IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) and BBL (Broad Band Light) are two different names for the same cosmetic light energy treatment. This treatment is known to many patients as a photofacial or fotofacial. A photofacial is a procedure that harnesses the power of light energy to improve both the tone and texture of the skin. Alexander S. Donath, M.D., F.A.C.S. of Cincinnati Facial Plastic Surgery offers his patients photofacials as an in-office procedure at his Cincinnati, Ohio practice.
What is IPL or BBL?
IPL and BBL are facial cosmetic treatments for the skin. IPL photofacial is a light-based treatment utilized for specific aesthetic concerns, typically unwanted pigment and vascularity (vessel issues like spider veins). The treatment helps to fade and eliminate the look of brown spots and hyperpigmentation (like melasma), minimize pore size, reduce oil in the skin, and resolve redness produced by rosacea and broken capillaries or acne.
Aside from treating specific concerns, the overall appearance of the skin will also improve after treatment. This is due to natural collagen remodeling, which occurs when the light energy reaches the deeper layers of skin to promote the stimulation of collagen production. Collagen is an important component of skin to create elasticity and firmness, and its renewal degrades over time as we age. Photofacial treatments revitalize collagen production, leading to a more rejuvenated look. In addition to refreshing the face, the neck, chest, and hands can also be improved during a single IPL or BBL session.
How is IPL/BBL Performed?
In a series of 30-minute appointments spaced a few weeks apart, patients experience the transformative effects of photofacial. First, the medical aesthetic expert adjusts the device to best suit the patient’s individual concerns, dialing the light output up or down. The patient is provided eyewear to protect against the emitted light rays, and may be administered a topical numbing solution as needed. Some practitioners will apply an ultrasound gel instead for its cooling effect and to help the device glide easily across the skin. The face is cleansed and the handheld device is prepared to treat the skin. Section by section, the handpiece is guided across the skin of the face and any other areas (like the neck and décolleté or chest) until each have been treated. At the end of the appointment, the patient’s treated areas may be iced and coated with a hydrating, restorative cream or ointment. Most patients undergo 3-5 sessions total, and may schedule one or two annual appointments after the initial series to maintain their results.
The skin may be slightly pink and irritated for a few days after the IPL/BBL treatment. Because the lasered regions can become dehydrated after an IPL photofacial session, patients should take care to moisturize their skin regularly, and not use exfoliating products that may break the natural skin barrier. The procedure is a performed in Dr. Donath’s office on an outpatient basis, and there is no downtime necessary. Makeup can be applied right after treatment, though patients are instructed to apply and remove any cosmetics very gently.
The Science behind Photofacial
During photofacial treatment, the BBL light targets pigmentation by emitting lightwaves that pinpoint hemoglobin (red blood cells) and melanin (brown pigments). The light beam penetrates the skin, and is absorbed by the skin irregularities that contain these colors. With specified settings, the device can effectively zero in on both red and brown colorations, including existing scars. The blood vessel walls are damaged and the melanin pigment is fragmented, eliminating their appearance in the skin. BBL light treatment can also cauterize broken capillaries and heat up the deeper layers of skin to promote collagen fiber renewal. The wavelengths used typically measure between 400 and 800 nanometers.
The Difference between Photofacial and Laser Skin Resurfacing
Photofacial is an aesthetic treatment that treats pigmentation issues and vascular irregularities of the skin, enlarged pores, and mild to moderate sun damage, including fine lines. The light therapy is non-invasive and non-ablative, meaning the rays penetrate the skin but do not cause injury to it. Healing times are much faster than with higher intensity treatments, like laser resurfacing. Laser skin resurfacing is the best treatment for more extensive issues of the skin, like deep wrinkles and acne scars, as well as more extensive sun damage. Because micro-injuries are created within the various layers of skin during laser resurfacing, healing time is lengthier than with IPL/BBL.
Add-On Cosmetic Care
There are a number of ways to improve the skin using non-surgical methods, and Dr. Donath has created an extensive menu of available options for his patients. In those with sun damage and uneven skin texture and coloration, additional treatments can offer total aesthetic improvement.
When patients display noticeable signs of aging, often exacerbated by sun damage, they may benefit from Botox injections. The ultraviolet rays that are emitted by the sun can damage and break down collagen in the skin leading to wrinkles and loose skin. While an IPL or BBL treatment will stimulate new collagen production over time, Botox offers a near-instant fix. These facial injections prevent the nerve signals from reaching the muscles, limiting the movements that create certain signs of aging, like frown lines.
Another type of cosmetic injection can reduce or eliminate the appearance of a double chin. Kybella was specifically formulated to dissolve submental fat located under the chin and in the upper neck. When a person carries extra bulk in this region, it can cause them to appear heavier and older than they actually are. Eliminating submental fat sculpts the jawline and chin, and can reduce or delay the need for more invasive surgeries, like liposuction or a neck lift.
Because photofacial targets skin pigment concerns, IPL/BBL light sessions are typically not recommended for darker skin colors, or even skin that has become very tanned. The treatment may target the entire area of skin rather than its irregularities. Additionally, because safety has not yet been ensured, pregnant women should avoid this treatment until after they have given birth.
Ideal candidates for IPL photofacial are lighter-skin patients with mild to moderate skin color irregularities. Additionally, the IPL treatment offers mid-level efficacy, and is not intended for serious skin issues, like severe scarring from acne or very deep wrinkles.
These patients are typically presented with options like laser skin resurfacing, or even surgical procedures like a face lift.
What is the difference between IPL (Intense Pulse Light) and BBL (Broad Band Light)?
The two names describe the same treatment. Some practices refer to the procedure by one of the following titles:
- Photofacial or IPL Photofacial
BBL is the most advanced type of IPL available, which delivers light in the most controlled way possible for maximum safety. BBL also uses a sapphire chilling tip for maximum comfort and safety. Safety and comfort are top priorities at CFPS and we are delighted to share this breakthrough BBL technology with our patients.
Is there any suggested pre-treatment care tips for patients who plan to undergo IPL/BBL treatments?
Because photofacial can treat excess oil, enlarged pores, and acne scars, some patients who undergo this elective treatment may currently be in an acne treatment plan. If the patient has been prescribed Accutane (a powerful anti-acne medication) but would like to undergo photofacial, they must discontinue taking the medication for at least six months prior to their first light therapy. Patients who tan their skin with natural sunlight or artificial UV rays produced in a tanning bed should cease their tanning activities about 4 weeks before photofacial, as this can otherwise lead to worsening of pigment spots. Topical skin products that exfoliate or bleach the skin, or those that contain retinol or glycolic acid should not be used one week before beginning an IPL photofacial. The treatment site should also be clean, hair-free (to avoid the light zeroing in on the strands), and bare — free of any moisturizer or cosmetics.
What should patients expect after photofacial?
After a light therapy treatment, patients many notice flushing or redness in their skin that can last for a few hours. Other skin color changes can occur temporarily, and brown spots may darken until they begin to flake off. Patients should also use sun protection in the form of 30-50 SPF or clothing and accessories that cover their skin after and between their IPL/BBL sessions.
Are there other applications for IPL light treatments?
Because the output of light targets pigments, IPL can also target hairs to slow or eliminate their growth in an area on the body. IPL is great for the bikini area, underarms, or others areas deemed safe for treatment by Dr. Donath. The best results can be achieved in patients with lighter skin and darker hair since this ideal contrast is easily targeted by the light from the device.
What Is IPL Photofacial?
A photofacial is a 30-minute procedure in which intense pulses of light are used to penetrate deep into the skin. IPL photorejuvenation then causes collagen and blood vessels below the epidermis to constrict, reducing redness and age lines. The procedure involves only minimal discomfort, while the redness and swelling that sometimes occur after treatment disappear shortly. Most benefits of a photofacial occur gradually in the weeks following treatment. For even greater cosmetic enhancement, patients may also opt for SkinTyte™, a procedure that uses infrared light waves to achieve tightening of the skin and reduction of fine lines.
Cincinnati Facial Plastic Surgery – Alexander S. Donath, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Cincinnati native Dr. Donath is a facial plastic surgeon who specializes in cosmetic medicine with special qualifications in rhinoplasty, facelifting, blepharoplasty (eyelid lifting), and fat transfer (volume lifting). The doctor offers his patients both non-surgical and surgical fixes to improve a wide variety of aesthetic concerns. Dr. Donath has been trained by physicians in New York, NY and Beverly Hills, CA, and lectures internationally to help ensure his patients have the latest and best techniques at his hometown practice in the Midwest.
Call 1-877-416-FACE (3223) to reach Cincinnati Facial Plastic Surgery, or complete the Contact Us schedule a consultation with Dr. Donath at his Cincinnati or Dayton offices.