Laser skin resurfacing or laser resurfacing is a procedure that uses laser to improve the skin’s appearance and rejuvenate the skin. It can also treat minor facial flaws like wrinkles, fine lines, age spots, uneven skin tone, and texture, sun-damaged and mild to moderate acne scars.
Typically two types of lasers, ablative and non-ablative. An ablative laser is a minimally invasive method that wounds in order to remove the outer layer of skin (epidermis) while heating up the skin beneath (dermis). This stimulates the productions and growth of new collagen fibers.
On the other hand, a non-ablative type is a non-wounding laser that is less invasive and has a shorter recovery period. Without removing the outer layer of epidermis, heat is applied and delivered into the skin to stimulate the production of collagen.
While both can be delivered with a fractional laser which is the delivery of heat through tiny columns knowns as microthermal treatment zone which leaves microscopic columns of untreated tissue throughout the treatment area. This can shorten recovery time and reduce the risk of side effects.
Prior to your laser treatment, you will need to disclose your medical history and medical condition. A physical examination of the skin will be conducted. This will help to determine the area treatment and other physical features such as skin tone and thickness that might affect the results.
Before treatment, you will need to stop smoking and certain medications, herbs, and supplements weeks before. You may also be prescribed some medication such as an antiviral dose if necessary. Do avoid unprotected sun exposure at least up to 2 months prior to the procedure. If you are going to be sedated, it is helpful to arrange a ride home.
To begin, you will be numbed. For more extensive resurfacing, you may require sedation.
During an ablative laser resurfacing, an intense beam of light energy will be directed to your skin. As it destroys the epidermis, it also heats up the skin beneath. This may take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the technique and size of the treatment area.
Similarly for a non-ablative method. Except, the laser being delivered will not wound the epidermis. A series of treatments will usually be required over the course of weeks or months.
After an ablative laser resurfacing, expect the treated skin to be raw, swollen, and itchy. An ointment will be applied over the skin and dressed with an airtight and waterproof cover. You may be given some pain medications to ease the pain. A cool compressor might be helpful.
During recovery, it is best not to use any products that may irritate the area such as makeup and sunscreens. Do avoid activities that can increase the risk of infection such as swimming and avoid direct sun exposure.
Non-ablative treatment recovery is much shorter. You may have some redness, swelling, and discomfort but should resolve quite soon. A cool compressor can also help. Normal activity can be resumed almost immediately.
For ablative laser resurfacing, your skin might remain red for up to several weeks. Once it begins to heal, you will be able to notice a difference in skin appearance. The effect can typically last for years.
For non-ablative laser resurfacing, you may require more than 1 session. Results may be seen immediately which will gradually improve.
Continue to protect your skin from sun exposure. Results while are long-lasting, it is not permanent as the natural aging process will override. New sun damage can also reverse the results.
Possible side effects of Ablative lasers:
– persistent redness, swelling and itching
– acne from ointment/bandages
– infection risk
Possible side effects of Non-ablative lasers:
– changes in skin color
– mild redness and swelling