Resurfacing the skin with laser energy devices can be either ablative or non-ablative. Ablative lasers target both the surface (epidermis) and lower layers of the skin (dermis), whereas non-ablative lasers, bypass the skin’s surface leaving the epidermis unharmed and intact.
Ablative resurfacing can make a significant difference in the appearance of deep lines and wrinkles as well pigment irregularities, however it can also be associated with serious risks and complications and requires a longer recovery time. Non-ablative laser energy does the not produce the same dramatic effect and may need a course of treatments to achieve a noticeable outcome, however the advantages are fewer risks of complications and minimal downtime, that can be more desirable for modern lifestyles.
IPL photo rejuvenation (Intense Pulsed Light therapy) is a non-ablative skin restoration treatment that can reduce some of the damage inflicted on the face from the sun, ultraviolet radiation, aging, biological factors and medical conditions such as melasma or rosacea.
IPL systems are different to lasers in that they deliver many wavelengths (or colours) in each pulse of light instead of just one wavelength. The application of this technology involves a combination of a broad spectrum of light waves (distributed over a range from 500 nm to 1200 nm) that only target the deep layers of the skin (dermis). 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 coloured vehicles named chromophores.
The light passes through the epidermis and penetrates deeper into the dermis where the pulsed light energy stimulates fibroblasts to produce new collagen fibers. Over several treatments, new collagen remodels and softens the appearance of wrinkles, pores and textural irregularities but can also ameliorate sun-induced pigmentation and vascular imperfections such as spider veins and rosacea.
Although the results are not as dramatic as ablative resurfacing, where both the dermis and epidermis are injured, bypassing disruption of the skin’s surface is the great advantage of IPL therapy. Each session usually lasts about 20 minutes and patients can return to normal activity immediately afterwards. Pigmented areas on the skin may initially become darker and flake off within a week.
Patients are strongly advised to avoid the sun as much as possible after the treatment. By implementing a daily skin care regime that incorporates sun protection, results from a full course of treatment can last up to a year while maintenance sessions may be desirable every year or two.