All About Skin Laser Treatment

Laser skin treatment, also known as laser skin resurfacing, is a procedure that makes use of lasers to improve skin irregularities or remove skin blemishes. This is a good option for people who want to achieve smoother, younger-looking skin. Laser skin treatment is also known as laser vaporization or peel.. In laser skin treatments, the epidermis, or the skin's outer layer, is removed. At the same time, the dermis, which is the layer of the skin underneath the surface, is heated, stimulating the skin cells to produce elastin and collagen fibers. Using lasers for skin treatments results in controlled injury to the damaged skin and promoting wound healing and re-modelling. The healing process creates new skin cells, resulting in a smoother and tighter skin surface.

Laser skin treatment is currently used in the management of a variety of skin problems. Wrinkles, crow's feet and other fine lines on the face respond well to laser skin treatment. You may also benefit from laser skin treatment if you have sun-damaged skin, minor or shallow scars, acne spots or lesions composed of small blood vessels known as telangiectasia. Stretch marks may be diminished, but are usually not completely removed. Laser skin resurfacing is generally not recommended for individuals who have very dark skin and those with active acne problems.

One of the major advantages of laser skin resurfacing is that the treatment can be customized to the patient's needs, targeting specific skin areas and lesions.

Types of lasers used

There are two kinds of lasers used in laser skin treatments. The carbon dioxide or CO2 laser removes skin in thin layers, with minimal damage to the surrounding tissues due to heat. Recovery time typically lasts for about two weeks. On the other hand, the Erbium laser produces even less damage to the adjacent tissues, resulting in fewer complications such as redness and swelling. It is more effective in removing scars, and recovery time is much faster. Between the two, the carbon dioxide laser is more prone to produce scars and hypopigmented areas.

Fractional laser photothermolysis is a newer technique of laser skin resurfacing. With this technique, a fractional laser is used, which delivers small, pinpoint bursts of light to the skin. This allows more precision and less risk, keeping patches of healthy, normal skin in between treated areas.

Laser skin treatments may be used alone to reduce irregularities on the skin, or it may be used in conjunction with other plastic surgical procedures, such as liposuction or facelift, to smoothen and tighten the skin surface.

Who qualifies for laser skin treatments?

If you want to know if laser skin treatments are for you, it is recommended that you first consult your dermatologist or plastic surgeon. It is important that you find a qualified healthcare professional with experience in laser techniques. They can determine whether you are a good candidate for the procedure. They can also discuss with you how the procedure works and help you set realistic goals and manage your expectations concerning the procedure.

Inform your doctor if you have a fever, allergies, sores or blisters, as the treatment can result in eruptions or breakouts in high-risk patients. You may be asked to stop taking certain medications prior to the procedure. Your physician may prescribe a topical retinoid or an oral antibiotic prior to the procedure, to prepare your skin and prevent the development of infection. Smoking should also be stopped for at least two weeks, and sun exposure should be minimized.

Laser skin treatments are outpatient procedures, which means that you can go home on the same day. The procedure can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on which parts of your skin will be treated. A local anesthetic is usually applied before the procedure. If a large area of your skin will be treated, you may have to be sedated during the procedure.

Recovery and after care

After the treatment, you will be taught how to care for your newly treated skin properly. You will have to wash the area several times a day, and an ointment or cream will be applied. This helps prevent the formation of scars on the treated area. You will also have to wear sunblock after the treatment. Erythema or redness and swelling may occur after the procedure. You may have to apply a cold compress on the treated areas and keep your head elevated, especially when sleeping. In some patients, steroid may have to be given to decrease the swelling. These generally resolve within two weeks after the procedure. Make-up can usually be worn after a few days. Ask your dermatologist or plastic surgeon for specific instructions after the treatment.

After the laser skin treatment, you will be asked to follow-up with your doctor. This will allow your physician to regularly evaluate your skin and your progress. You may have to be started on topical medications, such as retinoic acid or hydroquinone after several weeks, in order to promote good wound healing and skin reconditioning.

As with any treatment, complications may arise after laser skin resurfacing. Infections can occur, especially when antibiotics are not used as prescribed. Hypopigmentation, or a lighter color of the treated areas compared to the rest of the skin, may also happen. This is usually related to the depth that the laser can penetrate. Also, since laser skin treatment produces injury to the skin, hypertrophic scars and keloids may form afterwards. This can be avoided by applying special topical medications. If you are prone to keloid, you should inform your doctor prior to the procedure. In general, the incidence of complications after the procedure is very low.

Most patients undergoing laser skin treatments are satisfied with the results. Minimal downtime is experienced, and improvements are significant. It usually takes six months to appreciate the final results of the treatment. In some patients, the procedure may have to be repeated several months after the initial treatment. Laser skin treatment is generally a safe procedure when done by an experienced, qualified health professional.

References:

  • Plastic Surgery Organization. http://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/laser-skin-resurfacing.html
  • American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. https://www.asds.net/LaserResurfacingInformation.aspx
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