WHAT IS LASER RESURFACING OF THE SKIN?
Laser resurfacing, also known as laser dermabrasion, is a technique for smoothing fine
wrinkles of the skin. Various types of lasers, made up of energetic beams of focused light,
can be applied to the skin in short pulses to remove irregular contours, discolored areas,
tattoos, or blood vessels.
HOW DO LASERS WORK?
They work by bouncing a beam of light back and forth between optical mirrors and lenses,
amplifying the strength with each cycle. When the beam is powerful enough it is released,
almost as if opening a gate, in a short pulse of energy. This burst of energy causes a
carefully controlled burn. The color and energy of the light depends upon what type of
material is being stimulated. Each laser can be tuned, much like a musical instrument.
Many materials can be used, such as carbon dioxide, ruby crystals, and argon, which is a gas similar to what is used in florescent lights.
I'VE HEARD OF ALL DIFFERENT KINDS OF LASERS WITH FANCY NAMES; WHAT ARE THE VARIOUS TYPES AND WHAT DO THEY DO?
The CO2 laser is used for sun damaged, aging, wrinkled or scarred skin. It may also be
used as a cutting instrument, or on very high power to remove moles and skin cancers. This
is the one that has received so much attention on television and in magazines for reversing
the effects of aging.
The Q switched Nd: YAG laser is used for tattoos and
pigmented lesions, such as moles or freckles.
The flashlamp pulsed dye laser is used for vascular lesions, such as spider veins.
WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES TO LASER TREATMENT?
Chemical peels with glycolic acid, trichloroacetic acid and phenol have been successfully
used for many years to selectively smooth the outer layers of skin. Mechanically sanding
down the skin, known as dermabrasion has been used just as long.
I'VE HEARD THAT LASER TREATMENT IS FAR SUPERIOR AND DOESN'T EVER LEAVE ANY REDNESS OF THE SKIN OR SCARRING. IS THIS TRUE?
The depth of the laser burn is probably more predictable than that of chemical peels or
dermabrasion. The laser strength and exposure time to the skin can be precisely controlled. However, the body s tissue reaction to the laser cannot always be predicted for a particular patient. Erythema, redness or scarring can last from several weeks to a couple of months regardless of the method used. On rare occasions scarring can be permanent.
WHO IS A CANDIDATE FOR LASER TREATMENT?
Anyone who has an irregular area of skin, whether due to contour, wrinkles, color, blood
vessels, or scars, may be a good candidate.
IS LASER A SUBSTITUTE FOR A FACE LIFT OR SURGERY FOR BAGGY EYELIDS?
No. Lasers do firm up the skin and increase skin tone, but they are not capable of
eliminating skin that has lost its elasticity. Once the skin truly sags instead of simply
wrinkles, surgery is required to correct the undesirable cosmetic appearance.
DOES LASER RESURFACING CORRECT WRINKLING IN THE NECK?
Unfortunately, early studies do not show a good result in the neck.
ARE LASERS SAFE?
For the most part lasers are very safe. However, as with any medical procedure there are
risks and benefits. Scarring, pain, lack of permanent results, delayed healing up to several
months, and other risks are uncommon, but possible. Sometimes additional treatment in the
form of surgery may be necessary after laser treatment.
Procedural information copyright American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons.