What is Laser Skin Resurfacing?
According to WebMD, laser resurfacing is typically used to improve* the skin appearance. Wrinkles, scars, pigment changes, lesions or growths, tattoos and unwanted hair often use laser skin resurfacing as a treatment option.
Lighter skinned patients who stay out of the sun after the procedure tend to have the best results. Darker skinned patients can also benefit from laser treatment, however, their skin may not heal as well or as quickly.
People who are not Good Candidates for Laser Skin Resurfacing:
- Have experienced color changes in the skin, scarring, or skin thickening as a result of earlier treatment
- Suffer from skin, blood flow or an immune disorder that may make recovery difficult.
- Have a history of abnormal scarring.
- Are currently taking isotretinoin to treat* acne or have been on it in the last six to twelve months.
- Currently have a bacterial or viral infection of the skin.
What are the Types of Laser Skin Resurfacing?
The CO2 laser is the most common type of laser used, however, Erbium lasers are also used. Q-switched lasers are used in tattoo removal – it can remove* colors from the skin. Fractional laser skin resurfacing is used to treat* microscopic columns of skin. This type of laser resurfacing causes little bleeding and scabbing.
Plasma skin resurfacing uses plasma energy, destroying the lower layers of skin, leaving the top layer of skin alone. The top of layers of skin protects the treated, lower level of skin during the healing process.
YAG resurfacing is a very mild laser treatment and works on minor wrinkles and other skin problems. To target the deeper layers of the skin using heat, which smooths and tightens the skin, infrared laser resurfacing is used.
How Does Laser Skin Resurfacing Work?
Laser resurfacing is very precise. It is a popular treatment option, because it causes little damage to the surrounding skin and tissue. It is most common to receive laser resurfacing treatment to the facial area, however, it is also used on other parts of the body.
Certain areas of the body, such as the hands, neck and chest areas, are avoided, because they won’t heal as well as others. Some surgeons will treat* the neck area using lower-energy lasers.
What Happens During Laser Resurfacing?
All areas that will be receiving the treatment are cleaned thoroughly and marked with a pen. The patient receives a nerve block with local anesthetic to numb the area next. Some patients are given a local sedative or antianxiety medicine to help them relax.
For patients who will receive treatment on their entire face, a stronger anesthesia may be required. Some patients require general anesthesia, pain relievers or sedation.
Goggles are sometimes worn to prevent eye damage being inflicted by the laser. Wet towels are typically placed around the area to absorb excess laser pulses. Throughout the procedure, the laser is passed over the skin and pulses are sent out. Pulses last less than a millisecond.
The skin is wiped with water or saline solution in between passes to cool the treated area and to remove* destroyed tissue. Pulses can sting or you might feel a slight burn or snapping sensation. The treated area is covered with a clean dressing or ointment after the treatment has been completed.
What are the Risks and Recovery for Laser Skin Resurfacing?
Laser resurfacing can have side effects. Some people experience swelling, itching, crusting and tenderness. Redness lasts between 6 and 12 weeks after treatment. In some patients, redness lasts up to 6 months. It is also not uncommon to turn red or flush during times of great stress or exertion (more easily than usual) for up to one year.
You also may see pigment changes in your skin, which can include darker skin tones. Bleaching or peeling of the skin can help lighten darkened areas. You also run the risk of losing color in the treated area for up to 12 months after the procedure. In some patients, effects can be permanent.
Other risks include skin irritation, scarring and ectropion. Scarring can be improved* with the use of medicine, but sometimes surgery is needed to correct ectropion. Bacterial, viral and fungal infections of the skin are also at risk.
There are some things to consider when looking into laser skin resurfacing. The process itself first injures or wounds the skin and then it destroys the top layers. Your skin will not look very good initially and this is something patients must prepare for. It will also have to go through the healing process.
It is important for you to follow the doctor’s instructions on caring for your skin after treatment. You will want to avoid infection and allow your skin to heal to the best of its ability. You should also make sure your doctor has a clear understanding of what you hope to achieve with the treatment.
You also need to have a clear understanding of what you can realistically expect from the treatment. It can take several weeks for results to show and it also may take more than one treatment.
What Techniques are Effective for Managing Laser Skin Resurfacing?
You will need to wear sunscreen after undergoing laser skin resurfacing. You should also avoid sun exposure as much as possible. Remember, your new layer of skin will be more susceptible to sun damage.
No one technique is better than another. It is important that you have a good understanding of your skin type and the specific problem you are trying to correct. Talk to your doctor at great length about the issue you want to correct and the various treatment options. Laser skin resurfacing may not always be the best option, especially if there are other options that are less drastic to try first. This form of treatment is not something you should take lightly.