The advantages of laser skin treatments far outweigh the disadvantages. Some key benefits of laser treatments are:
- § Safer than cosmetic surgery
- § Cost-effective way to fight the signs of aging
- Effective for most skin tones
- Administered by certified doctors, unlike at-home remedies
- Not as time-intensive as surgery
- Unlike surgery, involves minimal to no recovery time
- § Effective for a wide variety of skin conditions
- § A precise way to treat specific skin problems
One of the downsides to some laser treatments is the potential for spots, discoloration and hyperpigmentation on the skin. The skin contains melanin (the substance responsible for giving pigment or color) and when a laser is used, changes to normal melanin production can ensue. “Basically, the pigment in the skin competes with the laser, which can’t recognize the difference and picks up the pigment in the skin, causing burns or discoloration,” says Washington, D.C., dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, MD. If a laser is done and there’s an increase in melanin, hyperpigmentation (temporary dark or red spots) will transpire. If there’s a decrease in melanin, often caused by a burn, hypo-pigmentation (long-lasting white or light spots) can occur. Although these complications are less frequent with the newer generation of lasers, before undergoing any type of laser, it’s best for your doctor to “spot test” your skin to determine how you will respond.
All lasers carry the risk of burning the skin—sometimes seriously – or scarring and persistent redness. Lasers can cause hypopigmentation, a whitening of the skin; or hyperpigmentation, the creation of irregular dark pigment. The use of an ablative laser alone doesn’t lead to a risk of infection, but the removal of top layers of skin invites the potential for infection. Patients prone to cold sores like herpes virus infections could experience an outbreak following any laser treatment. A prescription like Valtrex can lessen those chances if taken before your treatment.
Ablative lasers have additional considerations, many similar to those of surgery. You may be restricted from taking certain medications, herbs and vitamins that inhibit healing and advised to stop smoking. In addition, whether ablative resurfacing is your only treatment or it is part of a surgical rejuvenation; your doctor may request medical clearance from a primary care physician to be certain you have no underlying health conditions that could be compromised by anesthesia.
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