If you’re thinking about laser resurfacing, it’s important to consider all of your options before making a commitment to one particular laser treatment. In general, laser resurfacing treatments fall under one of two categories: ablative lasers and non-ablative lasers. Both ablative and non-ablative resurfacing can give you dramatic improvements, but they do differ significantly in the final results they produce.
Ablative lasers are more invasive, but produce the best clinical results. This is a wounding laser that removes the thin outer layer of skin (epidermis) and heats the underlying skin (dermis), which stimulates the growth of new collagen fibers. As the epidermis heals and regrows, the treated area appears smoother and tighter. Types of ablative treatments include the carbon dioxide (CO2) laser, the erbium laser and combination systems. Ablative lasers are great for treating visible signs of aging and the results generally last for 1 to 5 years. They can also be used to treat acne scarring, pigmentation irregularities and unwanted lesions. It is important to note however, that ablative lasers present a longer recovery and a higher degree of risk than non-ablative lasers. Most patients require 1 to 2 weeks of recovery time.
Fractional Ablative Laser creates a new level in skin resurfacing results. The Icon 2940 Laser treats fine lines, deep wrinkles, skin lesions, as well as surgical and acne scars with more power than non-ablative treatments and comparable results to CO2 laser treatments. The 2940 laser works by delivering micro-fractional laser columns to the skin which results in brand new skin stimulating the bodies natural collagen building response. When compared to traditional carbon dioxide (CO2) laser resurfacing, this laser produced similar results with much less downtime and produced impressive changes in skin texture, removal of wrinkles, dark (sun) spots, and abnormal skin coloration.
With fractional ablative laser treatments you receive the benefits of the powerful skin resurfacing offered with CO2 lasers without removing all of your epidermis. Fractional lasers treat micro columns of skin, allowing your body to recover faster (generally 5-7 days) while still giving significant results with only 1 or 2 treatments. In contrast other ablative procedures like traditional CO2 laser treatments which require significant recovery time – up to 2 weeks of downtime!
Ablative laser treatments are ideal for patients with more significant facial aging, deep or pitted scars, and/or significant and severe pigmentation. This intense procedure can deliver significant damage to the skin. Therefore, only patients experiencing conditions requiring such aggressive measures should consider it. Recovery from an ablative laser treatment may take a few weeks and can be uncomfortable. Anyone considering the treatment should make preparations to manage the recovery period and completely avoid all sun exposure.
Laser surfacing might not be recommended if you:
Some risks associated with ablative lasers include:
For ablative laser treatments, the technician will likely numb the skin with local anesthesia. The treatment typically takes between 30 minutes and 2 hours, depending on the technique used and the size of the area treated. Depending on the strength of the laser treatment, pain medication may be given for recovery.
Recovery times vary dependent upon the type of laser treatment used. Fractional laser treatments generally need 5-7 days of recovery whereas CO2 laser treatments require a significant recovery time of up to 2 weeks.
Upon completion of an ablative laser procedure, you can expect general discomfort, redness, and swelling. Depending on the treatment, some people may have what looks like a severe sunburn. The skin will be raw, oozing and may even blister. A yellow liquid may ooze from treated areas to form a crust. Do not scratch or pick at crusts because this can cause scarring.
You may take a pain reliever and use cool compresses. New skin usually covers the area in one or two weeks. During this time, do not use products that may irritate your face, such as cosmetics and sunscreens and avoid situations that increase your risk of infection, such as swimming.
Non-ablative lasers are far less invasive than ablative laser treatments. Non-ablative lasers are non-wounding lasers that stimulate collagen growth, which over time helps improve skin tone and texture. This approach can be done with various types of lasers as well as intense pulsed light (IPL) devices. Multiple treatments are generally needed to achieve the best results. Because non-ablative treatments are less invasive, there is minimal downtime and the risk of undesirable side effects is greatly reduced.
Non-ablative laser treatments are ideal for individuals with Fitzpatrick skin types I-III, light-to-olive complexions, who are looking to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, soften acne scarring, and improve skin tone. Candidates with Fitzpatrick skin types IV and above, medium to deeper skin tones, should be cautious when considering laser resurfacing. Although non-ablative lasers are not as invasive as ablative lasers, the risks of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and scarring still exist. If considering this procedure, it is essential that you look for an experienced skincare professional with extensive knowledge and a proven track record in treating patients with deeper skin tones. Additionally, it is especially important that all pre- and post-procedure instructions are followed diligently, especially the use of a broad spectrum sunscreen.
Fitzpatrick skin types I-VI
Some risks associated with non-ablative lasers include:
During a non-ablative laser treatment, your skincare professional will gently pass the laser across your skin. The sensation is often described as a rubber band snapping on skin. During ablative laser resurfacing, an intense beam of light energy (laser) is directed at your skin. The laser beam destroys the outer layer of skin (epidermis). At the same time, the laser heats the underlying skin (dermis), which stimulates collagen production over time, resulting in better skin tone and texture.
This procedure can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours depending on the technique used and the size of the area treated. A series of treatments is typically scheduled over the course of weeks or months.
After your procedure, your skin will feel warm, similar to a mild sunburn, for up to 24 hours depending on the treatment. Redness will often resolve within a few days, but can last longer depending on the type of laser used and the area being treated. After non-ablative laser resurfacing, recovery time is minimal. Use cool compresses as needed and you can resume your normal activities and skin care routine immediately.
When used correctly, ablative and non-ablative laser resurfacing are both effective rejuvenation tools for the skin. All laser treatments use energy to penetrate through various layers of the skin to repair the appearance of wrinkles, discolorations, acne scars and other signs of aging. Ablative lasers penetrate deeper making them a great option for treating mild to moderate wrinkles, facial scarring and skin discoloration. Non-ablative lasers are best at improving skin texture and tone.
Non-ablative laser treatments are ideal for individuals with Fitzpatrick skin types I-III, light-to-olive complexions, who are looking to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, soften acne scarring, and improve skin tone.
Candidates with Fitzpatrick skin types IV and above, medium to deeper skin tones, should be cautious when considering laser resurfacing. Although non-ablative lasers are not as invasive as ablative lasers, the risks of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and scarring still exist. If considering this procedure, it is essential that you look for an experienced skincare professional with extensive knowledge and a proven track record in treating patients with deeper skin tones. Additionally, it is especially important that all pre- and post-procedure instructions are followed diligently, especially the use of a broad spectrum sunscreen.
Although this procedure is intense, the results are significant. An ablative laser will result in new skin with results lasting up to five years. The results may also be extended beyond that with ongoing maintenance treatments such as chemical peels and microdermabrasion. It is important to always consult with your doctor about which skin treatment will work best for you.
Laser surfacing might NOT be recommended if you:
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