Skin that has been lasered is sensitive, easily irritated and compromised. Taking care of your skin properly post-laser treatment can make a significant difference in both the results and your comfort. San Jose, CA plastic surgeon Kirk Churukian, MD, says postoperative care following some lasers, such as a fractional CO2 laser resurfacing, “is the same as treating a superficial burn.” If you follow the advice from these experts, you’ll find that your skin is bound to heal faster and with better results.
Use a vinegar wash
Your doctor should instruct you on how to dilute vinegar with water and use it to help heal your skin. Irvine, CA plastic surgeon Andrew Smith, MD, suggests you have this wash mixed and refrigerated in a squeeze bottle before you go in for the treatment so that when you return, it’s cold and ready to go. Dr. Churukian says using this wash will help minimize “crusting as well as limit bacterial infection of the face.”
Maintaining moisture in your skin is crucial after a laser treatment. “Adequate moisture maintained by lotions or non-fragranced moisturizers can speed skin recovery and cell turnover,” says New York plastic surgeon William Lao, MD. “Lasers are actually controlled burns, and our tissues heal better and faster actually in a slightly moisturized environment.”
Colleyville, TX facial plastic surgeon Yadro Ducic, MD, says, “Simple products like Aquaphor and various other occlusive moisturizers are all adequate.” A lack of moisture post-treatment can cause the skin to scab and may even delay (and in some cases compromise) the healing process. Torrance, CA plastic surgeon Linda Swanson, MD, has patients use EltaMD Barrier Renewal Complex ($45) to help replenish moisture in their skin.
Use a mild cleanser
Washing the skin with cleansers that are harsh and stripping, like those that are acid-based or exfoliating, can actually damage your recently lasered skin. Dr. Smith recommends Aquanil Cleanser ($9), which he describes as more of a mild soap and less of a cleanser, so it won’t dry out the epidermis.
Don’t leave the house without sun protection
Dr. Lao advises you to avoid the sun as much as possible with physical blockage such as hats and sunscreen “to decrease UV absorption, which in turn decreases the chance of PIH (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) and scar darkening.” Dr. Smith also stresses the importance of wearing sunscreen after a laser treatment. He recommends EltaMD UV Elements Broad-Spectrum SPF 44 ($37).
Dr. Churukian says the skin remains “sun-sensitive” for six months after treatment. However, he encourages patients to use sunscreen well beyond that. “Continued use of sunscreen will help protect the investment you have made in the beauty and health of your skin!”
Exfoliate a couple of weeks after the treatment
“Two weeks after the laser, patients are ready for manual skin exfoliation,” says Dr. Swanson. “I find that dermaplaning works well to help get all the additional transitional skin off and create a non-flaky appearance.”
Be diligent with your post-laser balm application
Dr. Smith says patients are often given a balm to use following laser treatment. He suggests that patients use it as directed by their doctor for two to three weeks. He notes that after those few weeks are up, patients should move on to a less greasy product—for this, he recommends Vanicream.
Dr. Churukian says, “providing a barrier against fluid loss as well as bacterial and fungal infection” is essential to healing. He says he applies a thick layer of Jan Marini BioShield ($135) immediately after the treatment and asks that patients keep this up during recovery.
Apply a cold compresses
If your skin is red and swollen after you’ve been treated, make sure to apply cold compresses and ice packs to the area, as this will help mitigate some of the inflammation. Sleeping in an elevated position with an extra pillow or two can help, too.