander effect". The Journal of Investigative Dermatology 130 (1): 86–92.