Laser skin resurfacing is a type of cosmetic procedure that uses a laser beam to remove the outer layer of damaged skin, revealing new skin underneath. There are several types of laser treatments available, including ablative and non-ablative lasers. Ablative laser for laser skin resurfacing, such as carbon dioxide and erbium lasers, work by vaporizing the outer layers of skin, while non-ablative laser treatments, such as pulsed dye lasers and intense pulsed light, heat the underlying skin layers to stimulate collagen production and improve skin tone and texture. In this article, we'll explore what laser resurfacing is, how it works, who is a good candidate for the treatment, the different types of lasers used, the risks and benefits, and what patients can expect before, during, and after the procedure.
What is Laser skin resurfacing?
Laser skin resurfacing or laser vaporization is a cosmetic procedure that uses a laser to remove damaged layers of skin, revealing fresh, healthy skin underneath. The laser works by emitting short pulses of energy that remove the outermost layers of skin, promoting the growth of new skin cells and collagen. The procedure can also be used to tighten sagging skin and reduce the appearance of minor facial flaws, such as spider veins and benign skin growths.
What skin conditions can be treated with laser skin resurfacing?
Laser skin resurfacing can be used to treat a variety of skin conditions, including:
Fine lines and wrinkles
Acne Scars or scars from injury
Age spots and other pigmentation issues
Enlarged Oil Glands
Rough or uneven skin texture
Uneven skin tone
Different types of lasers used in laser skin resurfacing
There are several different types of lasers that can be used in laser skin and laser resurfacing procedures, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. The two most common types of lasers used in the procedure of laser skin treatment are Carbon Dioxide (CO2) lasers and erbium lasers.
CO2 Laser treatments
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) lasers are the most powerful type of laser used in laser skin resurfacing. They are best for treating deep wrinkles, scars, and other severe skin conditions. However, they also have a longer recovery time and a higher risk of side effects.
Erbium laser treatments
An Erbium laser, on the other hand, is less powerful than CO2 lasers but is still effective for treating mild to moderate wrinkles and other skin conditions. They have a shorter recovery time and a lower risk of side effects.
Fractional lasers, which deliver concentrated pulsating beams of light to thin layers of skin, are another type of laser resurfacing that can improve skin texture and tighten skin. Radio frequency treatments and glycolic acid peels are non-laser treatments that can also improve the skin's appearance and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and sun damage.
Intense Pulsed Light
Intense pulsed light (IPL) is a type of light therapy that uses high-intensity pulses of light to treat a variety of skin concerns, including sun damage, age spots, and acne. While not a true laser treatment, IPL is often included under the umbrella of laser skin resurfacing procedures due to its similar skin rejuvenation effects.
IPL works by delivering broad-spectrum light to the skin, which targets and breaks down pigmented areas of skin or blood vessels that cause redness or visible veins. The light energy also stimulates collagen production, which can improve skin texture and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
IPL is a non-ablative laser treatment, which means that it does not remove the outer layer of skin like ablative lasers. Instead, IPL heats the deeper layers of skin, causing the body to produce new collagen fibers to heal and repair the treated area. This process can lead to a smoother, more even skin tone and texture, with little to no downtime or discomfort.
IPL is a suitable treatment option for individuals with fair to medium skin tones, as it can cause discoloration or burns in individuals with darker skin. It is also important to note that IPL may require multiple treatments to achieve desired results, and the effects may not be as dramatic as those seen with ablative laser resurfacing.
Who is a good candidate for laser resurfacing?
Laser resurfacing is generally safe for most people, but it is not recommended for everyone. Good candidates for the treatment include people who:
Have fine lines or wrinkles around the mouth or eyes
Have acne scars or other types of scars
Have sun damaged skin or uneven skin tone
Have rough or irregular skin texture
Are in good overall health
Light skin types
The effectiveness of laser resurfacing is often dependent on the patient's medical history and skin type, particularly their skin color and tone.
Individuals with lighter skin types, particularly those with fair skin, tend to be more responsive to laser resurfacing treatments. This is because fair and light skin types, is more susceptible to sun damage, which can lead to the development of fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin texture. Laser resurfacing treatments can help to remove these imperfections and restore a more youthful and smooth appearance to the treated skin.
However, it is important to note that laser resurfacing can be more challenging for individuals with darker skin tones, including Asian skin tones, darker brown, and black skin. These skin types tend to have more melanin, which can make them more prone to hyperpigmentation and scarring if the laser peel is not performed correctly. It is essential to use the right laser for darker skin tones and types and to adjust the treatment settings to avoid damaging the skin.
Furthermore, individuals of all skin types who undergo laser resurfacing should be diligent about protecting their skin from sun exposure after the procedure. This is particularly important for individuals with lighter skin tones, as they are more susceptible to sun damage. The use of a high sun protection factor (SPF) sunscreen and wearing protective clothing and hats can help to keep skin layers from further sun exposure, reduce the risk of sun damage and maintain the benefits of the laser resurfacing treatment.
In some cases, individuals with non-responsive skin may require multiple laser resurfacing treatments to achieve the desired results. This can be particularly true for individuals with darker skin tones, as they may require lower energy settings to avoid damaging the underlying skin.
However, people with certain skin conditions, such as active acne or rosacea, may not be good candidates for the laser treatment. It's important to talk to a qualified cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist to determine if laser skin resurfacing is right for you.
Risks and benefits of laser skin resurfacing
Like any medical procedure, laser skin resurfacing work has both risks and benefits. Some of the potential benefits of the treatment include:
Smoother, more youthful-looking skin
Improved skin texture and tone
Reduction of fine lines, wrinkles, and scars
Increased collagen production
However, there are also some risks associated with laser resurfacing, including:
Swelling and redness
While laser resurfacing is generally considered safe, lasers pose some risks and potential side effects. Ablative laser resurfacing can cause temporary redness, swelling, and itching, while non-ablative lasers may cause mild discomfort and require multiple treatments for best results. Individuals with active acne or who are taking acne medications may need to stop treatment prior to laser resurfacing, and antiviral medication may be prescribed to prevent the activation of herpes simplex virus.
To minimize these risks, it's important to choose a qualified and experienced cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist and to follow all pre- and post-operative instructions carefully.
Cosmetic surgery vs. Dermatologic surgery
Laser resurfacing can be performed using either cosmetic surgery or dermatologic surgery techniques.
Cosmetic surgery refers to surgical procedures that are performed to enhance a person's appearance. Cosmetic surgeons are trained in procedures such as facelifts, breast augmentation, and liposuction. Laser resurfacing is often used as a non-invasive option to improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and skin texture, and is often performed by cosmetic surgeons.
Dermatologic surgery, on the other hand, is a subspecialty of dermatology that involves the diagnosis and treatment of skin diseases and conditions. Dermatologic surgeons are trained in skin surgery techniques such as Mohs surgery, which is used to remove skin cancer. Dermatologic surgeons also use laser resurfacing as a treatment option for various skin conditions, such as acne scars and pigmentation issues.
While both cosmetic and dermatologic surgeons may use laser resurfacing as a treatment option, there are differences in their approach to the procedure. Cosmetic surgeons may prioritize the patient's aesthetic goals and may be more focused on the healing process and achieving a certain look or appearance. Dermatologic surgeons, on the other hand, may be more focused on the medical aspect of the treatment, such as addressing a skin condition or disease.
Another difference between cosmetic and dermatologic surgery is the level of training and certification required. Cosmetic surgeons may have a background in plastic surgery or other related fields, but may not be board-certified in dermatology. Dermatologic plastic surgeons, on the other hand, are trained and board-certified in dermatology and have specialized training in skin surgery and laser resurfacing.
In terms of laser resurfacing, both cosmetic and dermatologic surgeons may use different types of lasers depending on the patient's skin type and the condition being treated. For example, ablative lasers are often used for deeper wrinkles and scars, while non-ablative lasers may be used for more superficial skin concerns.
Preparing for Laser Skin Treatment
Before undergoing laser resurfacing procedures, patients should discuss skin concerns and their medical history with plastic surgeons or dermatologic surgeons. Individuals with darker skin tones may be at greater risk for scarring or discoloration, and may need to undergo multiple treatments or opt for non-ablative laser treatments.
During the Laser procedure
During the laser procedure, the laser heats and laser beam destroys the outer layer of skin, which triggers the healing process. As the skin heals, the treated skin forms new collagen fibers, which can improve the treated skin's appearance and texture.
The length of the procedure depends on the size of the treatment area and the type of laser being used. For small areas, the procedure may take only a few minutes, while larger areas may take up to an hour.
Laser Resurfacing Healing process (New Skin)
After the procedure, the treated skin will be sensitive, red, and may appear swollen. The surgeon will provide specific instructions for caring for the skin during the recovery period, including the use of topical creams, avoiding sun exposure, and keeping the treated area clean.
The recovery time varies depending on the type of erbium laser being used and the size of the treatment area. For CO2 lasers, the recovery period can take up to two weeks or longer, while erbium lasers typically have a shorter recovery time of about one week.
Patients should avoid strenuous activities and exercise for several days after the procedure and avoid wearing makeup until the skin has fully healed.
Overall, laser skin resurfacing can be a highly effective cosmetic procedure for improving the appearance of sun damaged skin, reducing the appearance of wrinkles and acne scars, and improving skin tone and texture. With careful consideration and proper aftercare, laser resurfacing can help individuals achieve a smoother, more youthful-looking complexion.
Visit Visage Laser and Skin Care to learn more.