Laser resurfacing is a treatment to reduce wrinkles and skin irregularities on the face, such as blemishes or acne scars.
The technique involves the use of short, concentrated beams of light on the skin irregularities, eliminating them layer by layer.
Who is a good candidate for laser resurfacing?
If you have fine lines or wrinkles:
- around the eyes
- acne scars
- non-responsive skin after a facelift
When is laser resurfacing not indicated?
If you have acne or very dark skin, laser resurfacing may not be the right treatment.
This technique is not recommended for stretch marks. Nevertheless, you should consult your doctor to determine whether you are an ideal candidate.
How does laser resurfacing work? The two types of lasers most commonly used in laser resurfacing are:
- the carbon dioxide (CO2) laser
- the Erbium laser
Each laser vaporises the damaged skin cells on the surface, layer by layer.
CO2 laser resurfacing
This method has been used for years to treat various skin conditions, including wrinkles, scars, warts, etc.
The latest version of CO2 laser resurfacing (fractionated CO2) uses pulsed light energy with very short light beams or continuous light beams that are emitted to remove thin layers of skin with minimal thermal damage. Recovery from this treatment takes up to 2 weeks.
Erbium laser resurfacing
Erbium laser resurfacing is designed to remove surface level and shallow marks and wrinkles on the face, hands, neck or chest.
The general effect obtained is that of skin rejuvenation. Erbium laser resurfacing has less risk of burning the surrounding tissue.
This laser has a more delicate action than the CO2 laser, therefore it has fewer side effects, such as swelling, bruising, and redness, thus providing a faster recovery time.
In some cases, recovery may only take 1 week.
If you have a darker skin tone, Erbium laser resurfacing may be better for you.
The 2 lasers can also be combined to achieve an end result similar to surgical lifting.
Choosing a doctor for laser resurfacing
Consulting a plastic surgeon or dermatologist is the first step.
The most important thing at this stage is the choice of the doctor, who must be accredited and experienced in laser skin resurfacing. The doctor will determine which laser treatment is the most suitable, after examining the medical history, general health status and desired results of each individual patient.
The choice of laser and especially the suitability for treatment changes from person to person.
You should inform your doctor if you get cold sores. You should also inform your doctor if you have a history of allergies or intolerances in general; if you are taking medication, the pill, and if you are suffering from any kind of illness. Your doctor will ask you to avoid taking medicines or supplements that may affect clotting, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or vitamin E, for 10 days before surgery.
If you smoke, you should stop for 2 weeks before and after the procedure. Smoking can slow down healing.
Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to prevent bacterial infections and also an antiviral medication if you are prone to cold sores.
What to expect from laser resurfacing
Discussing your expectations with your doctor is the basis for successful treatment. Expectations must be realistic and therefore you should know before you undergo laser resurfacing what results you can expect.
Where is the treatment carried out?
In general, laser resurfacing is an outpatient procedure or can be carried out in an accredited medical centre.
Is anaesthetic required for laser resurfacing?
The doctor can treat individual wrinkles around the eyes, mouth, or forehead or treat the entire face.
For small areas, the doctor numbs the areas to be treated with a local anaesthetic. Only in the case of laser resurfacing of the entire face will sedation and general anaesthesia be used.
How long does a treatment take?
If you are treating only a few areas, the treatment takes between 30 and 45 minutes. A full face treatment takes up to 2 hours.
What happens during laser resurfacing treatment?
Laser skin resurfacing works by using a beam of laser energy to vaporise the upper layers of the damaged skin at specific levels, calibrated according to the depth it must reach in order to facilitate the removal of damaged skin in layers.
What happens after laser resurfacing treatment?
After laser resurfacing treatment, the doctor will bandage the treated area. After 24 hours after treatment, you will need to clean the area at least 4 or 5 times a day.
You will need to apply an ointment, such as Vaseline, to prevent scabs from forming. In general, the treated areas will heal within 10 to 20 days, depending on the size of the areas.
It is normal for the treated area to swell after laser skin resurfacing.
Your doctor may prescribe steroids to manage the swelling around the eyes.
It is recommended to sleep with an extra pillow to keep your head in a position that reduces the risk of swelling.
Applying an ice pack on the treated area will also help to reduce swelling in the first 24 to 48 hours after laser resurfacing.
You may feel itching or stinging for 12 to 72 hours after the procedure.
After 5 to 7 days the skin becomes dry and peels.
How to treat your skin
Use sun protection. Skin may look delicate. It is important to use a "broad spectrum" sun cream (which screens ultraviolet B and ultraviolet A rays) to protect the skin. The sunscreen should be specific for dermatological use on the face, it should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Sun exposure should be limited as much as possible, in particular between 10am and 2pm. You should also wear a wide-brimmed hat to help protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays.
It is also important to keep the skin well hydrated.
Make-up. Once the treated areas are healed, you can start wearing make-up again. To hide the redness, we recommend using a concealer with green tones, which is particularly suitable as it neutralises the red colour.
Oil-free make-up is also advised after laser resurfacing.
The redness generally fades in 2 to 3 months. Redness generally lasts longer in people with fair skin.
What are the risks and limitations of laser skin resurfacing?
Laser resurfacing helps to improve the appearance of the skin. Potential risks of the procedure include:
- burns or other injuries from the laser's heat
- changes in the skin's pigmentation, including areas of darker or lighter skin
- reactivating cold sores
- bacterial Infections
For laser resurfacing, it is advisable to consult an experienced doctor if you want a professional guarantee and above all to have a complete answer to all your questions, including taking into account your expectations.