BBL is not a laser therapy, but type of pulsed light therapy that reduces the appearance of freckles, age spots, brown spots, broken capillaries, melasma, and many other skin concerns.

Broadband light (BBL) therapy, also known as a photofacial, is a generally safe and effective treatment for a variety of cosmetic skin concerns.

Dermatologists use this fairly gentle procedure to:

  • treat skin conditions such as rosacea, spider veins, and acne
  • help minimize the appearance of sun damage, fine lines, and wrinkles
  • even out skin tone and texture

Read on to learn more about the uses of BBL therapy, its effectiveness, and what you can expect during and after a session.

Woman lying back in a chair with a showercap and opaque googles receiving a photofacialShare on Pinterest
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BBL is a type of pulsed light therapy used to enhance and brighten your complexion by treating skin concerns and stimulating your body’s production of collagen. Collagen is a protein that helps give structure to your skin, among other things.

Usually, BBL therapy targets your face, neck, chest, arms, and hands — though it’s possible to treat all areas.

BBL treatments help enhance the appearance of skin damaged by factors such as:

  • sun exposure
  • harmful skin care products
  • pollution

Dermatologists use BBL treatments for conditions such as:

It enhances your skin’s firmness, elasticity, and pigmentation (coloring). It may also boost your body’s self-healing ability to regrow healthy skin.

BBL may also reduce the appearance of:

During your initial BBL consultation, a dermatologist will examine your skin to determine which areas to target. Then they’ll create a treatment plan involving multiple pulsed light therapy sessions.

BBL treatments usually last around 30 minutes, depending on the size of the treatment area.

During the procedure, the physician will apply a cooling gel to the treatment area and possibly a topical anesthetic. You’ll wear safety shields, goggles, or glasses to protect your eyes.

You may experience sensations, pulses, and mild pain. Your skin may feel slightly warm and appear slightly red, swollen, or sunburned.

BBL treatments use a broad spectrum of wavelengths to target your skin’s underlying layers. Your skin absorbs this light energy, which promotes collagen production and eliminates pigmented (darker) skin cells.

You can expect to see visible changes to your skin within a few days or weeks of your first BBL treatment. As you continue treatments, you will notice more significant changes.

Preparing for a BBL procedure

Before your BBL treatment, you need to prepare your skin. It’s important that your skin is not tanned. Avoid direct sunlight or tanning beds for 4 to 6 weeks before and after each session.

Don’t use sunless tanner for at least 2 weeks before your treatment. For at least 1 week before BBL, avoid waxing, chemical peels, and products containing retinol, salicylic acid, or glycolic acid.

Talk with your doctor to make sure it’s safe to stop taking any prescribed medications that cause photosensitivity, which is extreme sensitivity to UV light. If you have frequent cold sores, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication a few days before your session.

If you have insurance, know that BBL is usually not covered. It may be helpful to arrange a payment plan ahead of time.

After BBL, you’ll be able to get home from your appointment on your own and resume your daily activities. For at least 48 hours following BBL treatment, avoid anything that causes sweating or flushing. This includes exercise, hot temperatures, and saunas. Refrain from consuming alcohol and spicy foods.

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You can expect to see noticeable changes to your skin within a few days. Blemishes and blood vessels will usually clear up within a few weeks.

Within 2 weeks of your first treatment, your skin may feel smoother and appear more even and bright. You may see fewer discolorations, fine lines, and pores.

The physician performing the procedure will recommend how many BBL treatments you’ll need. They’ll base the number of treatments on your:

  • current skin type
  • skin condition
  • desired results

Usually, you’ll need to have three to six BBL treatments spaced a few weeks apart. After that, dermatolgists generally advise having at least two treatments per year to maintain and improve your results.

Several studies point to the effectiveness of BBL in improving the appearance of skin. A small 2019 study examined the effects of 5 BBL treatments every 2 weeks and found that BBL is a safe and mildly effective method for reducing enlarged facial pores.

Another small 2019 study found that three BBL treatment settings were effective in tightening skin. All three techniques showed improvements in zygomatic (cheekbone) wrinkles, nasolabial folds, and marionette lines.

Research from 2020 suggests that BBL safely and effectively improves the appearance of senile purpura and prevents new lesions. BBL treatments increase the thickness of your epidermis (outer layer of skin) and improve collagen and elasticity, which enhances the skin’s structure.

After your BBL treatment, you may feel burning, redness, and warmth that’s similar to a sunburn. This discomfort usually only lasts a few hours, but it can continue for a few days. To relieve swelling and discomfort, apply a cold compress to the affected area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time.

In the week following your first treatment, you may notice pigment coming to the surface of your skin. It’s also common to experience redness, peeling, and swelling. Dark spots and freckles may darken before fading and flaking off over time, usually within 1 to 3 weeks.

After BBL, avoid:

  • exfoliants
  • topical acne treatments
  • scented skin care products

When washing the affected area, use lukewarm water and avoid hot or cold water. Don’t use a loofah or scrub your skin. Gently apply nonirritating skincare products and avoid scratching, rubbing, or picking your skin.

Because your skin’s melanin absorbs the light energy in a BBL treatment, the procedure is safest for light, untanned skin. People with darker skin tones containing more melanin are more likely to experience burning, scarring, or hyperpigmentation.

BBL pulsed light therapy is a generally safe and effective treatment that can help address various skin concerns, especially those related to skin appearance, with minimal discomfort.

You should be able to see skin changes after your first BBL treatment. However, you’ll usually need to have multiple treatments to achieve your desired outcome.

To maximize results, take care of your skin before and after each session.

Talk with a physician to see if BBL is suitable for your skin. You can discuss your concerns, desired results, and financial options before creating a treatment plan.