December 02, 2020

Over time, our skin suffers damage due to sun exposure, aging, and other factors. This causes our skin to develop blemishes like moles, dark spots, wrinkles, freckles, acne, etc.

Anti-aging products and skin creams can help restore some of these issues. However, some lesions need a more potent treatment method, and that’s when you may turn to laser skin resurfacing treatments.

Laser skin treatment helps rejuvenate the skin. There are different types of lasers for skin that can treat various specific skin concerns. This article will explore these types but first, let’s look at how laser resurfacing works and what to expect as a patient.

What is Laser Skin Resurfacing?

Laser skin resurfacing, also called a laser peel, laserbrasion, or laser vaporization, is a therapy that directs short and concentrated pulsating light beams at the specific skin irregularities, typically removing the skin layer after layer until the smooth and more toned skin is revealed.

How Laser Therapy Works

Lasers are amplified light beams or high-intensity light sources. The laser technique helps to focus on the specific skin spots with high energy precisely.

The laser beam gently ablates or vaporizes the skin tissues to treat the skin lesions, cut skin tissue, and seal blood vessels. A broad spectrum of intense pulsed light (IPL) can treat pigmentation and blood vessels.

In simple terms, laser skin resurfacing involves harnessing the light and heat power to improve skin texture, coloration, and tone. It works by creating controlled skin tissue injuries to stimulate the body to release its healing properties or accelerate collagen production. The laser beams cause small muscle tears, which then grow back firmer.

Some of the skin conditions that you can treat with laser resurfacing include:

  • Unwanted tattoos 
  • Unwanted hair
  • Acne scars
  • Wrinkles/Fine lines/Age spots
  • Birthmarks
  • Spider veins
  • Droopy, sagging, dry eyelid skin & dark circles
  • Frown linesPucker marks
  • Improve crow’s feet around the eyes
  • Brown spots
  • Different types of Scars like keloids, hypertrophic, atrophic, etc
  • Smokers’ line
  • Vascular lesions
  • Uneven skin tone
  • Uneven skin color
  • Uneven skin texture
  • Skin tightening
  • And more

How a Patient can Prepare for Laser Resurfacing Procedure

The first step is to consult with your skin therapist to identify whether you are ideal for this procedure. Be sure to pick a therapist who is licensed and has experience as a laser therapist. The therapist will check your current health, medical history, desired results, and advice accordingly.

Let your therapist know if you are susceptible to fever blisters, and cold sores around the mouth as this therapy can trigger breakouts for people at risk. So the doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication beforehand if prone to such breakouts.

The doctor may also ask you to avoid any supplements or medications that can affect clotting, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or vitamin E, for at least ten days before the procedure.

Those who smoke should avoid smoking for two weeks before and after the laser resurfacing treatment to prevent prolonging the healing process.

The physician may prescribe an antibiotic before you go through with the procedure to avoid bacterial infections.  

What to Expect During the Laser Process

The laser resurfacing procedure is an outpatient treatment, meaning you can go back home the same day you get it done. For small parts, the doctor may use local anesthesia, and the procedure can take 30 to 45 minutes. But for larger areas like the entire face, the doctor may opt for general anesthesia, and the procedure may take up to 2 hours.

After the procedure is complete, the doctor bandages the treated area.  Twenty-four hours after the procedure, you’ll need to clean the area 4 to 5 times a day. Then, after cleansing, apply an ointment like petroleum jelly to prevent skin scabs formation. The healing can occur in 10 to 21 days.

Side effects of Laser Skin Resurfacing

This procedure may cause some potential risks, including:

  • Swelling- It’s normal to swell after the procedure, and so the therapist may prescribe steroids to manage it. You can also place an ice pack on the area to reduce the swelling in the first 24 to 48 hours.
  •  Itching and Stinging – 12 to 72 hours after the procedure, you may feel itchy and develop a stinging sensation.
  • Dryness and Peeling – 5 to 7 days after the treatment, your skin may start to dry off and peel.
  • Redness- This may start to fade in 2 to 3 months. It lasts longer for people with fair skin.
  • Pigmentation – This is common in darker skin people. You may use bleaching agents before and after laser skin resurfacing to minimize pigmentation.
  • Burning or other injuries from the laser's heat
  • Reactivation of herpes cold sores
  • Scarring - Silicone scar removal gel with vitamin E or silicone scar removal strips are recommended to reduce scarring.
  • Bacterial infection
  • Milia -These are small white bumps that appear in the laser-treated regions during the healing process. See a doctor who can prescribe the best treatment for it.

What to do After the Laser Resurfacing Procedure

If you’re uncomfortable with the redness, you may wear some oil-free makeup to hide it.

Your skin may appear lighter for a while after the treatment. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of above 30 during that time to protect the skin from the screens ultraviolet B and ultraviolet A rays. Be sure to pick the sunscreen specifically formulated for the face (if you treated the face), and it should have a physical blocker like zinc oxide.

Also, limit your exposure to the sun, especially between 10 pm and 3 pm. You can wear a brimmed hat to protect your skin from the harmful sun’s rays.

Another vital thing is always to keep your skin well moisturized. If you use glycolic acid and Retin a product, halt their use until after six weeks after the procedure or when your therapist says you can resume their use.

Cost of Laser Skin Resurfacing

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average laser resurfacing cost range was between $1,114 and $2,124 in 2017. The cost depends on the location the procedure will take place and the areas to be treated.

Most medical insurance companies don’t cover the cost of laser skin resurfacing as it is considered a cosmetic procedure. However, there may be an exception if the procedure is done to remove or modify precancerous skin growth.

Consult with your doctor and insurance company on what it will cost and anything the insurance will cater to. Most doctors offer their patients affordable financing options. You may want to find out if your doctor has these options.

Types of Lasers for Skin

There are various types of lasers for the skin. The laser light’s pulse duration, wavelength peaks, and how the target skin absorbs the light determine the type to use. There are three broad categories, including:

1. Ablative Lasers

In an ablative type of procedure, the wavelength of light is emitted into the patient’s skin, removing the damaged upper layers of the skin. The treatment stimulates collagen production and skin improvement. The newly exposed skin is tighter and smoother.

There are two major types of ablative laser, which include:

  • Carbon Dioxide Laser (Co2)

The CO2 laser was introduced in the 60s. This procedure isn’t suitable for those with darker skin tones.

Skin Conditions that Co2 treats include moles, skin tags, deep wrinkles, corns, sun damage, birthmarks, sagging skin, enlarged oil glands on the nose, and other scarring warts.

It has several significant side effects, including pain, burning sensation, itching, scarring, skin redness, and risks of pigmentation, and so has been replaced by more advanced technologies called (fractionated CO2).

Fractionated CO2 uses continuous light beams and ultra pulse (short pulsed light energy) to remove the skin layers with marginal heat damage. Recovery takes up to 2 weeks.

  • Erbium Laser Resurfacing

Erbium laser resurfacing removes the surface level and deep wrinkles on the neck, face, hands, and chest. Erbium procedure causes minimal burning of the surrounding tissues.

It has fewer complications, which include bruising, redness, and swelling.  Recovery is faster than that of CO2 and can be 1 to 2 weeks.

It treats different skin conditions, including pigmentation problems, fine lines, acne scars, moles, sun damage, and small to moderate wrinkles.

2. Fractional Ablative Lasers

This procedure does not work on the entire surface but just a portion of it in a pixelated pattern. This treatment’s healing duration is shorter as it only focuses on just enough of the affected area. The procedure is gentler with less downtime.  On the other hand, it will take several sessions before you achieve your goals.

3. Non- Ablative Lasers

The non-ablative laser, also known as BBL (broadband light) or standard lasers, infiltrates beneath the skin surface to restore the damaged skin without scraping the surface.  

This procedure stimulates the growth of collagen and tightens the skin tissues underlying to improve their appearance. It is also gentle and has little to no downtime. It is used to treat mild to moderate skin conditions such as fine lines and wrinkles, dark spots, shallow scarring, and early sun damage.

Different types of non-Ablative Laser-based treatments include:

  • Pulsed Dye Laser

This directly targets the blood vessels to shrink and make them less red. The procedure feels like a snap with a rubber band. It will take 3 to 5 sessions to treat the affected area, and the results are permanent. The treated area appears red or pink, but within a couple of hours, it heals completely.

It is used to treat birthmarks, spider veins, stretch marks, rosacea, vascular lesions, broken capillaries, and fine lines around the eyes.

Some complications include a little bruising and temporary pigmentation.

  •  Alexandrite Laser

This type of laser emits a wavelength of high-energy light, which is turned into heat energy. This destroys a specific target region. This laser uses the process of photothermolysis, meaning using light (photo) to heat (Thermo) a designated area for destruction (lysis).

This type of laser can cause precise skin tissue destruction of the condition and leave the surrounding tissues undamaged.

This procedure treats birthmarks, brown spots due to sun damage, pigmented lesions, and pigmentations. It is suitable for tattoo removal, hair removal, and leg veins.

Some of its typical side effects include swelling, redness, and itching, which can last for just a few days. Also, it can cause pigmentation changes.

  • Neodymium-doped Yttrium Aluminum Garnet 

Nd: YAG laser is a type of laser that uses a crystalline solid as a laser medium for lasers in the solid-state. The laser emits a wavelength of high-energy light, which is directed to a specific skin irregularity. It creates heat, which destroys the damaged cells.

This procedure is suitable for treating skin pigmentation, vascular lesions, pigmented lesions, tattoo removal, hair removal, and spider veins.

Some of its side effects include high chances of recurrence in case of vascular lesions. It can be painful, results in swelling, itching, and redness that can last for several days after undergoing the procedure.

Parting Shot

Laser skin resurfacing stimulates collagen and elastin production, which can help rejuvenate your skin’s appearance. If you have any skin lesions, consider undergoing one of these types of laser for skin blemishes. With this therapy, you can maintain a youthful and vibrant look.

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