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You are here: Anti-Aging Skin Treatments > Noninvasive Methods >

Intense pulsed light (PhotoDerm, PhotoFacial, EpiLight, etc.)

Generic name: Intense pulsed light

Brand(s): FotoFacial, PhotoFacial, PhotoDerm, EpiLight, MultiLight, PlasmaLight, etc.

Function / Purpose:
Treatment of small spider veins, redness, facial flushing, rosacea, pigmentation, age spots, fine wrinkles, hair removal (not every IPL system covers all of the above indications)

Intense pulsed light (IPL) systems use a special computer-controlled tube to generate high-energy broad spectrum light. The light bean thus generated can be filtered to allow predominantly wavelength in a particular narrow range. Depending on the filter used, the wavelengths are selected to target a particular skin condition or sign of aging. While IPL is somewhat less specific than lasers, it is more versatile and cost-effective. A laser emits synchronized beam on a single wavelength targeted to treat a particular problem; to treat another problem you may need another laser (whereas with IPL it may be sufficient to just change a filter).

While in early days of IPL, a single system with a set of filters had been used to treat all eligible conditions, more specialized systems were later developed. This improved specificity and effectiveness, but reduced versatility. Here's some examples of specialized IPL systems:

  • PhotoDerm VL (vascular lesions): Tailored to treat spider veins, redness, facial flushing, rosacea, angiomas (vascular birth marks). Predominantly emits light absorbed by hemoglobin in red blood cells.
  • PhotoDerm PL (pigmented lesions): Tailored to treat age spots, freckles, flat pigmented birthmarks and other types of discolorations. Predominantly emits light absorbed by melanin in the epidermis. Melanin is a dark pigment responsible for hyper-pigmented discolorations.
  • PhotoDerm HR and EpiLight (hair removal): Tailored for hair removal. Predominantly emits light absorbed by hair follicles. Follicles heat up and are either destroyed or inactivated. Hair removal is supposed to be permanent. However, in some cases, partial or even full regrowth of hair may occur. The procedure rarely destroys all treated follicles at once. Follicles are far more vulnerable during hair growth phase. However, a certain percentage of follicles are always in non-growing phase and are likely to survive and resume growing later. Even some follicles in the growth phase may survive. Still, IPL, especially with repeated treatments, may provide a more permanent, if expensive, hair removal compared to many competing systems.

Related Links
Overview of nonablative laser/light treatments
Index of noninvasive and minimally invasive methods/procedures
Forum discussions of noninvasive procedures
eMedicine: Nonablative Facial Skin Tightening

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