Photorejuvenation or photofacial or intense pulsed light (IPL) or broad band light (BBL)—what do these all have in common? They are all one and the same thing. Photorejuvenation is technically a light-based procedure developed out of California approximately twenty years ago by a dermatologist. Different from a true laser procedure, photorejuvenation utilizes a much broader but still focused wavelength of light in order to target certain tones in the skin. It can also target certain conditions such as acne and rosacea as well, depending on the wavelength.

Typically performed in a series of four treatments, this is a lunch-time or “no recovery” procedure performed in the office by the dermatologist or esthetician. The fact that there is no downtime is tremendous, but when you realize all of the benefits that are received by performing a series of photofacials, it is easy to get excited about this procedure.  We have known for a long time that photorejuvenation creates improvement in tone (decrease in reds and browns) as well as texture. However, we are learning even more benefits that are not quite so obvious to the naked eye.

Dr. Patrick Bitters, who practices out of both San Francisco and Los Angeles, did a study utilizing three 70-plus year old patients who had lived in California for all of the lives (translation = lots of sun damage). He performed 3 photofacials in a series on these three patients, and utilized skin biopsies both before and after the series. These skin biopsies were tested for proteins that the skin’s DNA creates. Some proteins are turned on with the aging process and others are turned off, creating the appearance of photo-damaged and aged skin. He additionally tested five 20 year old Stanford students by performing skin biopsies and measuring the same proteins.

Results from the 20 year old population showed a lot proteins being produced consistent with a young person, who has healthy and beautiful skin because there has not been enough time and sun to damage it. This is what we would expect. What we would not expect, but which was very evident within the same analysis of the 70 year old patients, is almost identical production of those proteins that were being produced by the DNA of the 20 year old patients! And this was after only three photofacials, but a lifetime of aging and sun damage. This tells us that not only does photorejuvenation produce the wonderful results in tone and texture, but it is also “tricking” the skin cells and their DNA into behaving fifty years younger!

Unless you are a patient with melasma, or brown discoloration caused from the sun, you are an excellent candidate for photorejuvenation year-round. Even those with melasma can treat with photorejuvenation but in a careful and controlled manner, and also only during the months between September and May—never during the heat and sun of the summertime as this could cause possible unwanted side effects. Since it is such a great treatment for a variety of conditions, consider this lunch-time procedure at your next appointment.