Experts Share Their Number-One Post-Laser Skin-Care Tip

Experts Share Their Number-One Post-Laser Skin-Care Tip featured image
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The beauty of laser skin resurfacing is that it can address a wide array of skin concerns without a single incision. But being noninvasive doesn’t mean that there’s zero downtime. In fact, a few days of recovery, ideally with the right post-laser skin-care tips in hand, can make results—and your overall experience—that much better.

As a refresher, “lasers emit light at different wavelengths to specifically destroy pigment, blood vessels and damaged skin to improve skin tone and texture,” says Washington, DC dermatologist Tina Alster, MD. In creating these controlled injuries, lasers can leave skin vulnerable to external aggressors while it heals, not to mention overall irritation. Here, what you can do before, during and after your treatment to set yourself up for a smooth recovery.

  • Tina Alster, MD is a dermatologist based in Washington, DC
  • Doris Day, MD is a dermatologist based in New York, NY
  • Miguel Mascaró, MD is a facial plastic surgeon based in Delray Beach, FL

Prepare before your treatment

Your post-laser skin-care routine should actually start before your appointment. “It is important to prime the skin to have it in the best condition possible before the treatment,” says New York City dermatologist Doris Day, MD, who gives patients a set skin-care routine to follow that includes topical ingredients like exosomes, antioxidants and growth factors. (The exact lineup depends on the patient’s skin type and concern.) This way, she can ensure that a patient doesn’t have a reaction to any ingredients.

Dr. Alster, meanwhile, will put her patients on a simple skin-care regimen that consists of a topical antioxidant, such as vitamin C, followed by a mineral sunscreen. Having healthy skin ahead of time will make the healing process go more smoothly.

Stay out of the sun

Of all the post-laser skin-care tips, there’s none more important than avoiding sun exposure. Going without sunscreen after a laser treatment is like taking two steps forward and one step back. For one: “Your skin can become pigmented, and it can take a long time for it to go away, says Delray Beach, FL facial plastic surgeon Miguel Mascaró, MD. (That’s even more unhelpful if you’re getting the laser treatment to address hyperpigmentation, too.) 

Plus, sun exposure after a laser treatment can increase the risk of side effects, such as blistering, according to Dr. Alster. Both doctors recommend using a mineral-based sunscreen in the days following your procedure. “It’s much more gentle on skin, and less likely to cause a reaction or sensitivity,” says Dr. Mascaró.

Reserve enough recovery time

If it’s not invasive, it’s not a big deal—or so you might be tempted to think when you’re heading into a laser treatment. But that’s one of the biggest mistakes patients make when planning their post-laser skin care, says Dr. Mascaró. “You want to give your skin enough time to recover appropriately for best results,” he says. “The more aggressive the treatment, the more downtime you should give yourself.”

A non-ablative laser, such as Fraxel, will likely require two to four days of downtime, he says. Meanwhile, if you’re getting an ablative laser treatment—meaning it completely destroys the upper layers of skin—expect to need anywhere from one to three weeks of recovery. That said, it “depends on the depth and the aggressiveness of the treatment,” says Dr. Mascaró, who suggests following your doctor’s advice closely. After all, they know what settings were used for the laser, as well as what you can expect in your recovery.

Strategize your after-care

Immediately after the treatment (and with your doctor’s clearance), apply an aloe vera gel. Any kind will do, says Dr. Mascaró, who notes that aloe vera “has an anti-inflammatory component, decreasing swelling and improving healing time by around 60 percent.”

For the first seven days after your treatment, moisturize your skin and apply sun protection diligently. Dr. Alster recommends using a mild cleanser twice a day, followed by a fragrance-free moisturizer. (She likes Epionce Medical Barrier Cream.) For the daytime, slather on that mineral SPF. If you typically use powerful or potentially irritating active ingredients in your routine, such as retinoic acid, don’t reintroduce it until your skin has healed, she says.

Dr. Day also sends patients home with the CO2Lift Carboxy Gel Face Mask to use on the third and fifth days post-procedure. “It’s like an at-home hyperbaric oxygen treatment, and does a great job of reducing redness and improving skin hydration,” she says. (The mechanism of action: Oxygen improves the micro-circulation, which accelerates healing, according to Dr. Day.) Consider it an investment in making the most of your laser treatment—in the form of brighter, tighter, and properly healed skin.

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