Lasers treat the function of skin problems by heating up a certain target. The target being heated depends on the color of the target, and wavelength of the laser. To give an example, the Nd-YAG laser heats up the skin pigment that called melanin. When used to treat unwanted hair, the laser heats up the pigment in the hair follicle, until the hair follicle is destroyed and cannot produce hair. White hair lacks the melanin pigment, and therefore, does not become heated when the laser is used. Therefore, if an area that contains both white and dark hair is treated by the laser, only the dark hair will be destroyed, leaving all the white hair behind. A different laser, called the pulsed dye laser, heats up blood. Vascular lesions (hemangiomas, telangiectasias, redness associated with rosacea) are successfully treated by this laser when the blood is heated up, causing blood vessels to be destroyed.
When using the laser to treat skin problems, the goal is to use the laser to heat up a very specific target and leave other components of the skin unharmed.
The IPL functions similarly to a laser, but instead of using one wavelength, it uses a system of filters to select a spectrum of useful wavelengths. These filters can be changed depending on the desired treatment.
At Braun Dermatology & Skin Cancer Center, we currently use a Icon laser and Palomar Intense Pulsed Light system (IPL). The Icon has various filters (or hand pieces) designed to treat different skin conditions.