The difference between intense pulsed light (IPL) and laser is that laser uses only one wavelength whereas IPL has a range of light wavelengths. Lasers are much more specific for one target, whereas IPL has a range of targets. Let’s say we had a brown spot we wanted to treat (also known as a sun freckle, lentigo or age spot). We have a laser that has one specific wavelength of light that just targets melanin, which is what a brown spot is made of. So it is a specializing laser, and is extremely effective for that one thing, but it doesn’t have many other uses. For instance, if we have someone who has brown spots but also has dilated blood vessels on the face as a result of sun damage or from having rosacea in addition to sun damage, then we would need to use 2 different lasers to treat those two different things.
Since there are a lot of people with both brown and red spots, someone got the smart idea of using IPL, or a blend of different wavelengths. This allows us to treat both red and brown at the same time. However, because it is kind of a jack-of-all-trades, it isn’t as effective in one single treatment for each of these things as the lasers are. So we typically do a series of treatments over a few months, because over time the results from this adds up to the results we might get with the other devices if we used them separately. Another bonus to treating the entire skin surface with light, as opposed to just treating certain spots, is that we also get improvement in wrinkles, pores and all the in between tones that exist (ie not yet formed brown spots and red that are still there nonetheless and will be coming out soon).
The lack of downtime and overall effectiveness of this treatment makes it extraordinarily popular, and it has been a mainstay of esthetic treatments for about 15 years.
Radio-frequency is not based on light, but is based on electricity. An energy is developed that has a positive and negative pole and the heat generated is due to the resistance of the skin as the energy travels through it. This can cause general “bulk” heating in the case of Thermage®, where the heating causes the cells that make new collagen to be very active as well as change the way the collagen sits in the skin in an advantageous way that makes the skin firmer or tighter. We can also use radio-frequency to resurface the skin, by using many tiny electrodes (positive and negative poles) to cause heating just under the skin surface which is great for wrinkles, scars and pores.
The advantage of radio-frequency is that it is “color-blind” so that it doesn’t matter if you are tan or have a dark color of skin, it doesn’t specifically heat up melanin, thus removing a big potential cause of side effects from laser (too much heating of the skin, which can be different for different people and even different parts of an individual’s face or body can cause hyperpigmentation or darkening of the skin).
Quality IPL+RF (e-light) appliances are able to treat tissue also in a case of other troubles, if they are connected with various applicators. They are very successful in removing sun freckles and age spots, small veins – capillaries, healing acnes, performing skin rejuvenation and skin stretching. Our skin becomes healthier and gets younger appearance.
Most recently we have introduced a new energy source, that of cold. Cryo bodyshaping removes heat from the fat causing many of the cells to slowly die and be reabsorbed by the body. This takes advantage of the fact that fat gets colder than skin, so we can selectively damage the fat without damaging the skin.