What Is Laser Skin Resurfacing?

Overview

Laser skin resurfacing has the remarkable ability to correct many signs of aging, such as age spots, dark eye circles, dull skin and fine wrinkles, as well as other cosmetic defects. The American Academy of Dermatology states that while laser skin resurfacing won’t stop the hands of time, nor will it yield the same effects as a surgical face lift, it can give satisfactory results for the patient who has realistic expectations.

Understanding Lasers

Laser technology has a variety of cosmetic applications, says the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, including removing wrinkles, hyperpigmentation (such as age spots), port wine stains, tattoos and acne scarring, as well as hair reduction, dental whitening and corrective eye surgery.

Laser skin resurfacing, which is often synonymous with laser skin rejuvenation, employs a variety of different devices, each which must be cleared for use by the FDA after undergoing stringent testing and clinical studies to determine safety and efficacy. The FDA points out that lasers are considered prescription devices that can only be sold and used to licensed practitioners.

You Have Choices

Laser skin resurfacing can be done using either a nonablative or ablative laser device. The difference between these two technologies is that the former treatment does not cause wounds in the skin, while the latter does.

Ablative involves some downtime and post-treatment care, which entails treating the skin to reduce the risk of infection. The Mayo Clinic states that nonablative procedures give results that are far less dramatic, and often, numerous treatment sessions are required to get the best out of this treatment.

Nonablative Lasers

Nonablative lasers heat the surface layer of the skin without harming the epidermis to encourage new collagen growth, a well as tightening up the underlying skin to give the complexion a smoother appearance.

Compared to ablative procedures, the Mayo Clinic states that nonablative procedures require little healing time. This method of laser skin resurfacing is best to address fine lines and brown skin discoloration (hyperpigmentation).

Ablative Lasers

Laser skin resurfacing that employs an ablative procedure entails directing the laser at the area of skin to be treated, which destroys its outer layer, the epidermis. Simultaneously, it also heats the underlying layer of skin, the dermis.

During the healing process, the Mayo Clinic notes that the skin regenerates collagen, which gives the skin a smoother, tighter texture and even tone. Ablative lasers do cause a visible wound, cautions the AAD, which requires some downtime on the part of the patient, but it’s effective for deeper wrinkles and more pronounced signs of aging.

One type of laser, a fractional ablative laser, does not cause visible wounds. This emerging technology means that patients will experience shorter healing time than if other types of ablative lasers are used, says the AAD.

Cautions and Considerations

The Mayo Clinic says there are certain risks associated with laser skin resurfacing, some of which may include swelling, skin sensitivity, burning of the skin, and temporary whitening or darkening of the skin.

Like most cosmetic procedures, laser skin resurfacing is not likely to be covered under your health insurance plan, so you want to make sure that you’re a good candidate, says the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

When choosing a doctor, take into consideration that your comfort level with your practitioner as well as his expertise in delivering this particular cosmetic procedure, are as important as the cost you incur.