What is broadband light therapy?

Broadband light therapy, also called BBL therapy, is a light-based technology used to treat damaged areas on the outer surface of the skin, such as sun damage, age spots and discolored areas of the face, neck, chest and other parts of the body. At The Ohio State University Wexner Medical in Columbus, our board certified plastic surgeons offer trusted expertise using BBL to rejuvenate the skin’s surface.

BBL is a form of light therapy that’s similar to intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy or a photo facial. BBL is a newer technology that harnesses a broad spectrum of light directed through interchangeable filters. The plastic surgeons at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center use a handheld BBL device to customize the strength and precision of light energy, adjusting heat levels depending on the condition of skin in the area to be treated.

During BBL, you feel a warm sensation with minimal discomfort as broadband light is absorbed by your skin. This stimulates skin cells to generate collagen – a fibrous protein building-block in skin and connective tissue. As new collagen grows, it improves skin’s tone and texture, reduces discoloration and evens out skin color.

Plastic surgeons at Ohio State may perform BBL therapy alone or as part of a larger care plan with other cosmetic surgery therapies, such as nonsurgical facial and skin rejuvenation and spa services.

Why is broadband light therapy done?

Over the years, sun exposure, environmental pollution and aging can cause visible damage to the surface of your skin. Genetics, diet and lifestyle habits can also affect your skin’s condition. You may start to notice unwelcome spots, blotches and blemishes or other changes in your skin’s appearance and texture.

At Ohio State, plastic surgeons can use BBL therapy to treat:

  • Age spots, sun spots and freckles 
  • Dark brown or red patches and discoloration 
  • Acne or other mild scarring 
  • Fine lines and wrinkles 
  • Spider veins, broken capillaries and other vascular lesions 
  • Rough, uneven skin texture 

BBL treatments are most effective for lighter complexions. Your doctor will evaluate your skin to see whether this or other cosmetic procedures are right for you.

How to prepare for BBL therapy

Your doctor and care team will give you individualized instructions to prepare for broadband light therapy. Although the practitioner will clean and prepare your skin, you’ll need to remove makeup or other skin products and clean your skin as directed prior to your appointment.

Before your therapy, your doctor may advise you to:

Avoid certain skin care products

Avoid excessive sun exposure

Use sunscreen and wear protective clothing if you’re out in the sun

What to expect if you have BBL therapy

Depending on your skin condition, areas to be treated and other goals, your doctor may recommend a series of BBL treatments to get the results you want. Most BBL procedures are done in your doctor’s office. There is little or no discomfort or down time.

During broadband light treatment:

  • You’ll wear protective eye wear.
  • You may notice harmless flashes of light and feel a warm sensation as your doctor moves the device over treated areas of skin. Those who’ve had BBL describe the sensation as similar to the mild snapping of a rubber band.
  • For your comfort, the practitioner can use a topical cream that numbs the surface of your skin in treated areas.

After BBL therapy

Your skin may be pink and have a mild sunburned appearance in the area treated. This can last two to four hours after your treatment. You may notice some bruising or swelling, especially in sensitive areas around the eyes. This typically subsides within three to five days.

If you’ve had small blood vessels treated, you may notice some bruising in the area. Your doctor can recommend ways to ease any related discomfort with a cool compress or over-the-counter pain reliever.

Darker spots and areas treated may become darker for a few days after your treatment. To avoid scarring, don’t try to remove them. They’ll slough off naturally within the next week or two.

Your doctor will provide individualized guidance. You should be able to apply makeup or other skin products according to normal routines. In most instances, you can return to regular daily activities as soon as your office procedure is complete.

Your skin will be sensitive to sunlight for a week or two after treatment. To protect your skin, it’s important to use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more. Your doctor will advise you about what products to avoid, including abrasive products such as retinol or glycolic acid. The doctor will recommend appropriate quality skin care products for your skin type and condition.

Results of BBL therapy

You’ll notice smoother, more evenly textured skin within two weeks. After a year, you may want to have touch-up sessions to get the results you desire. If you’re having multiple treatments, you’ll need to wait several weeks before having a follow-up BBL therapy session.

For ideal long-term results, it’s important to use high-quality skin care products and protect your skin from excessive sun and other environmental stressors. Regular exercise and adequate nutrition can also help keep your skin looking its best.

Risks of BBL therapy

It’s important to understand both the risks and benefits of any procedure before deciding whether it’s right for you. Your Ohio State plastic surgeon will evaluate your health, skin condition and treatment goals, and assist as you make your decision.

BBL therapy is not recommended for dark or tanned skin, which has more light-absorbing melanin. This can increase the risk of burning, hypopigmentation (areas of skin that are lighter than surrounding skin), hyperpigmentation (darkened areas) and scarring.

Your doctor can discuss your best options, which may include nonsurgical skin rejuvenation therapies such as chemical peels, dermaplaning or microneedling.

Risks vary depending on the areas and types of problems to be treated, the condition of your skin and other factors.

Possible risks include:

  • Blisters
  • Burns
  • Hair loss in treated area 
  • Persistent inflammation
  • Redness and swelling
  • Scarring
  • Uneven skin tones

Ohio State takes measures to reduce risks, and your procedure is performed by experienced, board certified surgeons who specialize in plastic surgery, including cosmetic procedures.

Why choose Ohio State for BBL surgery?

At the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, our experienced, board certified plastic surgeons are highly trained specialists who focus exclusively on plastic and cosmetic procedures and advanced care for the skin and body. Ohio State plastic surgeons are skilled in BBL therapy and other nonsurgical facial and skin rejuvenation. You’re assured of:

Care from trusted plastic surgeons who are leaders in the field with advanced expertise in the latest surgical techniques

Comprehensive care, including recommendations from Ohio State’s skin care specialists who can help you achieve your best possible results

Treatment at a nationally recognized health care center with academic and research leadership that provides access to safe, evidence-based light therapies and other innovations 

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