It might sound as though it comes from the future, but laser skin resurfacing is one effective way to treat the signs of aging on your face now. Laser treatments help smooth wrinkles and fine lines and improve your skin’s production of collagen, which begins to drop off as you get older. Not all laser treatments are the same. They differ in terms of recovery time and the specific skin concerns they treat. Some patients are better suited for one type of laser treatment than others.
Types of Laser
Dr. Jessica Kulak at the Naderi Center in Virginia and Maryland offers several types of laser skin resurfacing treatment. One type is carbon dioxide (CO2) laser resurfacing. Fraxel, or fractionated CO2 laser is the type most commonly offered, as it provides greater precision and a shorter recovery time. Fractionated lasers treat just fractions of the skin, while a traditional CO2 laser treats a larger area. Since a Fraxel treatment leaves areas of the skin untouched, the recovery time is shorter.
Although it might seem counterintuitive, CO2 lasers and Fraxel restore the skin’s appearance by destroying the top layer of the dermis. After the top layer is destroyed, new, refreshed skin cells grow.
Another laser skin resurfacing option is the Erbium laser. Although the Erbium laser also destroys the top layer of skin during treatment, the recovery time is typically shorter, as the treatment itself is not as deep as a CO2 laser. The laser is also suitable for a wider range of skin types than CO2 lasers.
Not every type of laser is suitable for every type of skin. In the past, patients with darker skin were steered away from laser treatment with CO2 lasers. Traditional laser skin resurfacing often causes the treated skin to become lighter in color, leading to areas of discoloration when a person has darker skin.
While laser skin resurfacing can be used to remove scars left from acne, it’s not recommended for patients who currently have acne. If adult acne is a problem for you, discuss your concerns with a plastic surgeon. He or she will typically recommend a skin care routine or other treatment to clear up the blemishes.
Duration of Treatment
The different types of lasers vary in how long each treatment lasts and how many treatments are required to get the desired results. Compared to full surgery, laser treatments are minimally invasive and are typically performed on an outpatient basis.
Erbium laser treatments are typically performed using local anesthesia. Some patients receive a sedative to help them relax during the treatment. The length of the treatment depends on the size of the area the patient is having treated. Erbium laser resurfacing of the area around the eyes or mouth can be completed in 30 minutes, for example. Treatment of the full face can take as long as two hours.
Fraxel laser treatments also typically involve the use of a local or topical anesthetic and a sedative. The treatment can take up to an hour, depending on the size of the area being treated. A traditional CO2 laser treatment takes the longest and, because it is the deepest, typically requires the use of a stronger sedative. Some patients receive general anesthesia while others receive twilight sedation, during which a patient is conscious but doesn’t feel anything. Depending on the results a patient hopes for, multiple treatments of any type of laser might be needed.
Another way each type of laser skin resurfacing treatment varies is in the length of recovery. Traditional CO2 laser treatments have the longest recovery, with patients needing about two weeks to get back on their feet. The deeper the treatment, the longer the recovery, and some patients might need about a month.
Fraxel and Erbium laser treatments typically allow you to get back to your daily life within about a week. In some cases, you might be back to work in a shorter amount of time. Your skin will most likely be pink or red for some time after the treatment, but you can usually conceal the discoloration with makeup. The full results from a Fraxel treatment can appear in just a few weeks, but might need up to three months to be completely visible.
Dr. Jessica Kulak, an aging face specialist at the Naderi Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland and in Northern Virginia, can help you choose the laser skin resurfacing treatment that will work best on your skin. For more information on laser skin resurfacing and your options, call her office for an appointment today. Call (703) 481-0002 in Virginia or (301) 222-2020 in Maryland.