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.

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