Discover the Most Popular Non-Invasive Skin Treatments: What They Are and How They Work

Discover the Most Popular Non-Invasive Skin Treatments: What They Are and How They Work featured image
This article first appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

Non-invasive skin treatments with fast results and less downtime are in high demand. However, not every laser is the same. While your doctor can help you decide which treatment is best for you, you should go into the office with some knowledge. Experts walk us through the various options for clearing acne, anti-aging and resurfacing.

If you’re looking to clear acne:


The first FDA-cleared energy treatment for acne, AviClear is a groundbreaking laser that helps treat mild-to-severe acne by targeting excess sebum production. “AviClear works by selectively targeting oil glands and suppressing them so that over time, they produce less oil and less acne,” explains New York dermatologist Jody Levine, MD. “This technology is revolutionizing the way we treat acne because until now, the only other professional treatment that targeted sebaceous glands was Accutane, which comes with significant side effects,” New York dermatologist Dennis Gross, MD says. “I’m thrilled to finally have a safe and effective longterm treatment option to offer patients who are looking to clear their skin without having to take an oral medication.”

After three AviClear treatments with Glenn Dale, MD dermatologist Valerie D. Callender, this patient saw marked improvement and fewer breakouts.

If you’re looking for skin tightening:


“Ultherapy is an FDA-cleared, noninvasive procedure that lifts and tightens skin on the neck, chin and brow,” says Dr. Levine. “It also improves lines and wrinkles on the upper chest, and results in a firmer, toned, more youthful appearance.” Ultherapy uses radio-frequency energy to deliver heat to deeper layers of the skin where collagen is most prevalent, explains Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD. “Focused ultrasound waves (similar to those used during pregnancy imaging), heat and break down existing collagen, alerting the body’s natural immune response to create new collagen,” he adds. As a result, over the next few months, the treated area becomes firmer and tighter. “The result isn’t a dramatic improvement, but rather a subtle, lovely change that leads to a more youthful look,” says Dr. Schlessinger.


“Sofwave is a noninvasive treatment for skin rejuvenation using proprietary high-intensity parallel ultrasound waves,” says Miami dermatologist Dr. Deborah Longwill. According to Charlotte, NC dermatologist Gilly Munavalli, MD, the soundwaves are converted to heat in the dermis, causing collagen remodeling and skin contraction. The treatment improves skin laxity around the eyebrows, and on the neck and chin, but that’s not all. It can also reduce fine lines and wrinkles on the face, and cellulite. “The collagen stimulation allows for a tighter framework to support the skin, which retains the skin’s moisture, volume and elasticity,” Dr. Longwill says.

Jupiter, FL dermatologist Shauna Kranendonk, MD tightened this patient’s face and jowl area with Sofwave.


Morpheus8 is a radio-frequency microneedling device that delivers fractionated heat to deep layers of the skin via tiny insulated needles, explains Duxbury, MA plastic surgeon Christine DiEdwardo, MD. “The heat stimulates collagen and elastin production, resulting in firmer, smoother and tighter skin,” she adds. Houston plastic surgeon Olga Bachilo, MD says it’s great for reducing signs of aging, softening acne scarring and improving skin laxity. Morpheus8 has a wide variety of uses, from improving fine lines to tightening loose, crepey skin above the knees, arms and abdomen.


If you’re looking for anti-aging benefits:


Clear + Brilliant is a nonablative resurfacing laser with the goal of improving skin tone and texture concerns, like dark spots and fine lines. As Dr. Levine explains, “Clear + Brilliant utilizes diode laser technology to remove damaged skin and stimulate collagen growth. This is one of the few lasers that comes with virtually no downtime.”


“The Halo laser combines both ablative and nonablative energy wavelengths that work together to target superficial skin concerns, as well as those beneath the surface,” says Dr. Bachilo.

Aventura, FL dermatologist Dr. Bertha Baum refers to Halo as one of the best resurfacing lasers with very little downtime and excellent results. “It gives a great glow on the skin, treats lines, improves pores, and reduces acne scars. It’s a great option for an antiaging treatment.”

Rochester, NY dermatologist Lesley Loss, MD visibly reduced this patient’s melasma with two sessions of Halo paired with a topical cream.

If you’re looking for resurfacing:


Fraxel is a nonablative laser that resurfaces skin to address signs of aging and/or sun damage, explains Dr. Levine. “The laser pushes out old damaged skin and stimulates the formation of collagen and healthier, new skin,” she says. Dr. Munavalli adds that the microscopic columns of heat can help “dramatically help skin texture, tone and contour.”

This patient saw improvement of her sunspots and freckles one month after a Fraxel treatment with Melville, NY dermatologist Kally Papantoniou, MD.


Intense Pulsed Light (aka IPL) “uses specific wavelengths of light to selectively cause nonablative destruction of pigment,” explains Delray Beach, FL dermatologist Dr. Janet Allenby. Pulsed light waves generate heat within specific targets in skin, reducing pigmentation and redness, adds Dr. DiEdwardo. “The treatment also stimulates collagen production in the skin,” she says. “IPL is a good choice for those with skin discoloration, including sunspots, acne, broken capillaries and rosacea.”


Carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers vaporize tens of thousands of tiny, discrete channels from treated skin. Dr. Allenby explains that the carbon dioxide resurfaces the uppermost layers of the skin with a controlled burn, while also heating the underlying skin, stimulating collagen production.

According to experts, the fractional ablative CO2 laser is regarded as the most effective laser for treating aging skin and scarring. The treatment can be tailored to address different conditions by adjusting the depth, the percentage of skin treated, and how much heat gets delivered. But La Jolla, CA plastic surgeon Robert Singer, MD notes that CO2 lasers may produce permanent pigment changes—lighter or darker— and require a longer recovery.

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