BBL vs. IPL: What’s the diff?

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Full spectrum white light pulsed therapy. Not sure what this is? It’s one of the most common aesthetic laser treatments and one of the most popular. A treatment that is low cost, virtually no down time and widely available. The generic term for this treatment is IPL (intense pulse light) therapy.

Pulsed light therapy is an excellent option to treat pigmentation in the skin (sun damage, post inflammatory pigmentation etc.) and redness in the skin (from the sun, from skin conditions like rosacea, from injury etc.). The caveat – if you have melasma (a hormonal type of hyperpigmentation disorder) you must avoid pulsed light therapy (see my blog on melasma for treatment options).

IPL employs xenon flash bulb technology. Xenon light-emitting bulbs produce a powerful, hot, white light and IPL therapy involves exposing the skin to flashes (or ‘pulses’) of this intense light. The heat concentrates in darker colours so it breaks up pigment, cauterizes small vessels near the skin surface and puts enough heat in the skin to induce collagen formation.

So what is BBL versus IPL? Does it matter?

Short answer: Yes it does matter and there are significant differences.

BBL stands for Broad Band Light and is a trade-marked term referring to pulsed light therapy using a Sciton Laser. Sciton lasers are powerful medical grade lasers manufactured in California. Sciton is an innovative and industry-leading company and is the gold standard in medical-grade laser aesthetics.

So BBL is pulsed light from a Sciton laser. What makes it different than IPL from lesser lasers?

BBL employs dual flash lamp technology. This means a BBL module on a Sciton laser uses two xenon flashlamps whereas IPL uses only one flashlamp. Dual flashlamps means double the energy output which greatly increases the effectiveness of the treatment.

The heat from a xenon flash could burn the skin, but lasers are equipped with a cooling function to take the heat out of the flash at the skin surface while allowing heat delivery deeper. BBL by Sciton is the only laser to use sapphire technology in its cooling plate. This technology guarantees predictable cooling that very efficiently wicks heat away from the skin even when double the energy is being supplied much deeper into target tissues. This cooling is so effective BBL can be used in skin colour as dark as Fitzpatrick 4 and 5. IPL, especially in the hands of a non-expert technician can easily lead to burns even though it is a lower energy treatment.

A Sciton BBL is outfitted with adaptors of multiple sizes so the treatment can be customized and targeted. Many lesser IPL lasers have a single large adaptor size which limits treatment to just a general level of treatment. With BBL, a laser technician can provide a general treatment with a larger adaptor, then switch to a choice of smaller and smaller adaptors to target brown spots and small vessels without overheating surrounding skin. This also reduces the risk of burn. Thus a BBL is highly customizable to the needs of the patient and it is safer yet more effective.

Forever Young BBL is a particular type of BBL that involves a predetermined number of pulses in a base pass, a vascular pass and a pigmentation pass. With each pass the filters on the laser are changed in order to target different issues. When done twice a year, this trade-marked protocol of treatment has been proven through studies done at Stanford University to change the genetic expression of skin cells such that the skin cells behave like younger cells. In effect, it reverses the aging process.

As an additional step, a FYBBL can be amped up further with a 4th pass added called Skin Tyte. The Skin Tyte procedure uses a unique adapter that allows for continuous pulses until the skin temperature reaches a prescribed temperature range (measured by a heat gun). This additional pass steps up collagen formation and skin tightening.

A BBL is fast, effective, non-invasive and there is minimal to no down-time. You can wear make up immediately after. What’s not to love? You can treat your face, neck, chest and hands.

BBL is sometimes referred to as the Swiss Army Knife of IPL lasers. Its capabilities are broad and its customizable features make it one of the most adaptable, flexible and effective light-based therapies available.

While an IPL may be less expensive, there’s a reason for that. It’s less effective, less customizable and there is more risk of side effects. IPL has not be shown to reverse signs of aging in skin cells.

If you’ve never had a BBL at ArtMed we recommend:

  • a consult to determine if BBL is the optimal treatment option for you
  • a Visia photo skin analysis to document your skin issues and track treatment progress
  • waiting until you have absolutely no tan (including spray or self tanner) before treating
  • a series of 3 treatments done 3-4 weeks apart as initial therapy
  • twice yearly maintenance thereafter (1 treatment in spring and 1 in fall/winter); if you are under 40 you may need only 1 treatment a year
  • good quality skin care to maintain and augment results

BBL versus IPL? At ArtMed we’re certain BBL is the hand’s down winner. If you’re interested in booking a consult regarding BBL don’t hesitate to contact us on any of our media platforms (phone, Instagram/Facebook, email, website chat).

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