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Beyond Lasers: Pulse-Light Therapy for That Fantasy Face

WebMD Health News

July 27, 2000 -- It's not as if Tina Huoso needed a face-lift. At age 31, she was essentially wrinkle-free. A handful of superficial acne scars, reminders of her teen-age years, were just about her only blemishes.

But the brown sun blotches that began appearing on her forehead, and especially one above her lip, made Tina self-conscious. "I put a lot of concealer to blend it in, but I really don't like wearing a lot of makeup," she tells WebMD. "It looked like I was covering something up."

Huoso is an assistant to Atlanta facial plastic surgeon Seth Yellin, MD. She took advantage of the newest technology -- intense pulse-light therapy -- to smooth her imperfections. "People commented," she tells WebMD. "They said I looked great, that I glowed." As for the blotches, "They're gone."

It's the new way to keep aging at bay.

Growing numbers of dermatologists are now using intense pulse-light therapy -- instead of lasers -- to smooth and soothe facial woes. With this new magic wand, they can delete fine-to-moderate lines and wrinkles, remove unwanted facial hair, and erase a whole array of pigment problems, including sunspots. Doctors say it actually tightens up those unsightly pores -- perhaps permanently.

And for many people with an embarrassing condition called rosacea -- a facial redness caused by spider veins and acne-like outbreaks -- this may be the first true treatment, doctors say.

Best of all, there's no "downtime" as there is with laser treatments. "It's truly a lunchtime therapy," says Yellin, who is assistant professor of facial plastic surgery at Emory University School of Medicine.

Intense pulse-light skin therapy won FDA approval for hair removal five years ago. In the past few years, dermatologists have discovered many more uses for this technology, which involves pulsed multiple lengths of light rays, explains Yellin.

While it may sound like a laser treatment, "it's not a laser," Yellin tells WebMD. "We can select from multiple wavelengths of light [whereas lasers use one continuous light wavelength.] We can enter into the computer the skin color, body area, skin type to generate specific settings. During treatment, multiple wavelengths of light are entering the skin, concentrating their energy at different levels. That allows us to treat many, many different problems."

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