One of the most popular anti-aging remedies is laser skin resurfacing, which improves the appearance of fine lines or wrinkles, scars and hyperpigmentation (discolored areas of the skin), primarily around the eyes and mouth. It can also be used to treat large areas of the face.
In 2008, there were 400,262 laser skin resurfacing procedures performed in America; up a whopping 134 percent from 2000, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Laser skin resurfacing holds advantages over alternative approaches that may cause discomfort, bleeding and bruising, all of which equate to a longer recovery time. What’s more, today’s lasers are gentler and safer than they have been in the past.
All skin treatments work in a similar manner. They remove a layer of skin so that the new skin can flourish and fill in the wrinkles and crevices. Until recently, the only options to medically treat damaged skin were chemical peels and dermabrasion, which is more invasive and far less gentle than microdermabrasion. During dermabrasion, your surgeon uses a wire brush or a diamond wheel with rough edges to remove the upper layers of the skin. This process wounds the skin and causes it to bleed. As the wound heals, new skin grows to replace the damaged skin.
These procedures do offer the anti-aging benefits of glowing skin, reduced wrinkles, decreased areas of skin discoloration and minimal scarring, but they do not produce predictable results. By contrast, laser skin resurfacing uses laser light to target the superficial and deep layers of the skin.
There are many different types of lasers that work at various layers of the skin to treat acne scars, wrinkles and age-related skin discoloration.
Each category of lasers may be best suited for different skin issues. During your consultation, we will discuss your goals and help select the right laser to use for your particular skin type and problem.
When Laser Skin Resurfacing May Not Be Appropriate
Not everyone is a candidate. It may take people with olive, suntanned or black skin six to nine months to regain their normal pigmentation after treatment. Others who do not make good candidates include those who are prone to scarring, are taking certain medications or have a skin disorder.
The Laser Skin Resurfacing Procedure
In the weeks before your procedure, you maybe given certain oral medications to take before your treatment such as antiviral, antibacterial and/or anti-yeast medication to prevent complications such as the awakening of a dormant virus.
I will perform your laser treatment in the office, or in our outpatient surgery center if combined with another plastic surgery procedure. Typically you would receive topical anesthesia, local anesthesia, and intravenous sedation so that you are awake. The type of anesthesia is based on the laser that is used and the level of your treatment.
Treatment time ranges from a few minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the amount of resurfacing you need.
The laser penetrates and removes the number of outer skin layers necessary to uncover the layer not affected by imperfections. It feels like a rubber band is being gently snapped against your skin. Once that layer is exposed, healing can begin to rebuild new skin that looks younger and does not have the imperfections.
The procedure may be performed in two or more sessions to penetrate deeper areas, but one procedure is usually enough. You may need a series of such treatments before you achieve the desired results. Multiple lasers may be used at the same time depending on your condition.
You may experience some temporary side effects, including swelling and mild discomfort. This can be controlled with ice packs and medications prescribed by your surgeon. There is rarely any bleeding. Arrange for someone to drive you home from the plastic surgery facility after the procedure and possibly assist you for a day or two afterwards if you have had an aggressive procedure that required general anesthesia.
You may develop a red, crusted appearance on the treated area for three to 10 days. Do not pick at the crusts or you could develop scars. I performed a Rhytec Plasma Portrait laser and Diode laser treatment on myself a few weeks before my wedding. The crusting could be covered with makeup but was still noticeable. Do not plan any social events of photographs for a week after your laser treatment!
Your skin may look bright pink for weeks. Avoid sun exposure until all skin color has returned to normal. You will need to generously apply sun block with a sun protection factor of 30 or more. You are usually allowed to wear make-up one to two weeks after the treatment.Sometimes, dressings, tape or a bandage may be needed.
If a bandage is applied, it may be replaced with a fresh one after one to three days. After your bandage is removed a thin layer of ointment may be applied to your skin. You will get instructions on how to gently wash and care for your healing skin.
Risks of Laser Skin Resurfacing
No procedure is risk-free. The risks of laser skin resurfacing include burns and other injuries associated with the laser’s heat, scarring, abnormal pigmentation and infection. In rare cases, dormant viruses such as herpes or infections may be triggered by laser treatment.