What Are the Dangers of Photofacials?

facial neon sign image by Karin Lau from Fotolia.com

Photofacials turn back time, at least from the perspective of your skin. Using a series of light pulses emitted over various wavelengths, photofacials make skin appear younger. The treatments reduce the visible effects of sun damage; improve the appearance of acne scars, large pores and dark circles around the eyes; and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. The procedure is convenient, the results are immediate and no hospitalization is required, but there are some serious risks involved.

Increased Redness

While photofacials generally make skin look better, the treatment can do the opposite for some patients, Nutra Legacy reports. Photofacials can make skin appear older, enlarge pores, break blood vessels, increase the visibility of small capillaries and actually increase, rather than reduce, skin redness.

Pigmentation Changes

Decreased pigmentation can be seen, particularly if your skin has a tan. This is known as "foot-printing" and occurs when the photofacial treatment strips the skin of its top layer of color. Hyper-pigmentation, or darkening of the skin, has also been reported. Greeks, Italians, Native Americans and African Americans are most prone to these side effects.

Skin Blisters and Swelling

Photofacials can cause blistering and bruising of the skin. In addition, the facial skin may fill with fluid. Face swelling after a photofacial treatment is common, particularly in severely sun-damaged skin because of damage to the connective tissues around the blood vessels.


Photofacials can cause skin infections and create wounds. For this reason, insulin-dependent diabetics cannot be treated with photofacials. In rare cases, bleeding and even scarring has been reported. Many of these side effects are seen on dark-skinned or darkly tanned people, or on those who easily burn.