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Laser Skin Treatment

Written By: Dr Kristie McNealy                              Reviewed:17 August 2010

 Laser skin treatments are one of the most popular anti-aging cosmetic surgery procedures. Lasers can be used effectively to treat skin problems such as uneven skin tone or pigmentation, scars and blemishes, as well as reduce or remove lines and wrinkles.

How doe laser treatment work?

Laser treatments work in the much the same way as chemical skin peels and microdermabrasion, by removing surface layers of skin and exposing fresh new skin underneath. The difference is in the manner in which the skin is removed. Lasers use light to target and remove both superficial and deep layers of the skin. Various lasers are used to target different depths and skin problems.

Treatment can be focussed to small areas such as around the eyes and mouth or applied to larger areas on the face. Generally, the wrinkles resulting from aging respond better than those resulting from facial movement like smiling, frowning or squinting. Laser skin treatments may be combined with other cosmetic procedures such as a facelift in order to maximise results.

The primary advantage of laser treatment is in reducing some of the side effects associated with other resurfacing techniques including pain, bruising, bleeding. This can lead to faster recover times.

Types of laser skin treatments

While there are a number of varieties in both the equipment and techniques there are two broad categories, ablative and non ablative lasers.

Ablative lasers

During ablative laser treatment the surface layers of skin are vaporised by a controlled laser beam and fresh new skin is exposed. The most commonly used ablative laser is the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) which is effective for deep wrinkles. The down side is that the recovery time is longer (two weeks) and there is a greater risk of complications or adverse effects.

Erbium lasers are used to remove fine lines and moderate wrinkles. The advantage of erbium lasers are reduced burning of the surrounding tissue, reduced swelling and bruising and faster recover times (about one week).  The two are sometimes combined into one treatment to target different areas of the face.

Both erbium and CO2 laser treatments are same day procedures performed under local anaesthetic along with sedation. Treatment usually takes around 1-2 hours.

Non ablative lasers

Non ablative lasers pass through the surface skin and work by stimulating collagen growth and improving the skins texture and tone. Normally a series of treatments is required compared to one treatment with an ablative laser.  Treatment usually takes around 20 minutes and patients can return to normal activity immediately following treatment.

Is a laser skin treatment right for me?

Ideal candidates for laser treatment are young to middle aged men and women with fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes, lines or creases on the brow or mouth or those with scars from acne.

Treatment is not appropriate for those with active acne. Risks are greater for people with darker skin and your doctor or surgeon may suggest alternative treatments.

How long will results last?

Results from laser resurfacing can last from between 12 months and 5 years. It’s important to realize that different people will have very different results. This can be due to the skill of the surgeon, the technique used and the patient’s own skin condition. For some people the effects can be dramatic while for a small minority there may be very little improvement.

What are the risks of laser skin treatment?

Laser resurfacing is considered a safe and effective procedure. When treatments are performed by an experienced surgeon side effects are relatively infrequent.

Temporary side effects include; bleeding, weeping and oozing during healing, redness, scabs forming during healing.

Other side effects or complications are very rare but can include; infection, loss of skin pigment, and scarring.

The greatest risk associated with laser treatment is temporary hyperpigmentation in the short term and loss of pigmentation in the long term. These risks are much greater for people with darker skin tones and your doctor may suggest alternative treatment. Risks with erbium lasers are reduced.










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