Cosmetic services have gained a lot of popularity over the last several years. In the United States alone, more than $16.5 billion was spent on cosmetic procedures in 2018. Turning on the television or scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, it’s not uncommon to see celebrities promoting the next best thing. With each service, cream, or tool promising to be a miracle worker, it can be hard to sort through the best options for looking and feeling your best.
In my plastic and reconstructive surgery experience, the most common cosmetic anxieties my team sees are typically concerns regarding fine lines and wrinkles, facial spider veins, brown “age spots,” unwanted hair and the like. And it’s not just women who have these cosmetic concerns either. In fact, men accounted for 1.3 million total cosmetic procedures last year.
Today, many of my colleagues in this field (myself included) are treating these types of conditions with one of two tools that you might not be familiar with. The first is a laser, and the second is known as Intense Pulsed Light, often abbreviated IPL.
IPL and laser services are similar in some respects, but physicians may choose to recommend one service over another. This decision is based on a number of factors including the type of condition you want to treat, your skin type, and even your lifestyle.
To speak generally, IPL uses multiple lengths of light rays to treat various skin problems. It operates on a wider range of wavelengths with varying intensity, allowing it to treat more than just one type of skin condition.
On the other hand, a laser uses one continuous light wavelength and is typically stronger than IPL. The laser removes outer layers of damaged skin and stimulates collagen production.
While both treatment options are safe and effective, your physician will have experience in judging which service has the best chance for a successful treatment.
In terms of setting, both the IPL and laser services are performed on an outpatient basis. Patients typically feel minimal discomfort from the procedures, and depending on the type of condition being treated, the appointment may only take a few minutes. Some conditions require as few as two or three treatments to see noticeable results.
After deciding to explore treatment options for one or more of the common cosmetic conditions, a physician will typically schedule a consultation visit and skin examination as the first step. At that time, the provider will be able to determine if the IPL or laser treatment will be most effective for you.
Also during your consultation, the physician will likely be able to give an estimate as to how many treatments will be needed to achieve the desired results. Questions or concerns about the treatment plan can also be addressed at this time. Because cosmetic services are very personalized to each patient, what’s worked for a friend or relative of yours might not be right for you, and vice versa.
While it’s always a good idea to be proactive in your care and to learn about the different types of services a provider offers – through reputable resources like the American Society of Plastic Surgeons – you should remember that physicians have the education, skills, and tools to recommend the product or service that’s best for you.
When you’re ready to take the first step, it’s also important that you be open and honest with your physician about the results you want to achieve, so that the treatment experience can be pleasant and enjoyable.
A great way to become familiar and comfortable with a reconstructive and plastic surgery team is to start small and check out services like waxing or makeup artistry. For information about these and other services offered at Mount Nittany Physician Group Reconstructive & Cosmetic Surgery, visit cosmetic.mountnittany.org.
Emily Peterson, MD, is the plastic surgeon and physician division lead for Mount Nittany Physician Group Reconstructive & Cosmetic Surgery, as well as, physician lead for the Physician Group’s surgical specialties.
This article originally appeared in Town & Gown