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Without question lasers and various light-emitting devices can help reduce signs of aging and fade signs of sun damage. With so many IPL laser procedures available, knowing the basics about each is essential to making the best decision for your concerns.

A Complicated Topic

The topic of lasers, intense pulse light (IPL), or other forms of skin resurfacing is complicated. If you’ve been doing your homework, you’ve probably found a clutter of complex, technical information that is hard to decipher. Deciding which IPL laser or light treatment to get can be further complicated by marketers making unrealistic claims and promises. So, it’s important to find a dermatologist who is clear about the pros and cons-and about the improvements you can expect to see.

Two Types of Procedures

Lasers and IPL laser treatments are either ablative or non-ablative. Non-ablative treatments target the lower layers of skin, while ablative treatments target both the surface and the lower layers of skin. The system you choose depends on the results you are looking for and how much risk you are willing to take.

Ablative lasers can:

  • make a significant difference in the appearance of wrinkles,
  • significantly fade skin discolorations,
  • erase years of sun damage by replacing damaged skin with healthier skin.

Risks from ablative procedures include:

  • swelling, scabbing, oozing,
  • bleeding, flaking, redness,
  • significant irritation that requires a longer time to heal, and
  • long-term skin discoloration and scarring.

After ablative laser treatment, the skin oozes, bleeds, and crusts. It takes about two weeks before you’ll look even vaguely normal. If you chose an ablative treatment, follow post-op care instructions carefully. Inconsistency or incomplete care can cause infection, delay healing, and increase irritation.

Non-ablative resurfacing such as IPL laser therapy has none of the side effects associated with ablative resurfacing. However, it doesn’t produce the same dramatic results as ablative resurfacing does. And multiple treatments are required for the most noticeable outcome. The advantage for non-ablative resurfacing is its minimal downtime.

Non-ablative lasers can:

  • remove some skin discolorations,
  • improve and potentially eliminate redness,
  • improve minor wrinkles and fine lines, and
  • stimulate collagen production after repeated treatments.

Risks from non-ablative procedures include:

  • swelling and potential bruising,
  • a sunburn-like reaction,
  • temporary darkening of treated spots.

There Isn’t a Best Laser

Despite what you’re likely to hear, there isn’t a best laser or IPL laser treatment for everyone. Which one is used depends on several factors, including your concerns as well as efficacy and safety of the treatment. There isn’t a single best laser or light-emitting treatment; rather, there are several options and each has its pros and cons.

Regardless of the device you and your dermatologist choose, be sure that you’re fully informed on what to expect and what is required of you before and after the procedure. And of course, none of these treatments will provide great results if you’re not diligent about using a great skin-care routine that includes daily sun protection!

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