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Widely recommended for the treatment of vascular and pigmented lesions, intense pulsed light (IPL) can also help slow—and potentially reverse—the signs of skin aging with long-term use and yearly maintenance sessions.

IPL devices are a staple in my practice and have been for close to 30 years. My practice had the second dedicated IPL for vascular lesions and the first dedicated IPL for hair removal. As such, we have amassed a great deal of clinical experience with these devices and the results they can offer over the long term.

Maintenance Plan

For maximum IPL benefits, it’s important to treat the entire face. This technology has documented efficacy in treating vascular and pigmented lesions, and IPL also stimulates collagen and elastic fibers under the skin.

A growing body of evidence is pointing toward the long-term benefits seen with maintenance IPL treatments given yearly or several times per year.

In one study,1 skin treated with Sciton’s Broad Band Light (BBL) for a minimum of eight years appeared to have aged less than would be expected for the participants’ chronological age, according to blinded evaluators. In fact, one participant had aged 11 years from the before photo to the after photo, but evaluators still thought she looked younger than her pretreatment age.

Another study2 of Sciton’s BBL technology found that two or three IPL treatments per year can restore the gene expression of aged skin to resemble that of much younger skin. According to these findings, rejuvenation at a molecular level occurred and altered a number of genes linked to the aging process. Rejuvenated genes included several known key regulators of organismal longevity and their proximal long noncoding Ribonucleic Acid (RNA).

In a 10-year study3 in China, we looked at 2,534 cases, all of whom received three or more treatments with Lumenis’ OPT or Optical Pulsed Technology and found there were significant benefits in the skin over the long term. The effectiveness rate for the IPL was between 88.24 and 96.45 percent when it came to restoring skin texture, luster, and elasticity, the study showed.

Short- and Long-term Benefits

In the short term, IPL can decrease discoloration, but yearly maintenance treatments help the skin look younger and healthier and may even modulate the genes linked to aging. IPL therapy should be offered to patients yearly to maintain and enhance the results that they have achieved.

This article is based on a presentation given at Cosmetic Surgery Forum (CSF) 2018. CSF moves to Nashville, December 4-7, 2019. For information:


CSF faculty don’t just present. They also participate in the program each year. In this video round-up, faculty members share what they learned at the 2018 meeting.

Watch now:

1. Bitter P Jr and Pozner J. Retrospective Evaluation of the Long-term Anti-aging Effects of BroadBand Light Therapy. (2013) Cutis; cutaneous medicine for the practitioner. 26(2):34-40

2. Chang ALS, et al. Rejuvenation of Gene Expression Pattern of Aged Human Skin by Broadband Light Treatment: A Pilot Study. Journal of Investigative Dermatology (2013) 133:394–402

3. Ping C, et al. A retrospective study on the clinical efficacy of the intense pulsed light source for photodamage and skin rejuvenation. J Cosmet Laser Ther. (2016) Aug;18(4):217-24. doi: 10.3109/14764172.2015.1114649.

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