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High-intensity pulsed light has become a very popular method of treating a wide variety of skin conditions. From pigmentation issues to rosacea, the beneficial effects of pulsed light have shown great clinical benefits. One of the its even more widespread uses has been in the overall improvement of aging skin. Numerous clinical and histological studies have shown significant skin rejuvenation effects from repeated broad band light (BBL) treatments.

While visible skin improvements are seen in such treated skin, the question becomes why. What about the light that causes the skin to change? In the October 2012 issue of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, a study entitled ‘Rejuvenation of Gene Expression Pattern of Aged Human Skin by Broad Band Light’ reported on this very question. Using the left forearms of female patients who were treated three times at four week intervals, skin biopsies were compared between these treated areas and adjacent skin. The skin biopsies were used to obtain genetic material. Biopsies were also taken at a handful of untreated females under the age of 30 to serve as a baseline comparison of youthful skin.

The study results showed that the treated skin had changes in a number of genes that are linked to the aging process. They specifically called these changes gene ‘rejuvenation’. It appears that BBL treatments affect gene function to create an anti-aging effect. It is important to point out that this is a preliminary study and it is not known whether the effects seen persist or are just short-term changes from the treatments. My suspicion is that it will take some regular maintenance treatments for persistent gene alterations. It is also not clear as to what causes these effects, the light or the heat from the treatments.

This study is very relevant as it is one of the few studies that show genetic alterations in the skin from BBL therapy. We know from clinical experience that regular BBL treatments do reduce the signs of skin aging. Now we have a peak into understanding why. Whether similar results are seen with other energy therapies such as ultrasound and radiofrequency is not known as they have not been studied.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

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