Intense Pulsed Light and Photodynamic Therapy
Intense Pulsed Light and Photodynamic Therapy – Pacific Plastic Surgery in Santa Barbara
Patients often ask us what they can do to improve their skin aside from traditional spa services such as facials or peels. An IPL, or Intense Pulsed Light, is an excellent treatment that we offer at Pacific Plastic Surgery to correct a variety of skin concerns and to improve the overall appearance of the skin. An IPL is a light-based treatment that uses a filtered pulse of light within a narrow wavelength, and this wavelength is chosen based on skin type and the problem being treated. These treatments are also commonly referred to as photofacials and help to lighten or eliminate sun damage, brown spots, broken capillaries and rosacea. IPL also helps to reduce wrinkles by stimulating collagen and many people who have done these treatments report that their skin “glows” and tends to have a more radiant appearance. Aside from the face, other parts of the body can be treated such as the neck, chest, arms and hands.
Typically people start with 3-5 treatments about a month apart depending on what condition they would like to address and the severity of it. Although 3-5 treatments is recommended, patients usually see improvement after each one! After the desired appearance of the skin is reached, it is helpful to do a maintenance IPL a couple times a year to keep your skin looking great.
The treatment is done in our office after an initial skin consultation and takes about 30 minutes. We will go over concerns that you may have about your complexion and we will answer any questions that you may have. While not necessary, many patients say that a topical numbing cream helps to eliminate most of the discomfort with an IPL which is applied prior to the treatment along with ice during the treatment to make it as comfortable as possible. Your eyes will be covered with protective eyewear and then a cool gel will be applied to your face. Most people describe the sensation as “a rubber band snapping” but with the numbing cream and ice, most of the discomfort is eliminated. Once the treatment is finished, the gel will be wiped off and a refreshing cooling mask will be applied to the skin, followed by a moisturizer and sunblock. Immediately after the treatment, the skin may appear slightly red or areas where there were brown spots will begin to darken. It takes about a week for the face to slough off the pigment that comes up with each treatment. Texturally, the skin does not feel rough or scabbed, only that the brown spots of concern will become darker before they get lighter. These spots are easy to cover up with makeup which can be applied immediately after the treatment and there is very minimal in any “down time”. A variation on the IPL, with a more significant effect but also more downtime, is Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) – see the section below for more information on this option.
Often times patients will choose to optimize their results by incorporating a Dermaplane or peel between IPL treatments (about 2 weeks after) which helps to gently exfoliate the skin, leading to a healthy, more youthful appearance. If you are looking for a noninvasive way with maximum results to improve the appearance of your skin, IPL may be a great option to rejuvenate your skin!
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is a more aggressive light-based treatment performed with a topical photosensitizing agent called Levulan (5-aminolevulinic acid or ALA). Levulan is a natural product that is activated or “turned on” by a specific wavelength of light. Levulan is placed on the skin of the face, neck , chest or hands and then is activated by our IPL( Intense Pulse Light) device. These treatments improve actinic keratoses or precancerous spots caused by sun exposure. ALA/PDT is easier than the typical treatment options for actinic keratoses such as topical liquid nitrogen or Efudex (5-FU) cream. It offers an effective treatment option with minimal side effects and downtime. Levulan also offers cosmetic benefits. Sun spots, uneven pigmentation, and early wrinkles are improved with the its use. In addition, these treatments can improve the appearance of acne and some acne scars.
Follow-up treatments can be done in the future to maintain the rejuvenated appearance of the skin. For more information on photodynamic therapy and how it can remove sun or age spots, contact our cosmetic surgery practice.
See Intense Pulsed Light patient photos HERE.