What is laser skin resurfacing?
The term “lasers” can seem nebulous; after all, these concentrated beams of energy can be applied to numerous aesthetic treatments (hair removal, vein therapy, and even dentistry). Perhaps the buzziest use, though, is in skin-resurfacing. Often touted as youth-preserving skincare heroes, lasers rely on concentrated beams of energy to resurface skin and/or increase collagen.
What concerns can lasers address?From uneven skin tone to full-blown facial lines, lasers can mitigate a spectrum of skin woes. They can also fade hyperpigmentation, sun spots, freckles, and even reduce the appearance of acne scars. Incidentally, some lasers can be used to remove unwanted tattoos. Although lasers can address faint facial lines by improving overall skin smoothness, they are not used as a targeted wrinkle reduction treatment for deep creases. To smooth the appearance of moderate to severe wrinkles, consider talking to your doctor about other options.
What are the different types of lasers?
There are two main laser categories: non-ablative and ablative. Within these categories, there are numerous brand name lasers, many of which can be toggled between non-ablative and ablative modes.
These lasers work by targeting the tissue beneath the skin. Specifically, they trigger the underlying skin cells to produce collagen and elastin via pulses of laser energy. Ultimately, the increase in these substances can be responsible for fewer fine lines and an overall firmer, clearer-looking complexion.
This category of laser is significantly more involved than its non-ablative counterpart. Specifically, ablative lasers literally remove the top layer of skin in order to reveal smoother, younger-looking skin beneath. For this reason, ablative lasers are ideal for people who have moderate wrinkles and/or severe sun damage. (Click here to read more about the specific types of skin resurfacing lasers.)
Do laser treatments hurt?Depending on which laser treatment you undergo and your pain tolerance, the discomfort level can vary. Some are only mildly uncomfortable — similar to the sensation of a rubber band snapping across the skin — whereas others may require a topical numbing cream.
How much do laser treatments cost?
One laser treatment session can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a couple thousand, depending on the size of the area being treated, your geographic location, the type of laser being used, and the extent of treatment. Note that with some lasers, you will likely need multiple treatments over weeks or months to achieve and/or maintain desired results. (Click here to read more about the different types of lasers and how many treatments you can expect.)
What are the risks of laser treatments?Although unlikely, hyperpigmentation, burning, scabbing, scarring, infection, and acne or cold sore flare-ups are all possible side effects of any laser treatment. Be sure to ask your doctor about possible risks for your skin type and condition.
What outcome can I expect after treatment?Immediately after a non-ablative laser treatment, you can expect some skin redness and sensitivity. Note: it is crucial to wear sunscreen after a laser treatment, as your skin is more delicate and susceptible to UV rays. Your face might also feel tight or itchy. After an ablative laser treatment, you can expect swelling, redness, and extreme skin sensitivity. Your provider will instruct you on specific post-care processes, which might include topical products to soothe the skin and help speed recovery time. Because your skin will essentially be raw, you may experience discomfort lasting anywhere from a few days post-treatment to a few weeks (so don’t plan any vigorous excursions at this time!).