Treating Rosacea with IPL

Intense pulsed light (IPL), or photofacial therapy, uses high intensity pulses of visible light to improve the appearance of people with rosacea.

Figure. Illustration of the skin showing the upper epidermis and lower dermis layers.

Figure. Illustration of the skin showing the upper epidermis and lower dermis layers.

IPL systems work on the lower layers of skin (dermis) without affecting the top layers (epidermis) as identified in the illustration. During treatment, light energy is absorbed into colored target cells and converted to heat energy. This heat energy is what treats the targeted area, leaving surrounding areas damage free.

IPL systems differ from lasers in that they deliver 500 wavelengths of light in each pulse of light instead of just one wavelength as a laser does. Filters refine the energy output and enhance penetration. A qualified aesthetic dermatologist will know the correct energy and filters for the patient.

An advantage of IPL therapy is its minimal downtime. Patients can often have the procedure done during their lunch break and then return to work.

As an example of the benefits of IPL in selected patients with rosacea, here is a summary of a study where IPL significantly reduced erythema (facial redness) and telangiectasia (threadlike red lines or patterns on the skin caused by tiny blood vessels).

Here’s what was done.

Changes in erythema of cheeks and chin were measured before and at the end of 4 treatments given at 3-week intervals.

Using a 10-point scale, a consultant dermatologists evaluated the response based on digital photographs. Patients also recorded their own assessments. Outcomes measures were repeated 6 months after treatment.

Here’s what they found.

After four treatments, the consultant dermatologist determined that changes in the photographs revealed that erythema improved 46%, while telangiectasia improved 55%. The severity of rosacea was reduced on average 3.5 points on the 10-point scale.

Patients and physicians agreed there was overall improvement of rosacea. More than 50% improvement was reported by 73% of patients and 83% of physicians. Importantly, the results were sustained at 6 months after the last treatment; and side-effects were minimal and self-limiting.

The bottom line.

The benefits experienced by these patients was due to the ability of an experienced aesthetic dermatologist who could identify the best treatment administered at the most effective dose to meet each patient’s special needs. Remember, there are many treatments for rosacea. However, success with IPL (or any treatment) is maximized when patients consult a experienced board-certified aesthetic dermatologist.

For a consultation and more information about treating rosacea, contact Aesthetic Dermatology and Skin Cancer: Jeffrey H. Binstock, M.D. Drs. BinstockLayton, and Physician Assistant Cullinane will answer your questions. Call our San Francisco office at (415) 956-8686, or in Mill Valley call (415) 383-5475.

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