In recent years, the use of light therapy in the medical industry has grown immensely. Today, they have many uses both in the medical and cosmetic industry. The use of lasers actually dates back to the 1960s when they were used as cutting tools by top surgeons. Opthamologists, for example, commonly use lasers to treat eye conditions and short sightedness. In terms of beauty, light is being used in cosmetic procedures to treat a wide range of vascular and pigmentation problems. Laser and IPL treatment can be used for fighting spider veins, rosacea, age and liver spots, freckles, birthmarks, warts, and stretch marks to name just a few. Laser treatments can also be used for treating acne, fighting against sun damage, and even hair removal. Ultraviolet light, for example, can be used to treat the skin disease psoriasis. Here is some additional information about this treatment as it is used in the cosmetic industry:
How do lasers work?
A laser is a ‘high energy beam of light’, and when used in the cosmetic industry it can transfer this energy into specific tissues of the skin. Each beam of light is described in terms of a wavelength, or colour. Each wavelength can vary in terms of its strength, as well as which tissues it will target. For example, when used to treat spider veins, wavelengths can be targeted at the specific blood filled vessel to generate heat, which in turn will destroy the vein without harming surrounding tissues.
Some terms that you should know:
IPL – This stands for ‘Intense Pulsed Light’. IPL is different from a laser in that it delivers hundreds of colours in each light burst. With that being said, the concept is similar to that of a laser in that the end goal is to generate heat damage to target a specific skin concern. You may hear your practitioner refer to this process as ‘selective phototermolysis’
LHE – Stands for ‘Light, Heat Energy’ and is another variation of light therapy that uses controlled levels of low level light and heat.
LED – Stands for ‘Light Emitting Diode’. These are lights that are used in combination with special creams. Red lights can be used to treat actinic keratosis, and blue lights are used to target acne.
What can laser and IPL treatments do?
Different systems of light can be used to treat a wide array of skin care and vascular concerns. Depending on which system you use, you may be able to repair spider veins, port wine stains, rosacea, and age or liver spots. Laser and IPL treatments can also be targeted towards fighting solar keratosis, freckles, warts, varicose veins, and even scars and stretch marks. More recent technology has also been designed to help laser treatments fight against acne.
What you should expect during a treatment
- An initial consultation to discuss your concerns, your medical history, and your expectations of the procedure
- Application of an anaesthetic cream
- Your specialist will provide you with a pair of protective eye glasses to wear during the treatment
- Light will be targeted at the treatment area for 15-30 minutes
Please note that this is just an example of what you might expect during a procedure. The exact steps will vary depending on which light system you are using and the problem or concern you are targeting.
How many sessions are needed before I see results?
Again, this will depend on the type of problem you are targeting and your individual factors. Here is a general overview:
- Port wine Stains: 4-8 treatments
- Telangiectasia: 3 treatments
- Pigmented birthmarks: 3-4 treatments
- Freckles: 1 treatment
- Verrucae: 3 treatments
- Warts: 3 treatments
- Lentigo: 1 treatment
- Varicose veins: 1-5 treatments
- Spider naevus: 1-2 treatments
Does it hurt? Are there any side effects to Laser or IPL treatment?
Laser and IPL treatments are not considered to be painful, but may generate a slight stinging or burning sensation. Skin irritation or redness may persist in the hours following treatment. Mild bleeding and scabbing are possible side effects. Such treatments can also cause skin discolouration and scaling, but this will usually fade over a few weeks. In more severe cases, minor scarring or permanent pigment changes may arise.
Are there any post-treatment procedures to follow?
Following a laser or IPL treatment you will be able to return to your daily activities as normal. With that being said, it is important that you follow any advice given by your practitioner in an attempt to avoid complications. Depending on the treatment received, your practitioner may provide you with an ointment that needs to be applied daily. You should contact them immediately if there are any signs of discolouration or infection. Avoid direct sunlight for two weeks following treatment.
Who should avoid laser or IPL treatment?
Anyone who has a history of skin sensitivity to light, who is prone to scarring, or who has an active skin infection should avoid laser and IPL treatments. Those with darker skin tones, or those who have recently went suntanning, may not be suitable for such treatment. Laser treatment can also be affected by the medication isotretinoin, which is used to treat severe acne.
Always be sure to provide your practitioner with a detailed medical history before going in for any cosmetic procedure.
Where can you get Laser/IPL?
While some machines have been approved for use by trained aestheticians, most laser and IPL treatments for vascular purposes and skin discolouration must be performed by a doctor, surgeon, or nurse who has been trained in the field.