A younger-looking face may be a matter of seeing the light. Whether you call it photo rejuvenation, a photo facial, photo biomodulation or low-level laser light therapy, delivering various wavelengths of light energy to the skin can result in a more even tone, reduced discoloration, less visible pores and a more youthful glow.
One popular type of photo rejuvenation is known as ‘Forever Young BBL’ (broad-band light). Using a special laser, skin is treated with various wavelengths, depending on the needs of the patient. “It covers a wide array of color; and within that, we choose which wavelength of color we’re going after,” says Carol Anderson, lead nurse at Synergi MedSpa. “Are we treating red? Are we treating brown? Or are we just treating you for anti-aging?”
The colors Anderson refers to include the red of broken capillaries beneath the skin and the brown of age spots and hyperpigmentation caused by sun damage. When targeted and treated with the appropriate wavelengths of light, capillaries are sealed and eventually reabsorbed by the body, while hyperpigmentation initially becomes darker and then sloughs off. Patients report that the treatment feels like a rubber band being snapped against the skin as the laser is activated.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology concluded that "although BBL technology has been harnessed for its ability to produce a more clinically ‘youthful’ appearance, our study suggests that ‘rejuvenation’ at a molecular level has also occurred, with a number of genes linked to the aging process being altered in expression after treatment to more closely resemble young skin. Hence, it is possible that the clinical phenotype represents a functional rejuvenation (at least in the short term), rather than just a cosmetic mimic of youthful appearance."
BBL is used to treat the face, hands, neck, chest, arms, says Martha McEvoy, a nurse at St. Louis Cosmetic Surgery Medical Spa. “What’s impressive is, there’s really no downtime,” she says. Results usually become visible within a couple of weeks. Other types of lasers, used for more aggressive skin resurfacing, do require some recovery time.
“Older generations of photo rejuvenation had to be turned up pretty hot, and people had more issues with pinpoint bruising and redness that lasted longer. Now we don’t have to turn the energy up as high so there’s not as much risk that goes along with it,” notes Anne Strate, a registered nurse aesthetician with Renaissance Plastic Surgery Medical Spa.
The number of treatments depends on the patient and the desired results. Three to five treatments—performed about a month apart—are typical, and patients often are advised to fol-low up with maintenance treatments about every six months.
Another, gentler option involves treating the skin with various wavelengths of LED light. “There are different light-emitting diodes used on the skin. Red light penetrates through the skin and builds collagen, so it’s an anti-aging treatment over time as it stimulates your body to pro-duce collagen,” says Nettie Mueth, a medical aesthetician with Medical Aesthetics Rx. “The green light helps to lighten pigment from sun damage. You can use both lights together as a treatment. The blue light again penetrates the skin and helps kill bacteria in and on the skin, so it helps with acne treatment.”
Mueth says the LED feels warm and relaxing, and doesn’t cause the snapping sensation of BBL. However, BBL tends to produce results faster due to its more intense light energy.
Both treatments are often combined with complementary procedures, such as Botox or facial peels, and experts stress the importance of sun protection at all times to help prevent further sun damage.