Laser skin resurfacing, which is also known as a laser peel, laser vaporization and lasabrasion, can reduce facial wrinkles, scars and blemishes. Newer laser technologies give your provider a new level of control in laser surfacing, permitting extreme precision, especially in delicate areas.
Laser Resurfacing Types
Ablative Laser Resurfacing
Ablative laser treatments, which penetrate more deeply, actually cause a wound, since they remove a layer of skin. Since ablative resurfacing actually vaporizes a layer of the skin, it provides more dramatic results and requires fewer sessions, but also requires a longer period of healing.
Non-ablative treatments do not burn away skin tissue, but use laser energy to stimulate collagen growth and tighten underlying skin. Non-ablative resurfacing is gentler than ablative and requires less downtime, but may necessitate more treatment sessions and may yield less dramatic results.
In general, non-ablative laser treatments are used when the repair needed is less extensive. Also, non-ablative treatments are recommended for people of color for whom ablative resurfacing may be more likely to cause unsightly changes in pigmentation.
Laser Resurfacing Risks
Although laser skin treatment is considered safe for most patients and is typically performed with no long-term complications, there are certain risks associated with any type of medical procedure. While considered rare, risks may include:
- Pigmentation changes
- Milia, tiny white bumps on the skin
Recovery from Laser Resurfacing
Recovery from laser resurfacing procedures varies according to the particular procedure undergone and the individual patient’s skin type. In all cases, however, patients who have undergone these treatments should avoid sun exposure wherever possible.
Recovery from Non-Ablative Laser Resurfacing
After treatment, patients may experience redness and peeling at the treated site as the skin heals. The duration of these side effects varies, but is commonly several days. Ice packs may ease discomfort and improve appearance. Normal activities can be resumed during healing, and makeup may be applied to camouflage any unwanted, evidence of treatment.
Recovery from Ablative Laser Resurfacing
After ablative laser resurfacing, the treated skin will temporarily be raw, swollen and itchy and the yellowish liquid that oozes from treated areas may form crusts. After treatment, a thick ointment, such as petroleum jelly, and a watertight dressing will be applied to the affected area. If treatment has been performed on the face, the patient may be instructed to keep the head elevated during the night. Ice packs and over-the-counter pain relievers may be recommended for symptom relief. To help avoid scarring, patients are instructed not to pick at crusts or pieces of skin. Visible healing may take a week or two.
While recovering from ablative laser resurfacing, patients are instructed to avoid strenuous activities and to clean the treated area regularly with water, saline or dilute acetic acid in order to assist in debriding the site. Some patients may prefer to remain at home until healing is well underway. Once new skin covers the treated area, cosmetics may be applied to conceal any residual redness which may persist for a few months. When healing is complete, the skin’s appearance will be dramatically improved in tone, texture and tightness.