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PaloVia in-home fractional laser treatment

Reviewed by Copley April 24, 2012 19 Comments

Let’s say you have all but given up on potions promising to erase your eye wrinkles and you are ready to bite the bullet for a more aggressive approach. If you could choose between several professional treatments spaced several weeks apart, with an extended period of inflamed skin following each procedure, or daily application of an at-home device, resulting in dryness and irritation every day, which would you pick? Would your answer change if one in-salon session cost an average of $1000, and the take-home device - yours for the lifespan of the product - costs $500?

Maybe it’s my Type A personality, but I prefer to be in control of my own skincare destiny. I’ve had more than a handful of unpleasant experiences in salons and spas (many of them overwhelmed by an influx of fellow Groupon buyers, to be fair). If I can get the same results from a tool that I use on my own time and control the intensity of the treatment based on my skin’s threshold of pain, then I’d choose the toy I can keep at home any day. Of course, it needs to be safe, easy to use, and idiot-proof. For all of these reasons, I was drawn to the PaloVia Skin Renewing Laser when a rep contacted me asking if I would do a trial at home.

Of course, I did my due diligence before accepting a potential ticking time bomb and blindly shooting lasers into my skin. PaloVia ($445) is the latest cosmetic laser product to come from Palomar Medical Technologies, the company behind the SlimLipo body sculpting laser and the StarLux IPL system. Until now, Palomar’s devices have been available exclusively to medical and cosmetic professionals. But PaloVia harnesses that same technology and brings it into the home, as the first-ever FDA-cleared laser for reducing fine lines around the eyes that can be administered by everyday people without specialized degrees or training.

Fractional laser resurfacing, also known as fractional photothermolysis, targets areas of the skin that are precisely spaced out at a microscopic level and heats some skin zones while others are left undisturbed. Instead of emitting a solid beam, the laser puts out clusters of minuscule beams that punch invisible holes in the skin. In creating a grid-like pattern of micro-wounds, it stimulates fresh collagen production beneath the skin’s surface and allows the untreated areas of tissue to remain stable for quicker recovery.

To “ablate” means to surgically remove. Lasers that are classified as non-ablative do not immediately remove skin, but rather heat the skin to trigger inflammation and new collagen formation. Like its in-office counterpart, the Fraxel, which has become the industry standard for non-ablative skin resurfacing procedures, PaloVia uses fractional technology to employ the intense energy of ablative skin-resurfacing lasers without requiring the same amount of recovery time. Because the treatment areas are spaced out and all of the tissue isn’t targeted at once, these types of treatments are favored by patients seeking minimal discomfort and downtime.

PaloVia, like its professional predecessors, aims to resurface the skin from the inside out. But putting the power of lasers in the hands of the masses seems like a dicey proposition. Once results start to show, I could see the device easily falling victim to overuse and abuse. To prevent injury (and - more likely - lawsuits) Palomar installed several high-tech safety mechanisms. The laser will only work when all four points of its treatment window are touching the skin’s surface, thus making it impossible to blind yourself (or someone else) by pointing the laser at an eye. The device is also rigged with an automatic shutdown sensor that puts the laser to sleep for 8 hours after it has registered a maximum of 25 applications in one use.

But even with these safety features in place, I had some nagging concerns about PaloVia. Wouldn’t repeated laser resurfacing treatments heighten the impending doom of the Hayflick Limit? If skin cells are continuously being turned over by laser stimulation, it stands to reason that the cells will reach their end much faster than they would if left to thrive naturally. Research has shown that telomeres, which are like the pieces of plastic at the end of shoelaces that prevent the cells from unraveling, shorten every time a cell divides. While the exact number of times a cell can replicate before telomeres become too short is disputed (Hayflick’s magic number was 50), the theory has never been disproved.

I would never denounce an anti-aging device because of some elusive theory. I would, however, get scared off by concrete proof that PaloVia inflicted long-term damage. Alas, this particular device is too new for any reports of bad reactions to have bubbled to the internet’s surface. The worst that the first batch of PaloVia’s customers said was that it didn’t deliver dramatic results as promised or that the laser wouldn’t fire consistently.

So, the cautious skeptic in me dug deep for feedback on non-ablative fractional laser technology. There don’t seem to be any empirical studies proving a bad outcome, but there has been an outpouring of anecdotal horror stories on the Real Self community boards. Outside this hearsay, the response to fractional lasers within the medical community and among clientele seems to be generally positive. Many dermatologists and plastic surgeons who endorse these lasers adopt the viewpoint that the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Also, scientific evidence supports the efficacy of fractional non-ablative lasers. A 2009 randomized controlled trial on adult patients with acne scars found that skin texture significantly improved after three monthly laser treatments. But how do these results translate in a handheld device, presumably designed to be gentle enough to use on a daily basis? Surprisingly well, according to a 2010 study published in Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. Out of 124 subjects who were treated with the laser (presumably a first-generation PaloVia) every day during the first month’s “active phase” and twice weekly during the “maintenance phase” of the ensuing five months, 90% revealed improvement in wrinkle reduction post-active phase and 79% post-maintenance phase. The biggest selling point, for me at least, was that there were no unanticipated adverse effects over the six-month study.

Though I’m wary of the long-term effects of treating the skin with lasers - even the fractional non-ablative variety - I didn’t let that deter me from trying PaloVia. In the end, I decided to be a guinea pig for the sake of Truth in Aging readers everywhere. After testing PaloVia for the past month, I have some very interesting results to report. But I’ll save that for next time.

Read on for the results of Copley's PaloVia test

  • April 23, 2016

    by Madeline

    Hi,
    I own one of these PaloVia lasers. Bought it 4-5 years ago. Any idea why they were all the rage, then disappeared so fast? I wonder if they got sued by purchasers (skin damage), or if devices short-circuited in people's faces, or if the company had poor financial management, etc.? Mine still works and I use it now and then, but wonder if I shouldn't!?

    I think PaloVia had potential. I used it ALOT for about a year, as directed but it requires pretty continual use. Problem: It damages skin cells so your skin is constantly getting "snaky" and sand-papery, making you look MORE wrinkled while the destroyed cells are sloughing off your face. Just as the old skin sloughs off to reveal new skin, it's time to use the laser again and there you go back to a wrinkled, sand-paper face for days, waiting for the old skin to slough off again. Takes 5-7 days for the laser-damaged skin to regenerate, and that time period makes you look ugly. THAT was the big problem.

    I do think the laser did what it was supposed to do, just needed tweaking so users weren't in a constant state of sand paper face.

    Anyway, sad to see them disappear but wonder what happened?!

  • September 20, 2015

    by Jessica

    Hi ladies/gentlemen,
    I know this post is old but I'm reading it now! When we do research on home lasers this great info. comes up, thankfully. Anyway to respond to Louise's comment that dermarolling/microneedling is only to be done once a month: Based on my extensive, current research dermarolling is encouraged daily IF you use just the little 0.5 needle roller. Longer than that I'm not sure, but I watched a video whereby a dermatologist office nurse indicated that using longer than 0.5 mm is quite painful AND UNNECESSARY. She said using a 0.5 roller every day is just as effective. Yes, it takes time to see results and I concur that the immediate results (which are nice) are just the skin plumping up and reacting to those needles. A few hours later those results have calmed down. The lasting results come 1-2 months later, I believe. Let's all do what we can to stay looking good but not spending a fortune! Believe me, you can spend $Thousands going to professionals for fillers, botox, lasers, radiofrequency, plastic surgery and you STILL don't get good results. In fact with surgery you can ruin yourself for many years if they pull too tight or nip the wrong things! So why not try all the home treatments we can. Good luck!

  • December 20, 2014

    by Marta

    This product has been discontinued. It is no longer being made by Palovia

  • December 19, 2014

    by ok, where do i sign up to try this

    ok where do i try this i cannot find an order form

  • July 25, 2011

    by Louise

    I own the Anti-Aging Lightstim and is it just me? But the raves aren't really justfied for LEDs. It certainly "brightens" my complexion, but skin texture/scars never changed, and I used it for around 2 years before I bought Palovia.

    There's a newer Baby Quasar out now (Baby Quasar MD) but not sure how it compares to other LEDs, eg, Tanda, Lightstim etc. I've even got the battery operated Pretika "vibrating" ProSonic LED!

  • July 22, 2011

    by Faye

    I've not used the at-home PaloVia fractional laser, but have had many--including a monthly series of 6--in-office fractional laser treatments, all without noticing a great deal of difference (except in my finances!). But after nearly a year of using the Baby Quasar and Quasar Pro I've seen a great difference in my skin (face, hands, and even feet--I have very thin skin there and get blisters easily). The Quasars have truly increased the collagen, smoothed out old acne scars, improved the jaw line, etc. The Baby Quasar is a real bargain compared to MD visits for lasar treatments.

  • June 23, 2011

    by Louise

    I have the Palovia (bought end of April) and have already made comments about it on EDS. Usually I use it 2+ a day and I'm doing other areas/maintenance on others.

    Maybe the author hasn't updated as she's waiting for results (?). According to one comment the QVC forum, it's advised to wait about 3 months+.

    I've read on Skincaretalk and the like that some are getting results right away, but I'd think that's probably inflammation instead..a bit like a Dermaroller or TCA (done those, too).

    Seven months ago I had fractionated CO2, and foolishly I thought I'd see something akin to ablative CO2. No difference :(

    As for results with Palovia..unsure. Maybe a little more refined at my forehead/scarred places, but no raves. So far.

    I'm thinking it might be similar to a Dermarolling (maybe 1mm or so)..which is what confuses me about this device. It's advised to Dermaroll every month at most.

    Am I making my skin worse?!

  • June 12, 2011

    by Paulette

    To all those who are so excited about Fraxel Lasering - don't be!

    I had Fraxel lasering done last year by one of the originators of this procedure, New York Dr. Arial Ostad, and the results fell far short of what I had anticipated.

    Numerous medical professionals had recommended Fraxel as an effective way of addressing the significant wrinkling in the skin underneath my eyes, which became evident after I had cosmetic surgery to remove fatty deposits ("puffs") under my eyes. Dr. Ostad confirmed that Fraxel Lasering would be effective in remedying this - and encouraged me to have the procedure done not only on my eyes, but my whole face, which I proceeded to do.

    My Fraxel Lasering took less than 30 minutes and cost over $5000 (US) but the results were anything BUT dramatic. While some of the wrinkling under my eyes was reduced, MOST of it wasn't - and the Fraxel did nothing to improve the "crows feet" around my eyes. The results were just as minimal on the rest of my face and the only significant improvement I saw was in the area of the nasal labial folds, which were nowhere near as deep as they had been prior to lasering.

    Overall, my Fraxel Laser experience was a very expensive and disappointing one and though I don't know what the solution is to reducing, minimizing, or eliminating wrinkles, I do know that this isn't it!

  • June 10, 2011

    by Nan

    I found this very interesting as I am wanting to try a home laser treatment device. What I have read also seems to be for the most part positive results. Please tell me more about your trial of this device. Thanks for posting it!

  • April 29, 2011

    by Jeni

    I just started reading through the Real Self reviews of Fraxel and I am so freaked out! I was always planning on getting Fraxel in a few years when I hope I can afford it, but I hadn't done a ton of research on it yet since I don't know when I'll have the money for it, and who knows what technology will be around a few/several years in the future.

    It never dawned on me that the results from Fraxel could initially be okay, and then end up making your face way worse afterwards (like the people reported on Real Self).

    Anyway, I look forward to seeing your results from the PaloVia...

  • April 28, 2011

    by Kathy

    Copley-
    Dying to know how you liked the Palovia. A visit to their website shows very visible improvement to a woman's eye wrinkles. Tell us you love it!
    Are you still using it? Did you get the redness/dryness that lots of gals report? Tell, tell!!!

  • April 28, 2011

    by primrose

    Congratulations Copley ! on first sighting PV i got excited as cannot resist a treatment.Then I began to think okay sounds good.But why only eye area? I like the idea that this home laser wont be as strong as professional use. For sure Im very wary of the leopard spots we all put up with . Also are we all expecting too much youth rejuvenation?. So to read Copleys points was a great matter of interest for me .But I am still a bit on the wary side re PV laser.And would like to learn more from the new users experiences . Have to admit with B.quasar I might use it four times a month while Clarisonic is used when i think of it.But they still provide good outcomes .If I took up PV im still unsure just how much weekly or monthly laser is okay and safe. As there is nothing worse than over lasered opaque faces that pop up.Are we all going too far in this search ? Id be interested in more comments and more of Copley's research.Thanks for the present update Kidnregards Primrose Krasicki 28/4/2011 Australia

  • April 27, 2011

    by summer

    Yes--very much looking forward to your review. What a cliffhanger!!!

  • April 25, 2011

    by StephanieG

    I'm very excited to read your review!

  • April 25, 2011

    by Jaysie

    Copley - I meant to say "...any info you dig up or experience yourself...."

  • April 25, 2011

    by Jaysie

    Copley - One of the unexpected, and unpredictable, results of fractional laser treatment is rebound hyperpigmentation, those leopard spots many of us are trying to get rid of. I've been alerted to this "possibility" by plastic surgeons and derms who have examined my skin. I'd be most appreciative if you will comment on any info you dig up on this issue when you post your follow up. Thanks!

  • April 25, 2011

    by Emily

    This is interesting, Copley...had no idea that this technology was being made available for home use. I'm also eager to hear your verdict.
    But this post gives me a chance to ask TIA a question I've been wanting to raise since a friend mentioned the subject to me last week. Has TIA looked at the home laser products being sold for hair removal? This, too, used to be a professional-office only service (and I can attest to its effectiveness), but there are now products on the market for home use, even on the face! I suspect that a lot of readers would love to learn whether there's a safe and effective product in this category out there....

  • April 25, 2011

    by maria r. lewan

    I was one of the lucky people in the clinical trial for this device! But I was only in short 6 wk trial, not the 12 wk trial others were in. I used the device daily for 6 wks & it was relatively easy to use-some redness after using it so the timing had to be good - couldn't go out right after treatments. I really didn't THINK I saw much difference in my eyes, as I was going through the trial. I don't have too many wrinkles-I was mostly interested in achieving some lift in my upper eyes. BUT, when I looked at my before & after photos-I was very pleasantly surprised! The area around my eyes were smoother & tighter & I definitely had lifting in my upper eyes. Photos were VERY precisely taken to ensure that conditions were identical each time. So, this device did indeed work for me, but like so many of these wonders - consistency & committment to using them is a must!

  • April 24, 2011

    by Marta

    Copley, what a tease! I read this all the way to the end as I was dying to know how you found PaloVia. I hope your follow up report isn't too long coming.

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