A. They are wonderful, aren't they? Regarding photofacials (for the uninitiated, photofacials are performed in a doctor’s office with “intense pulsed light,” often called “IPL”), generally it will take from 2 to 4 sessions to erase brown spots and blood vessels. These sessions can be 3 or more weeks apart. As you’ve no doubt noticed, there is a lovely little side effect from the heat of the light that makes the texture of the skin finer and silkier looking, due in part to the stimulation of collagen formation in the skin. Maintenance photofacials can be performed as often as monthly, depending upon your skin type, however I would recommend 3 or 4 of them a year once the skin has been cleared of brown and red spots. Despite the moniker, photofacials can be performed anywhere on the body, and the results can be gorgeous and a huge relief for those of us who are regretting our sunbunny days.
You can maintain the skin nicely with a retinoid (the original was Retin-A and there are numerous variations available now). A good prescription-strength retinoid, light but consistent exfoliation, and the diligent use of sunscreen will be an ideal way to keep your skin healthy between sessions. The retinoid will also gently stimulate collagen production in the skin and will slow down the aging process of the skin over the years. Your aesthetician can recommend the proper retinoid for you.
Now regarding peels, there are a lot more variables in the mix. If you’re using a retinoid and are exfoliating regularly, you may not need a peel as often as you would otherwise. The time between peels also depends on the type of peel, as they can be superficial enough to give you an extra glow for that evening to deep enough to have you housebound for the better part of a week – or more. A basic rule of thumb is as long as your skin is reacting well and not getting overly sensitive or irritated, your timing and your choice of peel are good. Over-the-counter peels will recommend the frequency of application, usually once or twice a month. The stronger peels will be performed by a professional who can follow up with you and make recommendations tailored to your skin. Remember too, that the needs of your skin will vary with dietary changes, weather, hormonal changes, etc., so you may need to be flexible with your regimen.
A final word -- if you are using a retinoid, discontinue it for 2 to 4 days prior to a peel or photofacial to avoid irritating the skin.