IPL Fotofacial for Dark Spots ( forgiveness after a fiery summer season!)

I get to spend all year accumulating age spots doing fun things like driving with the top down or lounging by the pool because I know that in the fall I can zap ’em off with an IPL fotofacial treatment. 

Even after applying waterproof sunscreen several times a day AND wearing a UV protective sun hat , I still get dark spots on my face and chest!

IPL fotofacials offer forgiveness after a fiery summer season.

What is an IPL Fotofacial?

An IPL (Intensed Pulsed Light)  fotofacial, also referred to as fotofacial or photofacial rejuvenation (and even sometimes Photo Facial with two words), is a skin treatment using an intense-pulsed light (IPL) unit to even out your skin tone.

IPL fotofacials are ideal for removing age spots, freckles, melasma as well as minor rosacea and broken capillaries in the skin.

The Science Behind the IPL

lumenis vasculite elite

Lumenis Vasculite Elite Laser

The IPL hand-held device delivers bright blasts of broadband light into the melanin (brown skin like in freckles and age spots) and hemoglobin (the red blood cells in our blood vessels) of our skin causing damage that triggers our body’s natural healing process and those areas of your skin eventually flake off.

How it Goes Down

I get all sorts of crazy melasma when I even THINK about the sun. I will be treating my face, neck and chest.

fotofacial before montage profiles


Pre-IPL Fotofacial

Before you get an IPL fotofacial make sure of the following:

1. Be sure that you haven’t had any sun exposure for at least two weeks. The reason being is that the light beams attach to pigmentation, so if your skin is dark you risk – no, you WILL – remove the pigment from that area causing you to scar.

This being said, if you don’t have fair skin then this is not the best option for you. There are new machines being developed for darker skin for laser hair removal but nothing as of yet for a IPL fotofacial.

2. Get a microdermabrasion prior to treatment. A microdermabrasion sloughs off the top layer of skin allowing the laser to go a little deeper. Also, some of your more superficial pigmentation will go away with the microdermabrasion giving the laser less areas to focus on which gets you a better result.

Not all laser centers offer this service and if mine did not I would definitely take the time to get it done elsewhere. I always like to recommend within the week before to make sure there’s less time to cause more damage and so that your skin will not have time to regenerate before the fotofacial (skin takes about 27 days to regenerate) .

The Treatment

I had my treatment with Glenn at Skin Aesthetica (because he ROCKS). He used the Lumenis Vasculite Elite Laser.

You can watch it here but I’ll break it down below too. Notice around my lips as you watch. It looks like I have lip liner on but all it is is hyperpigmentation!!! Yikes.

Breaking it down:

First, Glenn did a quick microdermabrasion to remove all the dead skin cells from the top of my skin. I mean, why treat dead skin, right? You can read more about the microdermabrasion here.

teeny heartDisclosure: Actually, before that Mr. BeautyBlackBook took me out for a couple shots of tequila (God’s natural pain reliever) Sorry, but I’ve got a low tolerance for pain.

Next, Glenn applied a topical numbing cream and gave it about 20 minutes or as long as it took for Mr. BeautyBlackBook to finish his microdermabrasion (boys take care of their skin too ya know!)

After my skin was numb he used the handpiece to zap the effected parts of my skin, which was my whole face, neck and chest. I barely felt it but I’ll tell ya, I was pretty liquored up! (not recommended for everyone)

IPL Photo Journal

Now, keep in mind that I had a LOT of dark areas on my face so don’t let these photos scare you! I call the actual day of the treatment Day 1.

Day 1 of IPL Fotofacial:

fotofacial day 1 montage. facejpg

Day 2 IPL Fotofacial:

Fotofacial Day 2

 Day 3 IPL Fotofacial:

fotofacial day 3 front 1

fotofacial day 3 montage profile

Day 4 IPL Fotofacial:

fotofacial day 4 face chest fotofacial day 4 montage profile

 Day 8 IPL Fotofacial:

Fotofacial Day 8

Day 8 – Okay, this is getting old

Day 10 IPL Fotofacial:

Fotofacial Day 10

Day 16 IPL Fotofacial:

So here is a pic day 16, no makeup and never, ever any photoshopping (no cheating here!) and I still need to get a microdermabrasion to remove a lot of the dead skin cells, but you can totally tell the difference!

face after fotofacial

Left profile after fotofacial – no makeup!

face after photo facial

Right profile after fotofacial – no makeup!

fotofacial day 16 chest

Reminder of Before:

fotofacial before montage profilesc

fotofacial before montage profiles

fotofacial before front chest forehead

Cost of an IPL Fotofacial Treatment

Costs vary depending on where you go but they almost all charge by the area being treated. The face should run about $199 – $250, neck $100 and chest $100. At the place I go they normally throw in a microdermabrasion which I like to do before the treatment and then I buy an extra one for a couple of weeks after.

If you do have to pay for the microdermabrasion it will run you $65 – $85. The higher price being if you do it at a spa or someplace that usually jacks up the price.

Keep in mind that these treatments may run you more if you live in a city like NYC or Beverly Hills and of course it depends on where you do it.

Tips on Choosing the Right Laser Center

The machine that you use is only half of the equation. If you don’t have an in-the-know laser treatment center with an aggressive laser technician who is comfortable with their machine, then it doesn’t matter how good the laser is, you will not see results.

This is why, on these sort of treatments, I like to go by word of mouth referrals.

I was referred to Glenn, owner of Skin Aesthetica, by an aesthetician who said that every summer she enjoys the sun then in the fall Glenn just zaps off all of the sunspots. It sounded too good to be true. I mean, I’d had IPL fotofacials before but without much luck.

I previously had gone to a chain called American Laser that makes you buy a package, then puts the machine on the lowest setting possible so that you have to keep going back for more and more treatments to see the results (this is true, I befriended a laser tech there) so I was a bit leery.

However, this lady’s skin looked amazing, so I decided to give it one more try.That was 7 years ago.

So, when choosing your laser treatment center, take your time and do your homework.

My rules of thumb are as follows:

1. If a laser center tells you that it will take 5 or more treatments to see results, that’s a big ‘NO’. I know that one can be enough. Two tops. Period.

2. If they make you buy a package, another big ‘NO’. This only gives them incentive not to be effective the first time around. Trust me, I’ve learned this the expensive way.

3. Numbing cream. Do they numb you before treatment? If not then do not use them. It means it will either hurt like crazy or they don’t have the machine turned on high enough so your won’t see results.

4. Experience. How long has their laser technician been using their machine? Do they have any before and after pics. I’ll be honest though on the pics, you don’t find many centers taking them so I wouldn’t consider them not having any a deal breaker but it’s always nice to ask.

My Fotofacial Experience:

So I got my yearly IPL fotofacial two Tuesdays ago. Here is a video of my experience:

IPL Fotofacial Recovery:

I am giving it a couple of extra days to heal, then I’m going to get a microdermabrasion. Once the last remnants of effected skin is removed, my texture will be better than it was before and you can already tell that the pigment is lighter but you will see an improvement there too.

And it will only get better! LOVE this treatment and will keep this in my regimen forever (until something better comes out of course!)