Laser resurfacing is a treatment for reducing facial wrinkles as well as skin irregularities such as blemishes or acne scars.
This technique can help to decrease the appearance of fine lines on your face. It is able to treat loss of skin tone as well as improve complexion if you are having scars or sun damage. This procedure is also termed as lasabrasion, laser peel or laser vaporization.
Laser resurfacing can be used for treating:
- Fine wrinkles
- Age spots
- Mild to moderate acne scars
- Uneven skin tone or texture
- Sun-damaged skin
If you have acne or if your skin is too dark, then you might not be a candidate for this procedure. This technique is also not recommended for stretch marks. You can discuss with your doctor whether this procedure is right for you with your doctor before you choose to undergo it.
Before you undergo laser resurfacing, your doctor will ask about your medical history. You will need to answer questions about any current and past medical conditions as well as any medications that you take or have taken recently. You will also need to inform about any cosmetic procedures that you have had in the past.
Your doctor will next inspect your skin and the area where the treatment will be performed. This will help your doctor determine what changes can be made and how your physical features, might affect the results.
It is important to discuss with your doctor about your expectations and potential risks. Make sure you understand how long it will require for you to heal and what your results might be.
Before the procedure, you might need to take a few medications to prevent complications. You will also need to avoid unprotected exposure to the sun. If you smoke, you will need to stop smoking at least two weeks after the treatment. You will also need to arrange for someone to take you home.
Laser resurfacing is generally done by a plastic surgeon or a dermatologist. It is performed as an outpatient procedure, which means you will not need to stay overnight after the procedure.
Your doctor might choose to treat your entire face or the wrinkles around your eyes, forehead or mouth individually. For small areas, a local anesthetic will be used for numbing the area.
If the method is used for the procedure is ablative laser resurfacing, then an intense beam of light energy is directed at your skin. This beam destroys the outer layer of the skin. At the same time, the laser heals the underlying skin, which is known to stimulate collagen production over time, which results in better skin tone and texture. Ablative laser resurfacing can generally take between 30 minutes and two hours.
If you undergo nonablative laser treatment, it will consist of a series of treatments that will be scheduled over the course of a few weeks or months.
After the procedure
After the procedure, the treated skin will be raw, swollen and itchy. Your doctor will be applying a thick ointment to the treated skin and may also need to cover the area with an airtight and watertight dressing. You might also require a pain reliever and use cool compresses.
In around a week or two, new skin will cover the area. During this time, avoid using any products such as sunscreens or cosmetics that can cause irritation in your face. Also avoid activities like swimming that can increase your risks of infections.
After laser resurfacing for around one year, it is recommended to avoid too much exposure to the sun. Also, keep in mind that your results might not be permanent. As you continue to age, you will continue to get lines by smiling or squinting.
Ablative laser resurfacing can lead to various side effects, some of them including:
Redness, swelling and itching- The skin which is treated may become itchy, swollen and red. Redness can be intense and might even last for several months. The aggravation of an existing skin condition such as rosacea, can sometimes contribute to redness.
Infection- In a few cases, ablative laser resurfacing can lead to bacterial, fungal or viral infections. The most common infection is a flare-up of the herpes virus.
Acne- If you apply thick creams and bandages to your face after treatment, it can sometimes worsen acne or even cause you to temporarily develop tiny white bumps termed as milia, on the treated skin.
Scarring- Ablative laser resurfacing also poses a slight risk of permanent scarring.
Turning of the eyelid- Although this is rare, ablative laser resurfacing done near the lower eyelid can cause the eyelid to turn out and expose the inner surface.
Changes in skin color- Ablative laser resurfacing may even cause your treated skin to become darker than it was before the treatment or in some cases, lighter. This happens usually a few weeks after laser resurfacing. Permanent changes in skin color are generally more common among people having darker skin.
Nonablative laser resurfacing also sometimes lead to side effects, such as:
- Infection- Nonablative laser resurfacing can also cause a flare-up of the herpes virus.
- Mild swelling and redness- You might also experience swelling and redness typically last only hours or days.
- Changes in skin color- Nonablative laser resurfacing can cause your treated skin to become darker than it was before treatment, though this should be temporary
It is also noteworthy that laser resurfacing is not for everyone. You might not be a candidate for this procedure if you:
- Are suffering from an autoimmune disease or a weak immune system
- Have a tendency to form scars
- Are prone to cold sores
- Have had a recent outbreak of cold sores or the herpes virus
- Have a darker skin tone
- Have had radiation therapy to the face
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding