What you should know
What are lasers
Lasers come in numerous intensities and can treat just about any skin-related problem. So, how do you know when to move past topical products and enter the realm of lasers? If your skin lacks freshness, or you’re not seeing the effects you desire from something in a bottle, then you may want to give laser treatments a shot.
“Lasers are an ever growing industry,” says Hackensack, NJ, dermatologist David Goldberg, MD. “They have evolved so much since they were first introduced about 25 years ago—each generation is better and more effective than the last.” We break down the various problems (like the signs of aging, lines and wrinkles, acne, sunspots, uneven skin tone and texture, unsightly veins and blood vessels, and other issues such as tattoo and hair removal) that each type of laser can fix so you can decide what works best for you.
When it comes to lasers, what works for one skin tone may not work for another since different laser wavelengths pick up different pigments—some of the darker skin types may not see optimal results with certain types of lasers, which is why it’s crucial that only a board-certified and experienced dermatologist, plastic or facial plastic surgeon administer your treatment. Chicago dermatologist Rebecca Tung, MD, explains that to ensure the best possible result, a customized mix-and-match approach needs to be taken, “to better suit patients’ needs and really get the best result.”
Regardless of the modality used the skin can’t recognize the difference, but you still need to consider:
Skin color. The rule of thumb is the lighter the skin, the more energy it can handle. One of the downsides to some lasers is the potential for spots on the skin, either lighter or darker—darker skins have more of a tendency to develop pigment changes. The skin contains melanin (the substance which gives it pigment or color) and when a laser is used, changes to normal melanin production can ensue. “Basically, the pigment in the skin can attract the laser energy and if used incorrectly, can cause discoloration,” says Washington, DC, dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, MD. There’s always the risk of pigment changes even if everything is done correctly.
Your background. As with any cosmetic procedure, laser patients come from mixed ethnicities, and this is important to inform your doctor of. “While we can sort of gauge a patient’s background, it’s imperative to explain your ethnicity since underlying problems can arise if you’re prone to hyperpigmentation,” says Dr. Rebecca Tung.
Ablative lasers use the power of light in a targeted beam to remove and resurface the skin, either superficially or through to the deeper layers.
Ablative lasers produce dramatic results in resurfacing skin to diminish wrinkles, acne scars and other surface irregularities through removal of upper layers of the skin. They dramatically improve overall skin tone and texture, easily turning back the hands of time and reducing the extent of sun damage, rough texture and even acne scars.
Treatment with ablative lasers requires anesthesia and pain management. Ablative lasers necessitate real downtime—you can expect for your skin to crust over, before it sheds the scabs and fully heals—and carry risk of infection, pigment changes and scarring. Resurfacing an entire face may require four to six weeks of initial healing. In addition, this type of laser resurfacing requires that you stay out of the sun for a year and in some cases for a lifetime. Any type of ablative lasers can cause the potential for permanent skin whitening in treated areas.
Often used incorrectly, the term “laser” is actually an acronym for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. But today’s energy-based offerings go beyond light-based technology.
Fractional CO2 Skin Resurfacing
Fractional CO2 resurfacing can erase years from your face and dramatically improve the appearance of wrinkles and pigment, but it is not a lunchtime procedure. “In the past, traditional carbon dioxide laser treatments removed the entire surface of the skin. The healing process was lengthy and permanent lightening was possible,” says Washington, DC, dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, MD. Fractional CO2 uses small columns of fractionated energy to ablate areas of damage. “Tiny wounds are made and the surrounding healthy skin helps with healing, making new collagen and elastin,” says Los Angeles dermatologist Rebecca Fitzgerald, MD. By targeting zones deep in the skin as opposed to the entire skin surface, fractional CO2 resurfacing is a one-time, treatment performed with local anesthesia. It offers mild improvement in wrinkles, discoloration and scarring by stimulating collagen production. The companies behind these treatments also claim that skin tightening is a result.
For many, the recovery is more uncomfortable and takes longer than surgery. You’ll need to follow specific skin-care instructions. Immediately after, your skin will be raw and oozing, and probably covered in ointment and bandaged. Crusts will form over the first week, and the healing skin beneath will be pink and very sensitive. Although the skin heals within a month, redness can persist for about two or three months. Once you have fully healed you should notice a significant improvement in fine lines, wrinkles, skin laxity and discoloration.
Erbium laser treatments are less aggressive than CO2 fractional lasers but more aggressive than non-ablative fractional lasers so they can give dramatic results (with less risk). Erbium lasers can diminish wrinkles, improve pigmentation and resurface the skin. An acronym for erbium yttrium aluminum garnet, this type of device gets its name from the crystal the light passes through in order to focus the energy for the desired effects. Keep in mind that you will need a series of treatments, on average.
Ablative Fractional Resurfacing Lasers
Ablative fractional resurfacing (there are non-ablative versions too which differ in that they don’t damage the outer layer of skin, require more than one session and have less downtime) means that the laser light is broken up into separate beams that treat a portion of the skin’s surface with each treatment. These beams send microscopic columns of energy into the skin that destroy the tissue, and the subsequent healing produces fresh skin that looks and feels softer and smoother.
Fractional lasers give way to smoother, softer, more even-looking skin by inciting new collagen production. With fractional lasers, only the specific areas treated are “wounded”— damaged cells are tackled on the surface and the energy penetrates down to the dermis to stimulate and remodel collagen. The surrounding skin, that’s left intact, helps the treated areas to heal correctly. “There may also be some minimal tightening because there is some aspect of collagen production,” says Los Angeles dermatologist Rebecca Fitzgerald, MD. Fractional delivery systems dramatically reduce the downtime as compared with their non-fractional counterparts since only a portion of the skin is affected with each treatment, but several sessions are usually required to address 100 percent of the skin’s surface. Fraxel was the first fractional resurfacing technology, but today’s offerings include Fraxel re:pair, Active FX, Lux Deep IR, ScanLite and Profractional, among others.
Nonablative lasers are light-based treatments that penetrate the skin without visible wounding the skin surface to treat minimal sun damage, age spots and irregular pigmentation, spider veins, redness such as rosacea, acne and unwanted hair.
In the past, laser treatments were done at high-energy settings with fewer treatment sessions. Today’s trend is to do more treatments using lower energy levels, which minimizes the chances of burning, pigmentation, scarring and other unwanted side effects.
Nonablative Fractional Resurfacing
A nonablative laser treatment, Fraxel re: store is a less invasive alternative to traditional resurfacing, through a series of treatments to reduce downtime and risk. “The caveat is, you need multiple treatments to see the improvement,” explains New York, NY Dermatologist, Dr. Heidi Waldorf. Fractional resurfacing allows for skin-surface improvement with minimal risk and little downtime because each treatment creates thousands of microscopic wounds while leaving the surrounding skin intact. Over a series of office visits, the treatments resurface the entire face, improving fine lines, sunspots and other discoloration. They’re ideal for those who have less time to be out of commission. Treatment feels like multiple pin pricks, and topical anesthetics and cooling agents are used.
Here’s how it works: As the tiny wounds heal, fresher skin emerges. After two or three treatments over a six-month period, spots and fine lines will fade away. The skin will look smooth and retextured. (Many doctors use this on sun-damaged, blotchy chests, as well.) Downtime associated with Fraxel is limited; your hands might look a little sunburned for two to five days.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) employs a broad spectrum of light, as opposed to a single wavelength emitted by lasers. IPL has little downtime and is effective for redness, rosacea and excess melanin (pigment) caused by sun damage.
IPL generally uses a single wavelength of light that requires five or six treatments for subtle results, but patients typically are pleased because there’s no downtime.
Why it’s different: Montclair, NJ, plastic surgeon Barry DiBernardo, MD, explains, “Limelight IPL can treat both brown (pigment) and red (vascular) so you can select one or both, depending on what the patient needs.”
The limitations: “This system, like many IPL systems currently on the market, is useful for skin rejuvenation by improving skin discoloration, but cannot deliver the clinical results typical after fractional or ablative resurfacing treatments,” Washington, DC, dermatologist Tina Alster, MD explains.
Midly Ablative Fractional
Pearl lasesr treat superficial fine lines and wrinkles, sun damage and uneven texture, utilizing a new wavelength that’s very close to erbium YAG devices. But Pearl is different in that it is only mildly ablative. While it does remove a fine layer of the skin, the skin is left intact to serve as a protective dressing while the skin below the surface heals. “As opposed to years ago, when resurfacing came with weeks or months of downtime, with Pearl we see about four days of redness and flaking,” says Montclair, NJ, plastic surgeon Barry DiBernardo, MD. “Do this treatment on a Thursday or Friday, and you should be back to work on Monday,” says New York dermatologist David Goldberg, MD.
Photo facial is a term for a light-based skin resurfacing treatment which is mostly used to treat brown spots, broken capillaries and to boost collagen.
You will find two main types of photo facials: LED (light-emitting diode) and IPL (intense-pulsed light). They are very different technologies so you will want to consult with your dermatologist and ask questions about the differences. That way you are more likely to get the results you hope to achieve and you will know what to expect.
Here is a quick description of an LED photo facial versus IPL:
- LED photo facials – Offered mostly by day spas or medi-spas, the LED photo facial uses a narrow spectrum light to boost collagen, which creates plumper, younger-looking skin; it can also be used to kill the bacteria that causes acne. LED photo facials are painless, cool and relaxing, and carry no risk of burning. The protocol calls for a series of six treatments for best results with one to two weeks between treatments.
The facial rejuvenation properties have been proven with medical research. Results won’t be as dramatic as plastic surgery, but it’s a gentler, more natural, less expensive way to go.
- IPL photo facials – An intense pulsed-light or IPL photo facial treats skin conditions such as brown spots, broken capillaries, spider veins and facial redness. An IPL photo facial is not as gentle as an LED photo facial. It works by delivering a bright blast of light at very high energy levels through a hand-held device. Some IPLs have cooling devices but this treatment can be uncomfortable, if not painful.
Depending on the severity of your condition, which you will discuss with your doctor, IPLs are a good choice if you have uneven pigmentation, broken capillaries or overall redness. Treatment varies based on your skin type, what condition you’re treating and the results you want.
Currently the only plasma resurfacing option, Portrait is a relatively new skin rejuvenation option. Initial response has been very positive, and since a protective layer of intact skin remains after treatment, there is a low risk of complications. In contrast to fractional resurfacing, Portrait treats 100 percent of the skin’s surface and results continue to improve for up to a year, but patients should expect five to 10 days of downtime.
New York dermatologist David Goldberg, MD, explains, “Portrait can be used on a low-energy setting for a superficial treatment with little to no downtime, or with high energy for a more aggressive, one-time treatment.” However, there are some drawbacks according to Sarasota, Facial Plastic Surgeon, Dr. J. David Holcomb who says, “Portrait will not completely remove pigment or skin discoloration, and I would not recommend high-energy treatment for patients with darker skin.”
“Portrait can be used on non-facial areas such as the neck, chest and backs of the hands. While a one-week recovery period is typical after treatment, skin discoloration and texture can be improved after a single treatment,” says Washington, DC, dermatologist Tina Alster, MD.
Pulsed Dye Lasers
A perfect treatment for a ruddy complexion or post-acne redness is to use pulsed dye lasers like VBeam or Cynergy, nonablative lasers.
How it works: Treats the blood vessels directly to shrink them, making the skin less red. To prevent post-treatment redness, Chicago dermatologist Rebecca Tung, MD, almost always has patients take an antihistamine, like Claritin, before each session. “It helps calm the skin and decrease that histamine response,” she says. Pulsed dye lasers take the redness out while softening the skin.
It feels like a rubber band snap, can be used anywhere on the face and body and you may require three to five sessions. “If you’re getting treatment for acne-related redness, and your acne is not under control, you may need additional sessions,” says Washington, DC, dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, MD.
There is no downtime; your skin will be a little pink or red but only for a few hours at most. Results are permanent as long as the cause of the redness is under control.
Ultrasound and RF Lasers
The newest way to sculpt a better body and to get rid of loose skin is to use radio frequency (RF) or ultrasound laser skin tightening treatments.
Known to combat cellulite for a long time, but the newest one to hit the market is Bella Contour. “Unlike other body contouring treatments, this one changes the salt content of the fat cells so that the fat is leached out,” says New York dermatologist David Goldberg, MD.
Using a triple-threat of ultrasound, vacuum and electrical currents, the painless, downtime-free yet labor intensive treatment (prepare to dedicate two hours to the initial treatment and one hour for each one thereafter) targets cellulite and stubborn fatty areas on the stomach, thighs, lower butt, knees and flanks (and male chest), and revs up the body’s metabolism so fat is burned better and more efficiently. “Because there’s an immediate reduction in volume—about one to two inches after the first session — Bella Contour should not be used on areas like the breast and upper buttocks because it will cause a flattening effect — the exact opposite of what most women want.”
Accent Your Body, Thermage, Exilis, Ulthera, and Pelleve are all effective skin tightening treatments that offer the added benefit of potentially tightening loose skin and improving cellulite.
How it works:By sending a wave of deep heat down to the skin to tell the skin to make new collagen. Although their main intention is to firm up the skin, Montclair, NJ, dermatologist Jeanine Downie, MD, says that some skin tighteners, like Exilis, have the ability to melt small areas of fat in addition to tightening the underlying tissue. Ulthera, which is the first skin tightener to make use of ultrasound, stands apart in that it has a hand piece that allows your doctor to see the exact area being treated. These treatments can also be used post-surgery or following fat removal to help minimally tighten up any lingering sagginess. Coral Gables, FL, dermatologist Flor Mayoral, MD, says that when used properly, new collagen always results. “The collagen will age. It will always be younger than what it’s surrounded by so the skin will always have a younger look.”
What they feel like: Each machine feels a bit different—some get hotter than others—but overall, there’s minimal discomfort and some warmth. Ulthera is said to be the most uncomfortable and usually requires pain medication during treatment.
Ideal areas of treatment: Can be used on the body and face and have a good track record when used on the neck, stomach, back, arms, thighs, knees and ankles.
Protocol: Each differs but expect anywhere from three to five treatments for radiofrequency-based treatments; about one, maybe two, for ultrasound.
Downtime: Virtually none.
What to expect post-treatment: Your skin may feel a bit red, slightly swollen or hot to the touch for a few hours. “Your skin may be red for a little bit, like an hour or so, directly after but it quickly dissipates,” says Dr. Jeanine Downie, who always suggests drinking about 10 glasses of water for 72 hours after each radiofrequency session to help the body flush out the waste.
How long the results last: Ultrasound results are not immediate. Since a series of radiofrequency treatments are typically needed, you may not see the full results for six months, which should last about 18 months on the face; two years on the body. “One benefit to doing these treatments at an earlier age is that you’ll see more of a reward sooner,” says Los Angeles dermatologist Rebecca Fitzgerald, MD.
What Lasers Can Fix
Laser treatments can be used to assist with hair and tattoo removal and to treat a variety of concerns, including acne, hyperpigmentation, damaged skin and wrinkles.
Acne and Acne Scarring
Inflammation and bacteria are two common culprits of acne and targeting them with the right laser skin treatment can help diminish the longevity and severity of your breakouts.
Procedures like Blue U (which utilizes blue light) kill bacteria in the pore to help heal inflammatory acne. Some doctors choose to couple blue light treatments with Levulan (a topical medication that treats precancerous cells) to maximize the bacteria busting effects.
Ideal treatment areas are the face and chest. Your skin will feel slightly warm or if using Levulan, there may be some heat or burning. The recommended regimen is 1-2 weekly treatments for one month.
Bacteria may flourish if treatments are stopped, so commitment is essential to maintain good results. There is however no downtime.
To Treat Acne Scars: A variety of light-based treatments can be used to treat acne scarring. For more severe scarring, dermatologists and plastic surgeons can utilize ablative lasers (like the CO2 and erbium types), though these one-time procedures are used less often now than in the past because of prolonged post-treatment healing. Washington, DC, dermatologist Tina Alster, MD, says, “I am using the Fraxel laser more and more as a quick fix for scars. The treatments are relatively easy for patients due to the quick recovery time. Patients are happy because clinical improvement is typically evident within a few sessions.” Nonablative lasers can also be effective for minimizing the appearance of scarring by boosting collagen production within the skin, resulting in a more even complexion after a series of treatments. The number and severity of scars will dictate the type of treatment used.
Employs pulsating light waves to kill the base of the hair root in the follicle and impede hair growth. Because of the laser’s ability to pick up darker hair more successfully, laser hair removal is best for those with lighter skin and darker hair.
Alexandrite and Diode lasers for lighter skin tones; Nd:Yag lasers for all skin tones, especially darker skin types; other hair removal systems are UltraWave, GentleLASE, and ELOS.
Additional things you should know about hair removal:
Ideal treatment areas: Bikini line, legs, armpits, arms, upper lip, the sides of the face
What it feels like: A quick snapping on the skin
Protocol: 3-5 sessions spaced one month apart
What to expect post-treatment: Some slight redness and bumpiness that lasts anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Don’t expect to be completely fuzz-free immediately. “This is a treatment that takes time to see results because of the hair growth cycle,” says Washington, DC, dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, MD. “After the initial treatments there should be a 50 to 70 percent reduction in hair.”
How long the results last: Indefinitely but you may need yearly touch-ups to stay free of unwanted hair. Any hair that does grow back will be finer and thinner.
IPL is sometimes used for hair removal—most often in salons and spas. Coral Gables, FL, dermatologist Flor Mayoral, MD, says that because it’s technically a light, and not a laser, it doesn’t need as much supervision. “But, if the machine gets into the wrong hands and is used on the wrong skin color it can leave behind permanent damage and discoloration to the skin.”
Hyperpigmentation, which occurs when the body produces excess pigment, resulting in discolored skin, affects all skin types and tones.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) can help to clear up some types of hyperpigmentation. During the treatment a beam of light is transmitted, infiltrating down into the tissue where it’s absorbed by melanin. The results can last for a few years, if not longer, as long as the proper precautions are taken, which includes a good skin-care routine, daily use of sunscreen and avoiding the sun.
When products like Microdermabrasion and peels don’t work, consider energy-based treatments that use laser, light and heat to reduce unwanted spots. These treatments may require downtime and multiple sessions, so discuss all of these factors with your dermatologist or plastic surgeon to determine what treatment will best suit your needs.
As our complexion ages it can take on a weathered appearance. Fine lines and wrinkles, discoloration and uneven texture can cause the skin to become lackluster and tired-looking—that’s where skin-rejuvenating lasers come in. Depending on the problem, there’s a compatible procedure to get your skin back to a more youthful state.
To improve skin texture and reduce minimal sun spots, redness or broken capillaries, nonablative pigment-specific IPLs (intense pulsed light) such as Photo Facial (or foto facial) are used to treat uneven pigmentation due to aging or sun damage.
How it works: A beam of light is transmitted to the skin, infiltrating down into the tissue where it’s absorbed. If IPL is used to treat pigment, the light is absorbed by melanin; if it’s treating broken capillaries, the blood absorbs the light. “For skin that has a few dark spots and some rough texture, there’s nothing that smoothes and softens like IPL,” says Dr. Flor Mayoral.
Ideal treatment areas: Face, neck, chest and hands
Protocol: From 4-6 treatments
Downtime: Little to none
What to expect post-treatment: Your skin may look, or feel, like it has a sunburn and there may be a little bit of stinging. Four to seven days later, the treated area(s) will start to darken before they scab and fall off.
How long results last: For a few years, if not longer, as long as the proper precautions are taken, which includes a good skin-care routine, daily use of sunscreen and avoiding the sun.
Inside Tip: According to Dr. Rebecca Tung when treating any type of pigmentation or discoloration, a low setting should be used. “Turning up the energy too much can cause problems of pigmentation patients,” she says.
Photodynamic cosmetic skin treatments
To prevent the signs of aging and minimize pore size, treatments like Allumera employ a low-level light and topical sensitizer that is more of a preventive anti-aging treatment as opposed to a corrective one.
Allumera uses a combination of light (like LED) with a topical sensitizer to fight the effects of photo-damage and give a rejuvenated look. The cream is applied to the skin for about 60 minutes before it is washed off and the light source is utilized. “We’re also looking at full body applications of Allumera to promote anti-aging head to toe,” says New York dermatologist David Goldberg, MD.
The face is an ideal area for treatment but in the future can treat hands, neck, chest, arms and legs.
Because Allumera uses LED as the energy source, there’s barely any pain. Some patients say they feel a minor pricking, stinging or burning sensation during and immediately after treatment. Three one-hour treatments spaced four weeks apart is recommended and there is minimal downtime.
Possible redness, mild swelling and/or dryness, which should be gone in two days, may result. You should also avoid the sun for 48 hours after treatment. Treatments last at least three months.
Improve sun spots and weathered skin
Fractional resurfacing lasers (like Fraxel re: fine; Fraxel re: pair; and Pixel Perfect) give way to smoother, softer, more even-looking skin by stimulating new collagen production.
An ablative treatment, fractional lasers create thousands of miniscule columns in the skin, removing damaged cells on the surface and penetrating down to the dermis to stimulate and remodel collagen. The surrounding skin, that’s left intact, helps the treated areas to heal.
If you’ve changed your mind about your tattoos and want to diminish the appearance of your tattoo, you can. Q-switched Alexandrite lasers break up pigments in the skin but don’t expect the results to be instant or pain-free. It can take between eight and 20 treatments over a few months to get rid of a tattoo because of how deep the color is deposited. It is also fairly costly so be prepared.
And, since the pigment changes and becomes deeply embedded in the skin over time, the older the tattoo, the harder it is to treat. “While red, yellow and orange tones respond the best, and quickest, there is the chance that you’ll always have a little bit of your tattoo left. While we can lighten tattoos to the point where they are barely visible, in almost all patients there’s going to be some lingering residue, outline or shadowing left over,” says Coral Gables, FL, dermatologist Flor Mayoral, MD.
To reduce deep lines and wrinkles Erbium lasers and Fractional CO2 lasers can be used to correct these problems with good results.
How it works: Hard-hitting lasers like erbium and fractional CO2 ones use short, concentrated laser beams to precisely target damaged skin. Although erbium and CO2 lasers have been around for quite some time, the technologies used today are far more advanced than those of yesteryear. “In the past, CO2 lasers fully removed the top layer of skin and left a white cast on the skin. The skin also took much longer to heal,” says Washington, DC, dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, MD. “With what we use now there’s less risk of discoloration, infection and scarring.” Los Angeles dermatologist Rebecca Fitzgerald, MD, says that fractional CO2, which is more aggressive than erbium, uses small columns of fractionated laser energy to ablate select areas of damage on the face. “Tiny holes or wounds are made just where there is damage. The healthy skin that surrounds it helps the skin to heal, making new collagen and elastin,” she adds. Erbium, on the other hand, doesn’t penetrate as deep but acts more on the first few layers of skin to vaporize trouble spots—while it can give dramatic results (with less risk and downtime) they aren’t the same as what you’ll get with a fractionated CO2.
Lines and wrinkles around the eyes and upper lip, the face, hands, neck and chest. “We can be more aggressive with these types of lasers, especially around the eyes and the lips because of the amount of energy that’s output,” says Chicago dermatologist Rebecca Tung, MD.
Since you’ll be given anesthesia, you won’t be able to feel the treatment, which is extremely uncomfortable. “There’s no way you can do a fractional CO2 or erbium laser without anesthetic,” says Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi.
To cut down on the chance of post-laser discoloration, Dr. Rebecca Tung often applies a topical steroid cream—especially in patients of Indian and Asian decent—directly after a laser treatment. “I also have my patients use a short course of it, after treatment, too. It helps to bring down inflammation and swelling so the skin heals quicker and better. And, it fights post-laser hyperpigmentation,” she explains.
Lasers and Fillers: Injectables and fillers have long been used for their miraculous anti-line and anti-wrinkle capabilities and they have a place within laser procedures, too. “Using injectables and lasers together is important for creating an overall more youthful look because they each do something different,” says Dr. Rebecca Fitzgerald.
“We use fillers to inflate the face and lasers to help minimally tighten the skin.” But besides adding volume, injectables like Botox or Dysport can even help to improve your laser results. About one week prior to an intense fractional laser treatment, Botox or Dysport injections help to diminish muscle movement so that the area to be treated is more relaxed. “When there’s little or no movement, the laser results are better and longer lasting. Also, the skin heals more uniformly and there’s usually less downtime associated with recovery,” says Dr. Rebecca Tung. Plus, you’re getting the anti-aging benefits of the filler or injectable on top of those of the laser.
Who they are for
You and your surgeon will determine what your specific skin issues are and match to the best skin resurfacing treatment for you. You may be a good candidate for skin resurfacing if you have one or more of the following conditions:
- wrinkled or sun-damaged facial skin including crow’s-feet around the eyes
- skin laxity in your lower eyelid or upper eyelid area
- uneven or blotchy skin pigmentation
- acne or other skin scars
Who they are not for
You may not be a good candidate for skin resurfacing using energy-based treatments like lasers if your skin tone is not suited to it, or if you cannot fit recovery time into your schedule.
Post-Treatment Care: Lasers
It is imperative that you follow the regimen for post-treatment care set out by your laser skin doctor or dermatologist. Since the skin is now fresh and new, the outermost skin layer needs to be tended to properly and carefully. If you don’t follow the protocol set forth, you may compromise your results. Here are some common care instructions:
Use SPF. Sun exposure makes the skin more susceptible to sunburns, damages and long-lasting pigmentation. Use something with an SPF of at least 30 or higher that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
Replenish lost moisture. Some lasers, specifically those that are more ablative, can cause excessive dryness. “But, if the skin is too dry, the vaporized skin won’t shed and you may not get optimal results,” says Dr. Rebecca Tung.
Incorporate a skin brightener, when necessary. Even if you undergo a laser treatment to fight pigmentation problems there’s always the possibility that it can return. If you notice discoloration, talk to your doctor to determine what type of lightener, and which ingredients, are best for you.
Avoid fragranced and chemical-laden products. Following a laser treatment you still need to cleanse and hydrate but what you choose is important. Steer clear of anything that contains harsh chemicals, acids and fragrances, as well as vitamin C, which can cause burns and delay recovery.
- Never undergo laser treatment if you have a tan—whether from the sun or a bottle. The laser light is attracted to pigment in the skin, so if your skin is dark, there’s more of a risk for complications.
- Choose a doctor who has extensive experience using a variety of lasers, so he or she can recommend the one that’s best for you.
- Don’t ask your doctor for a specific laser. Rather, explain what you’d like to address, and let your doctor offer you solutions.
- Since regulations vary from state to state, ask your doctor who will be administering your treatment, and if he or she is permitted to do so under your state’s laws.
- Have realistic expectations. While lasers and other energy-based treatments can be beneficial, they cannot cure all of your beauty concerns.