What is Photodynamic Therapy?
This is a stronger variant of the Fotofacial RF laser treatment used for rejuvenation of sun damaged skin. With this procedure, a medicine is first painted on your skin to enhance light absorption and to make the laser stronger. As with the Fotofacial RF, red and brown spots will be significantly reduced, but with faster and more dramatic results. Severe sun damage with broken capillaries and mottled, brown pigmentation will be vastly improved. Some precancerous skin lesions can also be removed by Photodynamic Therapy. Your skin will become more uniform in color, will tighten, look younger and your pores will become smaller. There is also a vast improvement in cystic acne with Photodynamic Therapy (see our page on Photodynamic (Laser) Therapy for Acne). This procedure significantly reduces redness of the skin; helping in a variety of conditions such as acne, acne rosacea, broken capillaries, and possibly flushing. Photodynamic Therapy is the treatment of choice for someone with severe sun damage or for individuals with moderate sun damage wanting results in just 3 treatments (rather than 3 to 6 treatments).
How does a Photodynamic Therapy session proceed?
Dr. Davis will first remove the top layer of your skin with traditional Microdermabrasion. Next, either she or her assistant will apply a light enhancing chemical, 5-aminolevulinic acid to your face (or other site). This is a substance our bodies naturally produce, but generally in smaller quantities. This chemical will be left on your skin for at least 30 minutes. With this step you will feel tingling, but should be comfortable. During this time you can enjoy reading some magazines, doing work, or even taking a nap. After, you can opt to sit with a topical anesthetic cream for ½ hour (this is available for purchase at our office) to make the laser treatment - the final step - more comfortable. Total treatment time generally runs 2 to 2 ½ hours. We need to start this procedure either early in the morning or early in the afternoon and your time needs to be reserved in advance.
Will there be any pain from my Photodynamic Therapy treatment with Dr. Davis?
The discomfort of the procedure has been compared to the snap of a rubber band against the skin. Most people can tolerate a Photodynamic Therapy treatment with just contact cooling from our laser handpiece and the separate Syner-cool air blower. However, you can opt to sit with anesthetic cream for 30 minutes prior to your procedure for maximum comfort. You would purchase the jar of anesthetic cream in our office and we would write your name on the label for use on that day and on future treatments.
How many Photodynamic Therapy treatments are needed for Sun Damage improvement?
Generally Dr. Davis performs 3 monthly treatments. However, some people see dramatic results with just one or two treatments and do not need to continue further.
What are the limitations of Photodynamic Therapy for the treatment of Sun Damage?
Because we are disrupting pigmentation, this treatment cannot be used on dark Hispanic or Black skin. We can successfully treat Caucasian, Asian, and light Hispanic Skin with this procedure. Since your face will be more sensitive to the sun for 72 hours after the procedure, some people prefer to schedule these treatments to avoid the sunny summer months. However, we do perform Photodynamic Therapy all year long. You will need to wear a hat for the first 72 hours after the procedure and use SPF 30+ daily for at least a month after your treatment to prevent sun damage from recurring.
When we are treating the face of a man, we avoid the hair bearing areas (chin, cheeks and upper lip) to avoid causing hair removal. We would not want to disrupt the ability of a man to grow a full beard or mustache at a later date.
This treatment cannot be performed on pregnant women
How should I prepare for my Photodynamic Therapy treatment from Dr. Davis?
Anti-oxidant rich citrus fruits and extracts (especially from lemons and limes) make skin more sensitive to light and should be avoided for three days before any light therapy. Topical antioxidants used for antiaging will do the same and shouldn’t be used one week prior to this treatment. This includes products with Vitamin C, Coffeeberry, green tea, Ibedenone, etc. Retinoids should also be avoided since these will make your skin more sensitive to treatment. Retinoids include RetinA, Renova, Refissa, and products with Retinol. In fact, it is safest to avoid all antiaging products at this time. Use only bland products like Plain Aquaphor, Cetaphil, Cerave, etc. for one week prior to your treatment to avoid exposure to antioxidants and other photo sensitizers.
To shadow your face, you must bring a wide- brimmed hat, visor, or baseball cap with you to the office on the day of your procedure and continue to wear it for the next 72 hours. Strong sunblock of at least SPF 30 (without any antioxidants) must be used daily after the treatment for at least a month, and preferably on an ongoing basis.
What should I expect after my Photodynamic Therapy with Dr. Davis?
There is some down time with this procedure. Your face will initially become redder, giving you an appearance of sunburn. Darker spots and precancerous lesions may temporarily become darker and then crumble and peel off. You may wear makeup to cover these and use a water mister, or apply plain Vaseline so that your skin is comfortable and not too dry. Do not peel off any loose skin, as this may cause scarring. You must stay out of the sun for at least 72 hours after treatment, as the 5-aminolevulinic acid will still be active in your skin; and you might burn and swell from just walking outside.