Laser Resurfacing: Ablative Vs. Nonablative Lasers

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They come in numerous intensities and can treat just about any skin problem under the sun. So, how do you know when to enter the realm of lasers? If your skin lacks freshness, or you’re not seeing the effects you desire from something in a bottle, you may want to give a laser treatment (or a series) a shot. In the past, laser treatments were done at high-energy settings with fewer treatment sessions. Today’s trend is to do more treatments with lower energy levels, which minimizes the chances of burning, pigmentation, scarring and other unwanted side effects.

If you’ve been doing your research you’ve probably heard the words “ablative” and “nonablative” thrown around. But what do they mean? Within the laser world, there exists two main types: ablative lasers and nonablative lasers. Here's the difference:

Ablative lasers create a wound response to incite healthy healing.
Pros: More effective; usually necessitates one treatment; can be used on the entire face
Cons: Expensive; requires a longer recovery period; potential for pigment changes

With nonablative lasers no direct damage is done to the outer layers of skin. “The skin is not opened in any way,” says Washington, DC, dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, MD.
Pros: Less invasive; cheaper; target select areas
Cons: May not be as effective or aggressive since it takes a lighter approach; need at least three to six treatments; treats more superficial problems.

Consider these pre-laser pointers before you book a laser resurfacing treatment.


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