IPL stands for intense pulsed light. It may also be known under the name BBL, which stands for broad band light. IPL is a little bit different from a laser. Whereas a laser only produces a single wavelength of light, IPL uses a very bright light in all visible wavelengths (see image below).
Different filters are then applied to filter out the wavelength of light used for a particular treatment, e.g. 515 nm to treat pigmentation, or 560 nm to treat spider veins. This flexibility allows us to use IPL to treat a wide range of clinical conditions. A photo facial (or fotofacial) is simply a particular type of IPL treatment. A conventional IPL treatment has a single target for improvement, e.g. pigmentation. A fotofacial, in contrast, treats a wide range of conditions including age spots, redness, spider veins, and wrinkles. This is done by making several passes over the skin using the different filters required. It’s a little more time-intensive than a conventional IPL treatment, and thus costs a little bit more. But because it improves the skin in so many different ways, the fotofacial is one of my favorite treatments.
Fotofacials are initially done as a series. I usually recommend 3-5 treatments 6 weeks apart. The end result is more even pigmentation and skin tone. When fotofacials are done annually, they help maintain this even skin tone, and actually help prevent wrinkles and fine lines as well. A 10 year study was done at Stanford showing that this treatment regimen actually resulted in younger looking skin at the end of the 10 year study than at the beginning!
Do you have a question about IPL/BBL or fotofacial?