Bring on the Brighter Light…Baby


Since my last blog, I have moved to Vancouver. Right now the gurus of weather say that we will be getting months worth of rain in a couple of days. I’m discussing the benefits of light for treating aging skin and sun damage. But I surely do miss the benefits of a sunny day on my psyche. I hope the blues skies are shining on you. Let me pause for a minute and take a bite of my emergency dark chocolate. 

Much better. Let’s go. Last time we discussed Low Level Light and it’s benefits. We talked about how it is a slow but sure approach. Today we are going to talk about Broad Band Light or Intense Pulsed Light or Limelight or Flash Lamp device.Whatever the kids are calling it today, it is the same type of technology. Basically, it is a very quick flash of light in a certain wavelengths. 

Light is measured in nanometers. Certain wavelengths are absorbed by certain targets. For example, 532 nanometers is absorbed by melanin (the dark pigmented cells in your skin) and hemoglobin (the protein in your blood that carries oxygen). When that light is absorbed, it heats up the target and destroys or alters it. We are happy to hear this because we want to kill off those sun damaged cells and we want to kill off those little red veins too. The only problem is that 532 doesn’t know that we only want the brown sun damaged pigment gone, it will kill off any darker cells. So if you are naturally darker or are tanned, it can do some real damage. The other problem is that wavelength can’t penetrate very deeply into your skin. So those brilliant scientist/ engineering types came up with flash lamp light devices. It’s just what you think it is – a broader band of light that pulses out with an intense flash. In fact, depending on the device, the light will range anywhere from 520 to 1100 nanometers. If a 532 nm device is a laser pointer, then a broad band light device is a flashlight. Not as focalized but still will get the job done. It will still be absorbed by the darker pigment and hemoglobin but in a gentler fashion. Although you can’t be tanned, you can be a bit darker naturally. 

This light crosses the band of light that we can see. Hence the intense flash of light you can see every time it pulses. I’m going to go off in a mini diatribe here. I hope you’ll stay with me. There are 2 types of Laser operators, those who are careful and those who are careless. You want the careful one operating the powerful machine that can both help and harm you. The flashes you see through your skin are not harmful if you (the patient) and you (the operator) are wearing appropriate eyewear. If you are being treated and you are not given the totally occlusive, titanium glasses to wear, jump off that table and run away. I’m not kidding, hand on my heart, piece of chocolate in my mouth. I know you like to look. I know those glasses press on your eyes and lashes. I know they are not super comfortable. But here’s the thing: those glasses that look like sunglasses will not protect your precious eyes from a direct hit of light. They are little better than nothing at all. They will not protect your cornea from a burn. They will not protect your retina from damage. They are meant for the person operating the laser, who at all times has the laser pointing at your face and not their’s. And you, operator, you are protecting your eyes from the reflection of laser light that bounce off those faces and into your eyes. It is a safety issue and not a preference issue. 

So that pulse of light has flashed into your skin. Now what? Science, my friends, science. The sun damaged pigment that has absorbed the light will break apart. They will immediately turn a little darker. Over the next 3 – 7 days, they will get darker still and rise to the surface where you skin will bid them sayonara. Those red vessels sometimes will turn darker as well. Sometimes, unfortunately, you will bruise a bit. But they will be reabsorbed by you body in a couple of weeks. And, volià, even skin tone. But wait, didn’t I say this was gentler than a full on laser? So it may take 2 – 6 treatments to get that final look. 

And the final touch…. you know what I’m going to say… Sunscreen is incredibly important. These treatments can cost a pretty coin. So help your clinic out by doing your sunscreen applying best. Also, the second finale touch, I suppose, is to say that once your skin is the even tone you like, you should count on returning 3 or 4 times a year for a 1 treatment boost.

Again, I have to say that if you are a darker skin type, this is not your best option. Google Skin Type Questionnaire. If you are 4, be very cautious. If you are 5 or 6, this treatment is not for you. 

Next time, we will discuss the bigger guns, lasers that take off layers of your skin. Woo hoo, can’t wait.

   The right machine in the right hands is dark chocolate all the way.