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BBL, Thermage, Fraxel, Lumibel, fractional laser, Isolaz, Blue-U light therapy, red LED light therapy, BlueMD, amber light therapy and now… Clear + Brilliant. As if it weren’t already confusing enough for the average consumer, chances are the aforementioned labels all mean about the same thing to you. Which is to say just about nothing, right? But in fact, outside of their mutual association to skin treatments, they’re anything but the same.

What Is Clear + Brilliant?

Clear + Brilliant is actually a gentle laser skin care treatment introduced to the world by Valeant Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Thermage & Fraxel. The excellent reputation of those two products alone sets the bar pretty high, adding an element of solid credibility to the equation.

Clear + Brilliant is increasingly marketed towards younger folks with skin conditions not quite severe enough to warrant hard-core wrinkle removal procedures like Fraxel or Thermage. According to Valeant, the product is clinically proven to fight the effects of aging skin.

before and after clear+brilliant
Clear and Brilliant, before and after. Credits: Dr. Papantoniou

One advantage to fending off those nasty wrinkles with Clear + Brilliant is that there is next to no recovery time involved. Outside of some mild swelling and redness that dissipates within 12 hours of the procedure — along with the possibility your skin could be a little more sensitive to touch or temperature for a couple of days — there are precious few complications when compared to other popular cosmetic procedures.

Which is important. Because it’s certainly not everyone who can afford to go into hiding for a week or more, taking all that time off work to recover from some non-essential cosmetic procedure, as is often the case. Nor is it everyone who looks forward to the potential post-treatment bleeding, swelling, or any of the other possible side effects that come part and parcel with various cosmetic procedures.

So if you’re under forty and simply looking to project a youthful glow while reducing some of those fine lines and wrinkles that have started forming on your face, Clear + Brilliant could well be your answer.

That’s what Valeant would like you to believe, at least.

However, when the instant results aren’t as spectacular as those of some of its pricier counterparts, when it doesn’t treat rosacea, when the treatment doesn’t erase fully formed wrinkles, and when we’re told that on average four sessions are required before the final results become visible, one has to wonder if this isn’t just some new gadget/treatment we only know about because of Valeant’s uber-aggressive promo/marketing that saw it featured on the Dr. Oz show.

After all, with the average price tag for a Clear + Brilliant laser session being several hundred dollars at best, the product better deliver all that mega-hyped glow Valeant claims for it.

Clear + Brilliant vs. Fraxel and Other Laser Treatments

So how does Clear + Brilliant differ from other laser skin treatments on the market today?

Dr. Kaleroy Papantoniou, a cosmetic, laser and surgical dermatology specialist based in New York City, sets the record straight: “The Clear + Brilliant laser is in the same family as the CO2 laser and Fraxel, in that it works with laser light that causes some skin ablation. One major benefit of this type of laser is that it’s especially effective when it comes to discoloration and light rejuvenation.”

“A BBL (broadband light) is a light energy device that is non-ablative and targets brown and red discoloration,” explains Papantoniou. “The Clear + Brilliant approach does involve a minor recovery period, similar to what you could expect from a BBL treatment, but with improvements when it comes to brown discoloration and photo damage.”

ipl laser

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Is This Product Really for You?

So just what does Clear + Brilliant do – or not do? How well does it fare when it comes to acne, deep lines, or rosacea?  I believe the first question patients should be asking themselves is what, exactly, are they looking to improve,” says Papantoniou. “Clear + Brilliant is great for photoaging and discoloration for people of all ages, but would not be my first choice for deep wrinkles. It’s also a strong choice for brown spots, the results are significant and again,  there’s essentially no downtime to speak of.”

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“For fine to mild lines Clear + Brilliant will bring improvements,” confirms Papantoniou, “but for deeper lines or acne scarring a more intense treatment like Fraxel or CO2 would be more appropriate. Clear + Brilliant doesn’t target blood vessels, redness or rosacea, so obviously it’s  not the best choice for these conditions.”

Dr. Sandra McGill’s practice recently acquired the device and McGill says she couldn’t be more thrilled. “We don’t keep anything here that doesn’t work,” states the Montreal-based plastic surgeon.

“It’s a new technology we have right here in our office, a skin treatment aimed at improving texture, fine lines, large pores, and  discoloration,” continues McGill. “It’s a non-ablative laser so not quite as intense as most others. Sure, those other technologies are great and produce fantastic results, but there’s all that social downtime involved with them while you wait to recover. With these more intense skin treatments your face will probably look red for the first 4 days post-treatment, appearing like it has a kind of checkerboard on it. But once that checkerboard eventually falls off your skin is left looking wonderful. The difference and distinct advantage with Clear + Brilliant is that it provides the same type of improvement in skin tone and texture, but without suffering through those 4 days of looking… well, like a checkerboard.”

“So,” continues McGill, “in order to get a similar degree of improvement as the more intense treatments you’ll need about 3 to 6 Clear + Brilliant treatments, spaced out every 2 weeks to one month.”

Prejuvenation? Millennials, Take Heed!

Increasingly millennials are being encouraged to use Clear + Brilliant and other treatments as a preventative – or “prejuvenating” measure. The thinking goes that if you can start caring for your skin now, it will keep fine lines from forming down the road. And where something like Fraxel would be overkill for younger patients, Clear + Brilliant offers a more mild alternative.

Dr. McGill explains: “One demographic where we’re seeing particularly great results is the younger population, the millennials. Women in their twenties who don’t have enough skin damage to justify using one of those other, more intense lasers treatments, but who are starting to look a little dull, with skin discoloration and pores that are getting a little too large, well, this is a fantastic option for them. It provides really nice brightening and improvement to their skin, and once again, with basically zero downtime involved – a real bonus. Also, younger people don’t typically require the same number of treatments so it’s a little less expensive.”

This is a fantastic option for women in their twenties who don’t have enough skin damage to justify using one of those other, more intense lasers treatments.

Dr. Sandra McGill

The Clear + Brilliant Procedure

One dons protective eye covers and lies still for 20 minutes while a precise, roller ball tipped handheld laser is swiped across the skin in an upward motion. A patented system ensures that optimal skin contact is present at all times. If the contact is not fully maintained, a beeping noise will ensue.

Patients often refer to the sensation as feeling like: a light scratch, mild shock waves, static rolling across the face, an electric rubber band snapping against the skin, or a tiny needle pricking sensation. The Clear + Brilliant laser bypasses the skin by puncturing it, so the wound and the injury are in the derm. Consequently, these micro injuries force the skin to heal itself by boosting collagen production and generating taunt, clear skin.

The clear+brilliant device
The Clear+Brilliant handpiece and sensor

Don’t hesitate to inform your aesthetician should you need a brief respite. Afterward, a vitamin C or antioxidant serum and/or a refreshing masque will be applied to the entire treated surface while ice packs are used to immediately cool down the burning sensation. The whole procedure lasts 30-60 minutes, tops.

You will experience some redness to varying degrees but you can be confident it typically diminishes within 12 hours. The day after your skin will feel tight, itchy and much like sandpaper – which is totally normal and part of the renewal process. You may return to your normal make-up routine as soon as one day following the procedure.

Avoid the sun, don’t use anything harsh on your skin such as active ingredients, retinoids or any at-home peels. You should also consider waiting at least 2 weeks after you’ve had fillers or Botox before scheduling a Clear + Brilliant treatment, same thing if you’re undergoing an isotretinoin acne treatment. Proceed with caution if you suffer from psoriasis, eczema or rosacea.

At Dr. McGill’s practice and state-of-the art laser clinic EspaceMD, a single treatment costs $300. Should you opt for a package deal, subsequent treatments are $1,000 for a package of four. A typical treatment is delivered by a medical aesthetician who may or may not apply a numbing cream to your skin for additional comfort.

The (Not so Dreaded) Aftermath

Clear + Brilliant does provide an alternative therapy to those harsh laser treatments. No bleeding. No swelling. Only heat – a lot of it! In fact, you’ll look as though you’ve acquired a mild sunburn for about 40 minutes because the laser actually punches little holes in your skin. Of course your body subsequently expels all those dead cells pretty quickly.

The first 15 minutes post-treatment are generally considered to be the most uncomfortable, but even if you have sensitive skin, the entire ordeal is still relatively painless. Ice packs will be applied post-treatment, but rest assured that after 20 minutes the burning sensation will vanish and you’ll be free to even go back to work if you want.

For the first 4 days following a Clear + Brilliant procedure your skin will likely feel a little rough. The texture will feel different and you would be wise to ease off the Retinol for the first few days following a treatment. Also, don’t forget to apply a good hydrating cream once you get home, and more importantly, do not exfoliate prior to the fourth day.

Prejuvenation might just be a new buzzword, but Clear + Brilliant seems here to stay.

Quick Facts About Clear and Brilliant

Clear + Brilliant is a laser skin care treatment from Valeant Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturers of Thermage and Fraxel. Also known as “Baby Fraxel,” Clear + Brilliant is a non-ablative laser treatment, which means that it’s gentler than Fraxel or Thermage, let alone surgical procedures.

Here are some quick facts about this new treatment.

  • How it works: Clear + Brilliant uses a laser to make tiny punctures in the skin and stimulate collagen production.
  • What it’s good for: Clear + Brilliant is mainly used to treat discoloration, brown spots, and early signs of aging. It’s especially recommended for patients under the age of 40 who are looking for a youthful glow, as opposed to major skin work.
  • What it’s not for: This procedure is not recommended for deep wrinkles or more serious skin damage, which require more intensive wrinkle removal treatments like Fraxel, Thermage, or plastic surgery.
  • Number of treatments required: 3 to 6, depending on the patient.
  • Duration: The entire procedure lasts no longer than 30-60 minutes.
  • Downtime: None.
  • Side effects: Redness and minor swelling are the main side effects. The redness should diminish within 12 hours, and the swelling by the next day. Serious complications are exceedingly rare. Skin begins to shed about one day after treatment, revealing a softer, younger-looking complexion.
  • How long results last: Clear + Brilliant results are immediate and continue to improve over time. According the manufacturer, after a few days the skin will begin to feel softer and appear brighter, with a more even tone. The results can last up to several months, depending on your age, the condition of your skin and your lifestyle habits.

Updated, June 2017 — Zwivel Team

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About The Author

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Christine is a contributing lifestyle and beauty writer for Zwivel. Her work has been featured in several major Canadian publications (The Huffington Post, La Presse, Clin d'Oeil, etc). Health advocate. Free thinker. HarvardEdx "Leaders of learning" student. The favorite part of my career is the privilege of learning from people who are the best at what they do.