I hadn't heard about Intense Pulsed Light therapy (also known as PhotoFacial or Light Laser), until last summer, when my friend Donna had 4 IPL treatments for her stretch marks. Stretch marks are usually permanent and even the most effective treatments have a difficult job getting rid of them. But in Donna's case, the intense pulse light therapy worked absolute wonders: 90% of her post-pregnancy stretch marks are almost gone.
I have my own post-pregnancy stretch marks and two years ago I had them treated with professional microdermabrasion and cocoa body butter. They are a lot less visible, but haven't faded as much as Donna's. So, what makes IPL therapy more effective than microdermabration?
While micro dermabrasion uses tiny crystals and suction to peel the skin off, IPL uses a more sophisticate technology (xenon flash lamp and optical prisms or filters) to instantly vaporize damaged cells placed deeper in the skin without harming the surrounding tissue or the top skin layer. The main difference between the two is the depth of the resurfacing. Intense pulse light can penetrate the skin at various depths while microderm can only work on its surface.
Both microdermabrasion and IPL therapy are non-invasive, have no downtime and don't hurt (although exceptions do exist), and have few risks and side effects (mild pigment irregularities, stinging, redness, but no bruising). IPL is a more complex procedure than microdermabration but its effects are also more dramatic.
It takes about 12 sessions for microderm abrasion to work on superficial acne marks, scars, lines, age spots, blotchy skin and blackheads while a single IPL therapy session is enough to significantly improve stretch marks, freckles, birth marks, broken capillaries (which is why it also helps with rosacea), varicose veins and even remove tattoos.
It's important to remember that dark-skinned people can't have intense pulsed light therapy because it may cause permanent pigmentation problems but they can have microabrasion. In fact, microderm is the only rejuvenating procedure suitable and safe for all skin types and colors.
Compared to other non-surgical skin resurfacing procedures, micro dermabrasion is the least expensive treatment. A full micro dermabration (9 abrasions and 4 maintenance sessions) can cost up to $1,600 while IPL therapy costs between $300 and $500 per session (you need 3 to 5 sessions, scheduled 3 weeks apart for best results) which brings the cost up to over $2,000. I would try IPL therapy to see if it can fully fade my stretch marks but it's a bit out of my league for now.
With microdermabrasion, things are fairly simple - a hand held device propels tiny crystals onto the skin to remove the top 5-10 microns of skin cells and stimulate collagen production. With IPL therapy, things are a bit more complicated:
Basically, a special, computer-controlled lamp emits light pulses in different intensities which penetrate the skin at certain depths and for certain durations. When it touches the skin cells you want removed (like hair follicles, age spots, broken blood veins, stretch marks and so on), this light is turned into heat energy which is strong enough to damage or totally destroy these cells.
With leg hair removal, for example, the intense pulsed light finds the melanin (the pigment that determines your hair and skin color), locks onto it and heats it up until the follicle is permanently destroyed. The procedure is very precise - the risk of additional cell damage is practically zero.
IPL machines have a system that allows the light to penetrate the skin in pulses (that's where the name Intense Pulsed Light therapy comes from). Professionals can apply 1 to 5 light pulses at a time and also change the pulse duration and interval from patient to patient (longer pulses are used to treat larger cell structures). With IPL machines it's also possible to choose the wavelength you need for each condition (the wavelength determines the exact depth the light will reach; for example, longer wavelengths go deeper in the skin but protect the top layers of skin).
Next, a few tips on personal microdermabrasion.
A: By removing the top layer of the skin, microdermasion diminishes or even removes superficial acne marks. Deeper acne marks require a more invasive procedure, like deep chemical peeling or laser resurfacing.
A: Micro skin abrasion is safe for young women (and men) of all skin types but most doctors recommend it for girls aged 14 and older, mainly because they want to make sure that all major hormonal changes are over and the results of the procedure are as good as they can be.
A: Both personal and beauty salon microabrasion work on the same principle and have the same reported results: reduction of fine lines, superficial scars, age spots and acne scars. But DIY microbrasion procedures cannot offer the same effectiveness you get from beauty salon micro derm abrasion treatment on more severe skin imperfections.
A: Yes, skin redness is one of the side effects of professional micro dermal abrasion The redness will disappear in a few hours after the procedure.
A: Personal microderma abrasion kits should not be used on your eye-lids even if it's especially formulated as a facial microdermabrasian kit. Using a face microabrasions tool on your eye lids may result in irritation or scarring (the lids are too thin and can easily be damaged). Professional microabrasions is not suitable for use on eye lids either.
A: This procedure exfoliates the top layer of skin which consists of dead skin cells. Microdermabra tool stimulates collagen production, essential to healthy skin and also evens out skin texture and tone.
A: We recommend that you wait until you deliver your baby and finish the nursing period before microdermabrasian Your skin is more sensitive during pregnancy and nursing and microderma tools may cause irritation or severe scarring. This procedure is also not recommended for pregnant and nursing women because hormonal changes during this period may reduce the effectiveness of the procedure.
A: Yes, most women who have tried macrodermabrasion and shared their experience online say that the procedure successfully diminished or in some cases even removed superficial aging signs like line and age spots, reduced the number of mild acne episodes and made skin look younger and feel smoother. There are of course women who say that microdemabrasion either damaged their skin, causing irritation and dryness, or had no effect whatsoever. The way your skin reacts to cosmetic microderm abrasion is a very personal thing and you have to try it for yourself to see if it's effective or not.
A: Micro dermabration systems stimulate collagen growth which is why it works on large pores. Collagen production is stimulated through skin exfoliation. Furthermore, the vacuum function of most micro derm abrasion machines sucks out hardened oil, dust and other dirt which may clog your pores. This way, the oil in the glands can again reach the surface of your skin and your pores can return to their natural shape and size.
A: At-home macrodermabrasion should be used according to the instructions that come with the product (some are made for every-other day use, others can be applied only once a week). spa micrdermabrasion is a whole different thing: the sessions need to be scheduled at least 1-2 weeks apart, so that the skin has enough time to heal. After you finish your treatment, you will need a maintenance session once every 2-3 months.
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