The Difference Between IPL Photofacials and Laser Skin Resurfacing

When researching skin care treatments, many people show interest in an IPL laser procedure. However, the IPL laser is a bit of misnomer.  It can be easy to conflate IPL Photofacials with laser skin resurfacing.  Both are popular cosmetic treatments, and both use light energy to stimulate a biological response in skin. But they also have significant, important differences. By understanding the differences, you’ll realize there’s really no such thing as an IPL laser and you’ll be in a much better position to find out which procedure is best for your situation.


“IPL laser” vs Laser Skin Resurfacing

Both Photofacials, which are commonly referred to as the IPL laser, and laser skin resurfacing are popular, non-invasive options to address skin issues. Photofacials and laser skin resurfacing are both intended to diminish the signs of age, clear blemishes from one’s complexion, smooth out skin texture, and even out skin tone. Beyond that, though, is where the differences start.

Related Article: Treatments for Reversing Sun Damage >>


The Difference Between IPL Photofacials and Lasers

Laser is an acronym, and stands for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.” Lasers beam a single wavelength of light, focused into a direct beam. Skin-care lasers precisely target a specific pigment or tissue. Photofacials rely on light like lasers do, but that doesn’t make them lasers. IPL Photofacials don’t emit just one wavelength of light, but rather a spectrum of colors. The light is transmitted in pulses, or flashes, instead of a concentrated beam. While Photofacials are definitely similar to a laser (in that it transmits light that has a visible effect), they don’t quite meet the official definition.


Light-Based Skin Treatments

The effect that both laser skin resurfacing and IPL Photofacials have is due to the thermal energy being transmitted by the light, and this energy has two main impacts.


First, the thermal energy targets the pigment in melanin or in blood vessels to overwhelm specific cells, thus reducing the appearance of brown spots, vascular lesions, hyperpigmentation, or redness. Thermal energy can either break down the vessel causing redness or break up a cluster of melanin that’s forming a brown spot. Once the body absorbs the leftover cells that made up the blemish, it usually fades from view.


IPL and lasers both harmlessly penetrate through the skin to heat the tissue underneath the surface, which stimulates skin cell renewal and kick-starts collagen production. Laser treatments are especially effective at triggering collagen production.


What is an IPL Photofacial Ideal For?

Photofacials are less invasive than laser treatments, and better suited for skin rejuvenation if the patient doesn’t want to deal with pain or recovery time post-procedure. IPL treatments are especially suited for reducing vascular and pigmented lesions. Because IPL treatments emit multiple wavelengths of light, however, they aren’t suitable for every skin type.


IPL Photofacials are excellent for:

  • Breaking down brown spots
  • Improving redness, especially facial redness
  • Diminishing broken capillaries
  • Reducing the size of pores
  • Overall skin rejuvenation

Learn more about IPL Photofacials>>


Laser Skin Resurfacing

Lasers offer more precision than Photofacials, so they’re ideal for affecting deep wrinkles, fine lines, scarring, and any condition that requires the deep-layer healing that results from stimulating collagen production in the dermis. Because of this deeper penetration, recovery time can be lengthier than it is with Photofacials.


Lasers are well-suited for:

  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Laser hair removal
  • Laser tattoo removal
  • Rosacea
  • Vascular lesions (broken capillaries & spider veins)
  • Melasma and brown spots
  • Acne scars and stretch marks

Learn more about Laser Skin Resurfacing >>


Skin Treatments in NYC

While it’s fantastic that you now understand some of the key differences between these two procedures, the best way to discover which treatment is best for your situation is to schedule a free consultation with our skin experts at SKINNEY Medspa. Contact is online or call today at (212) 754-6639

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