A photofacial (foto facial) is a skin treatment that uses a light-based technology to boost collagen, lighten brown spots, and diminish broken capillaries. Since this high-tech treatment requires specific equipment to perform, you're more likely to find it offered at medical spas, specialized resorts, and skin care centers than at a holistic spa or general massage therapist.
While photofacials are great for a quick (yet moderately expensive) way to clear up acne or diminish certain blemishes, freckles, or wrinkles at your spa, you might want to avoid this treatment if you're traveling to a sunny destination. Although there is relatively little recovery time associated with getting this type of treatment, exposure to UV rays can agitate your sensitive skin.
The two types of photofacials available are the Intense-Pulsed Light (IPL) and the Light-Emitting Diode (LED) treatments; however, in order to get the results you hope to achieve, it's important to understand the difference between these facial rejuvenation technologies before you book an appointment. Your best bet for minor skin problems is to book an LED (often referred to as a Non-IPL) treatment, and for more serious conditions, you'll want to speak with an esthetician about developing a skin care routine and reserving an appointment with a licensed IPL technician.
Intense-Pulsed Light (IPL) Treatments
Whether you're looking for a one-time treatment for a major breakout of acne or you want to get rid of unsightly wrinkles, your best option is to book an IPL treatment at a medical spa or at a results-driven day spa like New York City's Euphoria in Soho. An IPL photofacial can treat a variety of skin conditions such as brown spots, broken capillaries, spider veins, and facial redness.
An IPL photofacial delivers a bright blast of light at very high energy levels through a hand-held device. While some IPLs have cooling devices, the heat from the light can be uncomfortable, even painful. An IPL photo facial is a good choice if you have a number of different goals: plumper, younger-looking skin, faded brown spots, fewer broken capillaries, and less overall redness.
While all photo facials work best in conjunction with a regular skin care routine that you develop with your esthetician, IPL treatments usually require several visits but can take a while to heal between each one. The number of IPL photo facials you need will vary depending on the condition you're treating, the results you want, and how your skin responds.
After your appointment, you should avoid applying makeup, abrasive cleaners, or scented soaps to your face for several hours to a full day, depending on how sensitive and agitated your skin is from the treatment. You should, however, apply a high-rated SPF sunblock if you plan to be outside after your appointment to avoid additional irritation on your face.
IPL treatments can be expensive and are not for everyone. You should consult your doctor or esthetician before booking an appointment for an IPL photofacial, especially if you are prone to getting sunburned or are sensitive to light. Additionally, you should not get more than one IPL treatment within a two-week period.
Light-Emitting Diode (LED) Treatments
If you have extremely sensitive skin or just want to treat a minor blemish, wrinkle, or mark, some spas and resorts offer LED photofacials. Usually referred to as light therapy or LED treatment, LED photofacials are painless, cool, and relaxing, and unlike laser treatments carry no risk of burning.
An LED photo facial is a very gentle treatment that uses narrow spectrum light to boost collagen, which creates plumper, younger-looking skin, or to kill the bacteria that causes acne. This type of photo facial is more likely to be found in a day spa with a serious focus on aesthetics and is usually offered as either part of a facial or a stand-alone treatment.
However, you will need to book a series of treatments to achieve the best results; most estheticians recommend six LED photofacials with one to two weeks between each appointment. After that, you should maintain a daily skin regimen and return for regular treatments every month or two.
LED photofacials are a good choice for people who want to boost collagen or treat acne, and medical research in the field has proven that this type of treatment can restore facial tissue. While the results won’t be as dramatic as plastic surgery, it’s a gentler, more natural, and less expensive way to rejuvenate and tighten aging skin.
Risks of Photofacials While Traveling
While there are many benefits to both of these facial rejuvenation treatments, you may want to avoid booking a photofacial appointment while traveling because of the associated risks—even if it is offered as part of a resort's special package deal for treatments.
Most people head to a spa or resort for their vacation looking to unwind, but there's nothing all that relaxing about getting light treatment on your delicate facial skin. Both LED and IPL treatments can be rather painful, during the process and for a day or two after, so you'll need to evaluate if the beauty is truly worth the pain while you're trying to relax.
If you're hoping to quickly remove a blemish or lighten a dark spot on your skin for a big event while traveling, even an LED photofacial may leave you with reddened skin that won't look great in photos—especially since you can't wear makeup for the day after treatment. IPL treatments, on the other hand, often leave your skin extremely reddened, which later may peel off in brown patches, which definitely won't be a great look for your big event.
Additionally, people with sensitive skin should consult an aesthetician before considering either type of photofacial treatment. While LED photofacials may be less likely than IPL treatments to cause problems like infections and discolorations, booking either while on vacation is risky because you won't be able to follow up with the spa you visited if a problem occurs.