Split-face comparison of the erbium micropeel with intense pulsed light

Dermatol Surg. 2008 Jun;34(6):763-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4725.2008.34144.x. Epub 2008 Mar 3.


Background: A variety of photorejuvenative techniques have been utilized to reverse the signs of cutaneous photoaging, including ablative and nonablative laser resurfacing as well as light-based devices.

Objective: The purpose of this split-face randomized prospective open-label trial was to determine the effectiveness of sequential erbium:yttrium-aluminum-garnet (Er:YAG) laser versus intense pulsed light (IPL) for the treatment of mild to moderate facial photodamage.

Materials and methods: Ten subjects (ages 35-63) with facial dyschromia and rhytides were enrolled. Study patients were randomized to the two treatment arms, Er:YAG (3.8 J/cm(2), 30% pattern overlap, 0% interpulse overlap, 15 microm per pass with no coagulation) and IPL (560-nm filter, 30 J/cm(2), 2.4/4.0-ms pulse with 10-ms delay), each receiving three sequential treatments spaced 1 month apart. Subjective and blinded physician evaluations were performed at baseline and 4, 8, and 20 weeks posttreatment using a nominal scale from 1 to 4. Erythema and adverse events were assessed 1 week following each treatment.

Results: Ten female subjects with mild to moderate facial photodamage were treated with one pass of either IPL or Er:YAG in a split-face fashion. Patients received three treatments each spaced 1 month apart. Nine of 10 patients completed the trial; 1 withdrew due to pain during the second Er:YAG treatment. Baseline subjective and blinded physician dyschromia and rhytid scores revealed no significant difference between the IPL and Er:YAG randomly assigned sides. Up to three IPL or Er:YAG treatments did not result in a significant improvement in rhytid scores. Subjective and blinded physician dyschromia scores improved 26 and 38%, respectively, 3 months after the final IPL treatment, but only by 7 and 29%, respectively, with Er:YAG. Subjective global facial appearance scores worsened by 5% while blinded physician scores improved by 16% 3 months after 3 Er:YAG treatments, but by 28 and 20% for IPL, respectively. The overall incidence of adverse events and subsequent downtime was increased for Er:YAG (1/10 patients experienced hyperpigmentation, 3/10 exfoliation, 1/10 blistering, and 5/10 discomfort) compared to IPL (1/10 exfoliation and 1/10 discomfort), although no permanent side effects were observed with either treatment arm.

Conclusions: While low-fluence erbium resurfacing has a modest effect on facial photodamage, patients preferred IPL because it resulted in less downtime. The authors have indicated no significant interest with commercial supporters.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Face
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Laser Therapy*
  • Lasers, Solid-State / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Skin Aging*
  • Treatment Outcome