Laser skin resurfacing helps reduce acne scars, age spots, blemishes, fine lines and wrinkles, and helps tone and tighten skin. But, is it safe? Can anyone get it done? Here are some things you need to know about laser skin treatment if you or someone you know is considering it.
10. Is it Successful?
Yes, depending on a number of factors, including your skin type, the health of your skin, the type of laser used, your doctor’s skill level, and your lifestyle following the treatment. You may not notice much improvement at first as it can take months to see results. But, overall, laser skin resurfacing produces good results with low risks.
Keep in mind that fairer skinned individuals who limit their time in the sun after treatment often have better results than those with darker skin or those who spend a lot of time in the sun. Darker skin may not heal as well after laser skin resurfacing and is prone to discoloration. Those with dark brown or black skin may need to consider alternative solutions, like microneedling or radio-frequency treatments. That’s not to say that laser skin treatments don’t work for darker skinned individuals. To find out your options, consult with a provider who has extensive knowledge and experience working with darker skinned patients. Additionally, check out this article by Allure to find out the best laser treatments for dark skin tones.
9. There are Different Lasers for Different Skin Types and Conditions
First, it’s important to note that there are two main categories of laser skin surfacing devices: ablative and non-ablative. Ablative lasers are more aggressive than non-ablative lasers. They remove layers of skin and are therefore suited for more severe skin conditions. Ablative lasers also produce the most dramatic results. Consequently, they require a difficult recovery process. Non-ablative lasers, on the other hand, leave the skin intact, and therefore produce more moderate results and require little-to-no recovery time. Non-ablative treatments can be done in your doctor’s office, whereas ablative treatments are usually considered outpatient procedures.
Here are some of the different types of lasers that are used:
-Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Lasers: These are ablative lasers used to treat scars, warts, and wrinkles. These lasers are the most common type used for skin resurfacing.
-Erbium Lasers: These can be ablative or non-ablative. They are used to treat age spots, fine lines, skin laxity, and wrinkles.
-Fractional Lasers: These can be ablative or non-ablative. They focus on only a fraction of the skin. Fractional lasers are used to treat age-related blemishes.
-Intense Pulsed Light (IPL): This isn’t really a laser, but it’s often used to treat the same conditions as lasers (e.g. acne, hyperpigmentation, rosacea, and sun damage).
-Pulsed-Dye Lasers: These are non-ablative lasers used to treat broken capillaries, hyperpigmentation, redness, and rosacea.
8. It Does NOT Get Rid of Scars
It can, however, make them less noticeable. It does this by removing the outer layer of the skin, a.k.a. the epidermis. Additionally, laser skin treatment can prevent scars from forming after surgery, reduce scar pain and itching, and increase your range of motion, if, by chance, your scar limits your movement.
Be warned! Scarring can occur from laser skin treatment. Using isotretinoin (a drug used to treat acne) raises the risk of scarring. Make sure you are not using it or have not used it in the last 6 to 12 months if you’re planning to get laser skin treatment.
7. Pain is Optional
You may or may not experience pain during laser skin resurfacing. It really just depends on the laser, the severity of your condition, and your tolerance for pain. Local anesthetic or IV sedation may be required to keep you comfortable when undergoing deep treatments.
As with any procedure, there are risks. These may include:
-bacterial, viral, or fungal infections
-reactivation of herpes cold sores
-changes in pigmentation
Depending on what you get done, healing can take anywhere from 10 to 21 days.
6. Timing is Everything
So, when exactly is the best time to get laser skin resurfacing done? Experts recommend waiting until the fall or winter–when there’s less daylight hours, you’re less likely to bare your skin, and you’re more likely to spend lots of time indoors. That’s because laser-treated skin is sensitive to sun exposure. Still, it’s recommended that you wear sunscreen (broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher with a 7 percent, or higher, zinc oxide content) every day and reapply it as needed to help maintain treatment results and shield yourself from skin cancer and additional premature aging. Also, limit your time in the sun and wear protective clothing, i.e. pants, long sleeves, and a wide-brimmed hats.
5. You’ll Need to Make Some Lifestyle Changes
There are some things you’ll need to stop or start doing prior to undergoing laser skin treatment to help you heal well and prevent scarring during the procedure:
-Avoid the sun
-Quit smoking at least two weeks before AND after treatment. Smoking can delay healing.
-Stop taking medications that can delay healing (e.g. aspirin, ibuprofin, vitamin E).
-Stop using products containing vitamin A and alpha hydroxy acids (e.g. glycolic acid) two to four weeks prior to treatment.
-Take medication to prevent cold sores if you’re prone to getting them. Additionally, you should let your doctor know you’re prone to getting cold sores (fever blister, too) as laser skin resurfacing can trigger outbreaks. That way s/he can prescribe an antiviral medication beforehand to prevent such outbreaks.
To be on the safe side, give your dermatologist or plastic surgeon a list of all the medications and supplements you take, as well as any conditions you may have.
4. You’ll Probably Need to Get it Done More Than Once
If you want dramatic results that last a long time, you might need to get several treatments over the course of a few weeks or months. This is especially true if a non-ablative laser is used. That’s because non-ablative laser treatments do not remove any layers of skin and cause little-to-no pain. Skin treatments using non-ablative lasers typically take anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the technique used and the size of the area being treated.
3. You’ll Need Time to Recover
Even though laser treatment is considered to be a non-surgical procedure, you still may need some recovery time. As we mentioned before, ablative lasers are more aggressive, removing the outer layer of the skin and targeting more severe conditions. As a result, you may need two to three weeks to heal. Since this is the case, you’ll need to make some lifestyle adjustments (e.g. no exercising or swimming) until you’ve completely healed. Again, non-ablative lasers typically don’t require any recovery time.
2. Insurance May Not Cover It
According to statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of laser skin treatment is between $1,110 and $2,200. But, as you probably guessed, laser skin resurfacing is considered a cosmetic treatment, and, therefore, may not be covered by insurance–despite the fact that it helps ease the pain and itching often associated with scars and helps patients move more freely.
There are exceptions to this rule, however. If, for example, the treatment is used to remove precancerous growths, then it’s quite possible that your insurance provider will cover the costs. If all else fails, check with your plastic surgeon. They may offer financing options.
1. Make Sure You Communicate with Your Doctor or Dermatologist
…before AND after your treatment. Never ever (we can’t stress this enough) get any laser treatment without first consulting with a medical professional. A medical consultation is your opportunity to tell the doctor or dermatologist what you hope to achieve from your treatment. It will also help them learn as much about your condition as possible so they can choose the proper device and technique, and let you know what you can expect. As we said earlier, let your doctor or dermatologist know what medications you’re taking as well as any chronic health conditions you have (e.g. diabetes) that may impact your safety and the results of the treatment.
Following the treatment(s), you’ll need to follow up several times with your doctor or dermatologist. S/he will need to track your progress to ensure you’re healing properly.
If you do decide on getting laser skin resurfacing, make sure you choose a cosmetic surgeon that’s certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. Being in the hands of a well-trained, highly skilled medical professional can make all the difference in the world! Thanks for reading, and best of luck to you!