Light Facials: How They Work & Where to Get Your Treatments


Light FacialsLight Facials


I generally believe a face that shows age, character, and wisdom is a beautiful thing. However, I recently noticed that in the morning, my face was showing a startling amount of character.

This new morning face intrigued me to investigate lunchtime lasers,  the non-surgical, noninvasive light facials designed to renew radiance. Commonly referred to as photorejuvenation, phototherapy, photomodulation, photopulsation, intense pulsed light, or light therapy, these treatments are named after specific devices designed for the services. Visible, infrared, and fluorescent light machines can give fast, easy results without a knife.

These light facials procedures promise to tighten skin and pores, diminish sun damage, whisk away fine lines and wrinkles, ameliorate redness and rosacea, remove broken capillaries and spider veins, treat acne and its scars, and lighten brown spots; some have even been used to treat psoriasis and pain.

The light and heat promote cell metabolism, increasing circulation and collagen production. While these treatments seek the same end, they use different means to achieve it; some are applied directly to the face, others hover above it, and some use a gel barrier, while others use a fluid to keep the beams where they belong. Which device is most appropriate for you depends on your specific conditions and priorities; people often select different treatments for different problems.

Each light facial machine has a different color frequency or wavelength, and each type has a specific purpose,  says Michael Bruck, M.D., Director of Plastic Surgery at Juva Skin & Laser Center and attending physician at the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. An initial consultation with a board-certified practitioner,  Bruck continues, is important for quality control and safety issues. For a particular patient, we might use Titan to tone and lift, then a V-Beam later for pigmentation redness. 

I have my patients look in a mirror to see what bothers them most,  says Mary Lee Amerian, M.D., of Santa Monica Laser and Skin Care Center, Diplomat of the American Board of Dermatology and American Society of Laser Medicine and Surgery, and contributing physician to the TLC TV show, Ten Years Younger.  If it’s a sagging neck or jowls, we may do Thermage every four weeks, with IPL FotoFacial for wrinkles or sun damage in between. 

My consultation with esthetician Karen Dafesh-Gilpin, former educator for the International Dermal Institute and owner of Skin Connection at Simbiotica Salon in Woodland Hills, California, started with a questionnaire about my health history, genetic heritage, and skincare habits. My skin was a little saggy and wrinkly, with a few brown age spots, redness, and small spider veins. She advised the Revitalight light facials, a system using light-emitting diodes (LED) with a micromassager; it’s good for face, neck, chest, and hands. First my skin was cleansed and protective pads were placed over my eyes. While I relaxed painlessly on a vibrating massage table, she held the light pulsator over several spots for a few minutes each, changing color frequencies at intervals.

Photopulsation colors, or light frequencies, address several problems during your light facial. Revitalight uses a combination of red to increase blood flow for rejuvenation and anti-aging, amber for pain relief, and blue to treat acne. The company suggests a series of six treatments, at two-week intervals, as well as follow-ups every couple of months. Each device has its own parameters regarding the number of treatments and time between treatments. A single color beam for spider veins on the nose may take just a few minutes, an LED session 10 to 20 minutes, and a firming session about one-and-a-half hours,  says Amerian.

At Thibiant Beverly Hills Day Spa, I was set aglow with the Beauty Lift, a combination treatment that uses ultrasound to push the toxins up,  LED light therapy with serum and a gel conductor, a micro-current to stimulate and tone, and an air-pulse lymphosage. Longtime skin maven Aida Thibiant says this therapy used with the new bioengineered peptides in the Beauty Lift Serum, it reboots your skin. 

For the most part, these treatments work for everyone with mild to moderate wrinkling and skin laxity. If you have very dark skin, blood-clotting problems, or take certain medications, they may not be advised. Such side effects as redness, swelling, blisters, and peeling are rare and minimal. Thermage and Titan, the ones that lift and tone, can be a little painful, so topical anesthetics are used.

Do some homework, talk to people who’ve had these treatments, and conduct research online before you choose which treatment is for you. With the explosion of medispas, often only one doctor oversees several clinics and spa adjuncts. Sometimes the only training offered to the technicians is by the manufacturers’ sales staff. It’s important to ask about board certification and the experience of the doctor, nurse, or esthetician who will be performing the service,  says Bruck. Multiple energy levels can be an issue regarding the skill of the practitioner. Ask how often and by whom the machines and premises are inspected too. 

Lunchtime lasers do give skin a fresher appearance. I saw immediate improvement: a little plumping up, and smoother color and texture. After two months, the results linger. My morning face is definitely less scary.

For more information:

Juva Skin & Laser Center

(212) 688-5882,

Santa Monica Laser and Skin Care Center

(866) 811-7986,

Skin Connection at Simbiotica Salon

(818) 348-5858,

Thibiant Beverly Hills Day Spa

(310) 278-7565,

By Judith Lazarus

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