Photo 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.