Foto Facial

A Skin Treatment That Gets Rid of Sun Damage and Facial Redness

Foto facial is a generic term for a skin treatment that uses IPL (intense-pulsed light) technology to treat primarily sun damage from brown spots, spider veins, and facial redness and aging skin. 

Other names for foto facial include photo facial, skin rejuvenation, facial rejuvenation, and the names of specific IPL machines, like Lumenis, Photoderm, Refirme.

The terms "FotoFacial" and "PhotoFacial" were trademarked by Dr. Patrick Bittner Jr., M.D., a dermatologist in Los Gatos, California.

They refer not to a specific machine, but to his protocol and training program.

You can get a foto facial at a dermatologist's office, a medical spa, or a day spa with a serious focus on skin care and esthetics. Any of these choices can be fine. You just want to make sure the equipment is up-to-date and the person giving the treatment is well-trained.

Ask what machine they use for your particular concern, the credentials and training of the person giving the treatment, and how long they've been doing it.

What Does A Foto Facial Treat?

A foto facial treats a variety of skin conditions such as brown spots (usually from sun damage), broken capillaries, spider veins, facial redness, and rosacea. It also gives you a little bit of a youthful glow and plumper look by boosting collagen. In other words, it's a good all-round skin rejuvenating treatment.

A foto facial works by delivering a bright blast of light at very high energy levels through a hand-held device.

The foto facial or IPL machine uses a spectrum of visible and infra-red light, which is why it can treat so many different conditions.

The results can be very good, but it usually takes a series of treatments. The number of foto facials you need will vary depending on the condition you're treating, the results you want, and how your skin responds.

The results are also not as dramatic as when you pick one thing that bothers you, like brown spots, and treat it with a laser, which uses monochromatic light to that specifically targets that condition. These targeted machines are very expensive, so a medical spa or dermatologist's office is more likely to have a greater range of these machines and know which is right for you. And laser can do some things, like tattoo removal, that can't be treated in a foto facial.

What Happens During A Foto Facial?

The first thing is you should consult with a practitioner to make sure they understand your concerns and have the right equipment to treat you. You should feel comfortable with the esthetician or technician, and their skill and knowledge. Ask about , and get an estimate for how many treatments you will need at what cost.

After you fill out a consent form, the esthetician, nurse or technician should discuss the treatment with you and confirm what your main concerns are and whether the foto facial is the right treatment, and you are a good candidate. Most likely you have had a previous appointment to cover all this.

Next comes a basic facial cleanse, and a skin analysis with a bright light so she (or he) can see the condition of your skin and what needs to be done.

Next she will apply a cooling gel to your face and cover your eyes with dark googles to protect them. She chooses the proper head and settings for the machine, based on what she's treating and how light or dark your skin is.

What she's holding looks a little like a gun. She places it against your skin, pulls the triggers, and it delivers that flash of intense-pulsed light.

Does a Foto Facial Hurt?

The answer is -- it depends. Most foto facials machines have cooling heads, but it can hurt. The classic answer is that the flash of light "feels like a rubber band snapping," but it can be more painful than that. A few variables include:

  • People have different tolerance for pain.
  • It will hurt more where you have a dark spot, because the melanin that is being destroyed is attracting more heat and energy.
  • Newer machines seem to hurt less.
  • It might hurt less at the beginning, but as the treatment goes on, it hurts more.

How Much Does A Foto Facial Cost?

This varies, depending on region, where you get the treatment, how old the equipment is, and how professional and experienced the staff is. In general, a full face treatment at a reputable office or spa ranges from $300-$500. If it's cheaper than that ($150), they might just be spot-treating. You might also get discounts for a series. If it seems to good to be true, it might be very old equipment that isn't effective.

The best results are achieved with a series of treatments -- anywhere between three and six is typical -- and some maintenance, once or twice a year. Foto facials work best in conjunction with a regular skin care routine that you develop with your esthetician.

Are There Any Risks With A Foto Facial?

YES! You CAN be burned with these machines -- blisters, redness, and hyperpigmentation (brown spots) or hypopigmentation (loss of pigment. You have to be a good candidate, and the person needs to have adequate training and experience.

Be SURE to ask about the training and experience of who is giving you the treatment.

Be SURE to ask about what machine they're using, and google it.

DO NOT go bargain-hunting and get this treatment at an esthetician school.