Photo Facial Facts

Categories: Medical Spas, Photo Facial, Rosacea
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Photo FacialPhoto Facial Info
When I got the job at the Medical Spa, I was extremely excited because that meant I could try all sorts of treatments for free!! As I mentioned, I’m a skeptic, so I don’t necessarily believe in something unless I see it for myself. After viewing my extreme sun damage via a Skin Scanner and blacklight, I wanted Photo Facials. While I don’t have much visible sun damage, I have a ton lurking under my skin, waiting to surface one day, and I wanted it gone! Photo Facials are performed with a handpiece that emits an Intense Pulsed Light on your skin. It targets dark spots, sun spots, freckles, and even broken capillaries, redness from Rosacea, and general flushing. It’s also supposed to stimulate collagen and even shrink pore size.

When I got my first Photo Facial (using the Palomar brand), I was given dark goggles, and an ultrasound gel was spread on my face. I was told each pulse of the handpiece would feel like a rubberband snapping on my skin. Well maybe I have “sensitive” skin, but the pulses felt more like a match touching my skin – but only for a second. Of course I’ve never put a match to my skin, but I would imagine it would feel the same! Some clients don’t complain about the pain at all, but my eyes were tearing the entire treatment, and it was not a comfortable experience, but it was tolerable.

After the treatment, my skin didn’t look much different, but I noticed a lot of my “hidden” freckles – the ones that come out when I don’t apply enough sunscreen at the beach – were there. And there were a few really dark tiny spots – that’s what you want. Your sun damage/freckles/sun spots are supposed to turn dark after the treatment, and within a week or two, the dark patches will flake off (don’t pick them). A series of treatments (usually 3-5 Photo Facials 3-4 weeks apart) is needed to get a significant reduction of pigmentation. Sure enough, the dark tiny spots did flake away, but otherwise my skin didn’t look much different – except the new light color freckles that were brought out by the Photo Facial didn’t go away! I was extremely faithful with my Shiseido sunscreen (you want to use a really good sunscreen at all times, and stay out of the sun completely between treatments). I later had two more Photo Facials, and did see the two dark freckles I have fade a bit. And I got more “coffee grounds” – those dark spots that flake away, but otherwise I didn’t see much improvement in my skin. And the light freckles brought on by the treatment are still there! Ack.

So, I was trying to target the sun damage that is hiding under my skin, but I have yet to find a definitive answer about whether or not Photo Facials actually help with the damage you can’t yet see. And while Photo Facials are touted to improve pore size and stimulate collagen, I haven’t seen any improvement in that area (it’s been a few months), but I don’t know how “much” improvement I’m supposed to see. I also have some broken capillaries around my nose that are still there:( Given that Photo Facials cost up to $500 a treatment, I personally wouldn’t pay to get them again. However, I think they are great for people that do have a lot of visible sun damage (like the girl in the picture – and I know she has “freckles” but it’s still sun damage). You can treat not only your face, but the chest and hands are also popular areas to get done. If you just have one or sun spots that bothers you, ask a Medical Spa if they can just spot-treat that one area. My spa did that for a much cheaper price that a full-face treatment.

 Also, as I mentioned in An Insider’s Guide To Medical Spas, make sure you go to a reputable spa, and get a skilled esthetician! There’s a possibility that if the Photo Facial is done weakly, it could indeed bring up light freckles, which are then hard to get rid of. And if the Photo Facial is too strong, you could get burned! I have a dark pigmented scar on my leg that I thought would be fun to have “experimented” with. I had it zapped with the handpiece 3 times, and it ended up turning into a giant blistery burn. When the blister was gone, so was all the pigment, and now I have a bigger white scar instead. This was probably my fault, because I forgot I was on antibiotics at the time, as well an another photo-sensitive medication. Duh. Something I forgot to mention is that you don’t want to be on photo-sensitive medication when you are getting treatments! You also do not want to be tan whatsoever, or tan after treatments. And, unfortunately, if you have a darker skin type, you are not a candidate for a Photo Facial. At my spa, we even had to turn away light-skinned Asian people because there is a great risk for burning with this skin type.

Finally, if you are prone to freckles (again, I’m not “against” freckles), like the girl in the picture, or Lindsay Lohan, you need to be vigilant with your sunscreen and sun avoidance. Otherwise your freckles will come back. And while Photo Facials are used to treat Rosacea, you will probably need maintenance treatments since you can lessen the reddness, but you can’t “get rid of” Rosacea – at this point it’s not curable, only treatable. Otherwise, if you avoid the sun, after your series of treatments, you can probably wait a few years before needing any  more Photo Facials.

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16 Responses to “Photo Facial Facts”

  1. Laura Says:

    Hey Jen, It’s lauralatham from LJ – just wanted to tell you I love your site!

  2. Jeni Says:

    Thanks! I love your WeLoveCelebs site too!
    :) Jeni

  3. noelle romano Says:

    Hey Jeni,

    Stumbled across your website and I love it! I’d like to ask– I have a very dark pigment spot in the crease where my nose meets my cheek. It’s from a small mole I had removed when I was fourteen but the pigment came back and never left. It seems like it’s become darker in recent years (I’m 35) What options are out there that could get rid of the pigment? (skin bleach? lasers?) Any advice is appreciated.


  4. Ani Says:

    I have just had my 3rd photofacial treatment and wow do I ever have a bunch of age spots coming out. I look awful! I really hope that it fades!!! My first 2 treatments did not make my skin look like this! I must admit, I told the girl that was doing that the pain was not as bad as it actually was…I think I thought it would work better if it hurt. I am freaked out…

  5. JENNIFER Says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I was THISCLOSE to scheduling a photofacial and now, I’ve decided not to waste my money. I suffered acne for years and am still left with some pink pigmentation from the faded scars–I have very fair skin. Think I will pursue something a little safer, like microdermabrasion or some of the newer treatments out there.

    Besides, it sounds painful, and who needs flaking? Gross.

  6. jenny Says:

    Please help. I’m soo frustrated. I’ve has 2 photpfacials and see NO difference. I had some redness around my nose and a little red spot under my eye and a few other spots where she zapped me with the torture device. No difference, it doesnt look like the spots are going to scab and flake off. Now i’m totally preoccupied with look at my face to see if “the difference”. I feel likeI’ve been ripped off, I signed up for a package which included 3 photofacials and 3 peels, for 1200. Ive had 2 of each and don’t notice a difference. I don’t expect to look 10 years younger but do expect some pretty good ot at LEAST noticable results. Any advice or guidance??

  7. Nicolle Says:

    I purchased a package of 6 photofacials and 3 dermaplane sessions, I’ve done 5 and 2 respective sessions and to be completely honest, I really haven’t seen ANY difference, except after each session I break out horribly for about a week, which they say is because it’s “bringing everything to the surface”, but then I am left with the red acne spots from each breakout, which don’t go away for quite a while, and then 3 weeks later, I do it all again, so I might actually say my skin looks worse now because of all the dark red acne spots from each breakout. I have spent a TON of money on the sessions and purchasing the recommended product line which is PCA Skin, and have nothing to show for it. My dark freckles never flaked off and my light freckles became more noticeable. Not to mention the pain is intense. For the very expensive price, I cannot recommend this procedure for skin like mine, which is 28 year old, fair, oily, acne prone, red complexion, with a lot of sun spots and acne scars. Hope this review helps somebody save their money!

  8. sharel Says:

    I just had my first photofacial 4 days ago. I had some melasma or hyperpigmentation and am 44 years old. I am very preoccupied because on one side of my face the dots are flaking off and on the other side my skin is absolutely smooth and the coffee grind dots which there are hundreds arent anywhere near my skins service. I am very afraid they wont fade!

  9. sharel Says:

    I am 44 and have done tca chemical peels and just had my first photofacial for $500 in chicago. for anyone looking to reduce malasma sun damage or superficial acne scarring, do a deep peel twice a year its cheaper and works better. I have white track marks on half my forehead that likely wont blend into my face for a year! the rest of my face healed quickly in a week. dont spend money on photofacials unless you really have badly scarred skin because photofacial can have lots of danger, i did mine at a plastic surgeons office who does them all day long and wish i never had.

  10. Ann Says:

    Don’t think because you had your service done at a plastics office that they knew what they were doing. Each state requires different training to use a laser device and in some cases, I believe, a doctor can use one without much training. It is often the lowly techs that really know what they are doing just like your esthetician might be able to do more for someone with acne, more safely, than a derm who simple perscribes strong, harmful, drugs.

  11. Laura Says:

    Can someone e-mail me please that had this facial with the dark spots and tell me if they went away? I am only 31 and had it done yesterday and I look like a freak! My entire face is covered in dark spots and I just need to know that they will go away lol:::Freaking out!!!::::

  12. Jeni - Savvy Skin Says:

    If you got the dark spots after the photo facial, they should flake off in a few days and fall off. That’s part of the process from a photo facial and the spots you had before should look lighter than before once the dark spots flake off.

  13. Milli Says:

    I’ve gotten a spot treatment done on a visible vein on my face. Just one treatment so far and it’s been a day. I don’t see a real difference. Has anyone else treated veins or had any success/failures with it?

  14. Karla Says:

    I was searching the web for feedback on Photo Facial as I have scheduled an appt. in the next week. I am a 48 yr old female with good skin and have had one microdermabrasion and one 30% chemical skinceuticals peel. The results are good and I had a slight reaction to the chemical peel, but it only lasted four to five days.
    I have actually worked in a well known spa as a Manager and of course we only offered facials that are fluff and minimal results.
    If you want results for age spots, large pores and sun damage, I know one must see a dermatologist that can guide you to the proper procedure.
    Spas are for basic up keep and Medical spas are questionable to me as well.
    Unfortunately even MDs do not have perfect track records.
    Research is very important and communication with the Dr. of choice is paramount to
    a positive outcome.

  15. KrisAnne Says:

    I had my first Photo Facial one week ago today and still have a complexion revealing “burnt toast.” Some of the larger spots have begun to flake off, but there are still a lot of smaller spots. I am 45 and have a lot of sun damage, a few SKs, freckles, and some light acne. The nurse who treated me said the PF would not get rid of the SKs, but it did flake off the edges of them. The freckles are all still there, and after one week the burnt spots are still there! They told me they would fall off in 4-5 days. It’s been 7. Now I read online it could take up to two weeks. I’m not sure who or what to believe. Although it is recommended that you follow up with up to six treatments, I am opting out. I have been applying a banishing cream on my arms as a comparison, and actually am having better results with it. (The cream is cheaper and far less painful, as well!) I think I will stick with the best over-the-counter treatments I can find, be religious about their application, and hope for the best.

  16. Sam Says:

    I have had something like a dozen photo facials over a couple of years. It took that many to finally see results such as reduced pore size and my roscea cleared up quite a bit. Down side is that six months after I stopped the treatments my large pore size has returned as has my bright red nose. From what I can tell, you need a lot of money and treatments several times a year forever to see results and maintain them. I have tried a couple of matrix treatments this year and the only results I have seen are pimples which I have never had before. The only treatment that faded my sun spots has been chemical peels. I think the best thing to do is to grow old gracefully and spend the money on anything other than these treatments. For me I’ll save my cash in future and use it to travel.

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