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Laser Resurfacing

Laser stands for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Lasers function by producing an intense beam of light, which travels in one direction. The beam can vaporize or ablate (to remove) skin tissue to improve wrinkles, scars, and blemishes, seal blood vessels or cut skin tissue.

Laser light has the unique ability to produce one specific color (wavelength) of light, which can be variable in both intensity and duration. The newest laser systems have become remarkably precise and selective, allowing treatment results and safety levels that have been previously available.

What is Laser Resurfacing?

Laser resurfacing is a scientific procedure that improves cosmetic flaws such as wrinkles, sun damaged skin and acne scars.  The laser resurfacing surgical procedure is performed by using a wand-like hand piece to remove undesired skin cells from the body. 

What are the benefits of Laser Resurfacing?

The benefits of laser resurfacing over traditional techniques for skin resurfacing may be numerous.  Laser resurfacing is relatively bloodless and offers more control of the depth of skin penetration allowing for a greater degree of precision and safety when treating delicate regions of the body.

Who are the most ideal candidates for Laser Resurfacing?

Individuals who have fine lines or wrinkles around the eyes, mouth or on the forehead, scars from acne or chicken pox and non-responsive skin post facelift treatments are good candidates for laser resurfacing. Individuals who have active acne or very dark skin may not be good candidates. Additionally, laser resurfacing is not recommended for the correction of stretch marks due to pregnancy.

Who is qualified to perform Laser Resurfacing treatments?

Board certified cosmetic surgeons and skin care professionals have extensive experience in the performance of laser surgery and have been among the first specialists to use lasers for skin renewal and skin disorders. Patients must be sure to select a professional cosmetic skin care expert with a demonstrated history of laser expertise.

What conditions does Laser Resurfacing treat?

Laser resurfacing is performed to correct:

  • Fine lines and wrinkles of the face
  • Loose or wrinkled eyelid skin
  • Crow’s feet around the eyes
  • Wrinkles and lines of the face and mouth areas
  • Uneven skin color such as brown spots and sun damage
  • Scars
  • Overall skin tone and texture

How does the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Laser work?

The CO2 laser delivers short bursts of extremely high energy light. This technology literally vaporizes undesired skin tissue layer by layer revealing fresh skin tissue underneath.

How does the Erbium (Er) Laser work?

The high powered erbium:YAG laser produces energy in a wavelength that penetrates the skin, is readily absorbed by water (the main component of tissue cells) and scatters the heat effects of the laser light. This technology allows cosmetic surgeons to precisely remove skin with tissue without damaging the surrounding skin areas.

The Er:YAG laser is commonly used for skin resurfacing in patients who have superficial to moderate facial wrinkling, mild scars or minor skin discolorations. Laser resurfacing with the ER:YAG may offer a reduction in redness, decreased side effects and a more rapid healing time that that of other laser systems.

How do Non-Ablative Lasers work?

It is typical for most laser resurfacing technologies to heat and remove the top skin layer (epidermis) while non-ablative or non-wounding lasers work beneath the surface of the epidermis. This approach stimulates collagen (fibrous tissue) growth and tightens the underlying skin layer (dermis) to improve skin tone and remove fine lines and mild to moderate skin damage. There are few side effects and a rapid healing time with these types of laser systems.

What can be expected during and after treatment?

During the procedure minor discomfort can be expected and the physician may discuss the administration of a pain medication prior to the actual treatment. Following the procedure the treated areas will be covered with ointment and wrapped in surgical bandages.

The skin is typically red or pink and may be covered with a fine crust of sloughing skin cells. Sun-block should be used liberally and protective clothing must also be worn. Make-up can typically be worn after 7 to 14 days.

What are the side effects or complications of Laser Resurfacing?

Side effects and complications stemming from undergoing laser resurfacing procedures are rare and the risk of scarring is low. Some patients may be at risk for varying degrees of pigmentation loss, especially with the CO2 laser. Common side effects include crusting, mild swelling, redness or brown discoloration at the treatment sites.

What are the limitations of Laser Resurfacing?

Laser resurfacing is not a substitute for a facelift procedure nor can the procedure eliminate excessive skin or jowls. Laser resurfacing does offer a tightening to loose skin and can improve folds and creases.

Laser resurfacing is an alternative to traditional methods of resurfacing such as dermabrasion and can be used in conjunction with other cosmetic procedures such as chemical peels, blepharoplasty (eye lid surgery) and liposuction.

What types of preparations may be required prior to Laser Resurfacing?

Prior to scheduling laser resurfacing a patient should meet with the practicing physician to discuss the factors that determine whether this procedure is likely to produce the desired results. During the meeting the following information will typically be discussed: 

  • Medical history
  • A physical examination to inspect the skin
  • Preoperative photographs to chart the before and after effects of the procedure
  • Discuss the expectations of the patient after the laser resurfacing procedure

The patient may also want to avoid medications containing aspirin or ibuprofen for several days before and after the surgery. These medications thin the blood which may lead to an increase in bleeding.

Avoid sun exposure for two months prior to the surgery and six months following the surgery. Avoid applying makeup or facial cream the morning of the surgery.  Other guidelines and recovery tips should be thoroughly discussed with a health care professional.

What is the cost of Laser Resurfacing?

The cost of laser resurfacing varies by location, the skill of the cosmetic surgeon and the exact procedure and treatment areas. Typically, laser resurfacing procedures cost $1500-$2500.

Disclaimer: This information is intended only as an introduction to this procedure. This information should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor does it guarantee results of your elective surgery. Further details regarding surgical standards and procedures should be discussed with your physician.

By Staff
Updated: November 27, 2008

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