Fraxel laser and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments can help address sun damage and significantly reduce signs of aging. But which one is right for you? Keep reading to learn the key benefits of each procedure and find out which option would best suit your unique needs.
Fraxel Laser Treatment
CO2 laser resurfacing has long been the gold standard for skin rejuvenation. The newest Fraxel laser technology has greatly reduced the risks associated with traditional laser resurfacing and expedited the healing and recovery process. A semi-ablative treatment, Fraxel’s science is founded on the skin’s natural healing processes. During the procedure, high precision micro-beams of laser energy are spaced evenly across the skin, similar to the process of aerating a lawn. This helps to stimulate a deep layer of the dermis to facilitate renewal and repair. Skin begins to tighten as new collagen forms, smoothing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and minimizing the appearance of dark spots, scarring and other surface imperfections.
Usually, only one session of Fraxel is needed to achieve desired results, with higher intensity resulting in a slightly longer recovery period. Within the first five to seven days of treatment, patients typically experience mild redness, swelling and seeping and require rest before returning to normal activities. These side effects are usually easily covered with makeup after around one week, but Dr. Schlessinger recommends not scheduling any major social engagements for about two weeks after the procedure.
With Fraxel, you can enjoy better and more lasting results than non-ablative treatments, with a greatly reduced risk factor. Results are not permanent, but the complexion continues to improve over a period lasting up to six months, making it a great option for delaying more invasive surgery, like a facelift. The procedure can easily take five to ten years off of the appearance and cause the skin to age forward, as though you are five to ten years younger. Those patients who are 40-50 years old and looking to achieve, smoother, tighter, more youthful skin are the best candidates for a Fraxel laser treatment. The procedure pairs wonderfully with injections, such as Botox and fillers, and the treatments may be combined to help you achieve your best results.
Intense Pulsed Light, or IPL, is a non-ablative treatment that is used to address sun damage, dark spots, hyperpigmentation and an uneven skin tone. Often referred to as a photo facial, it’s also sometimes recommended to treat symptoms of rosacea, like redness and broken capillaries. During the procedure, the handheld IPL device emits high energy light waves that are able to target high concentrations of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color. When the light beam passes through skin, it has the power to fragment melanin. The melanin is then absorbed by the body and dark spots and other imperfections become less visible.
With IPL, there is no downtime required. Skin may appear redder directly following treatment, but this subsides within an hour. Other side effects include minor swelling and more rarely, bruising. Patients typically require two to four IPL sessions spaced about one month apart to achieve desired results.
IPL is great for those considering semi-ablative laser treatments, like Fraxel, down the line. Many refer to it as a “starter” procedure for those just beginning to notice sun damage and other signs of aging. Since it requires no downtime, it also works well for those with active lifestyles who may not have time for a longer recovery process. IPL results are not permanent and it works best when used in conjunction with a medical-grade skin care routine. Dr. Schlessinger likes to recommend the Obagi Nu-Derm Transformation System and a prescription retinol cream, such as Retin-A, to his patients for the best results. As always, sunscreen is a must, especially so after an IPL procedure since skin may be rendered more sensitive to sun exposure.
Choosing the Right Procedure
Between the two procedures, Fraxel laser treatment is the more intensive of the two and generally provides more noticeable results. In addition to a reduction in the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmentation, patients enjoy skin tightening and smoothing benefits, making for an overall more radiant appearance. Fraxel is especially recommended for acne scarring, and the treatment involves five-seven days of downtime. The procedure is recommended for those mature patients looking to prolong plastic surgery or maintain results from injections and other rejuvenation treatments.
The perfect candidate for IPL is an individual who may be looking to address some of the initial signs of aging, such as the first appearance of sun damage. Surface imperfections, like dark spots, hyperpigmentation, redness and broken capillaries are best addressed with IPL, with patients enjoying minimal skin tightening as well. Those who are do not have time to take off daily activities may be especially interested in the procedure since no downtime is required.
Fraxel laser treatment and IPL provide the best results if you avoid sun exposure. Neither procedure should be seriously considered if you don't plan to stay out of the sun on a regular basis, as results will be lost almost immediately and skin could actually worsen after just one session of prolonged exposure.
During your consultation, your dermatologist will be able to evaluate your goals and recommend the best procedure for you. Always choose an experienced, board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon with the expertise and skills to offer you the best care.
Do you have a question about Fraxel laser treatment or IPL? Let us know in the comments section.