Laser skin resurfacing lets you take years off your appearance, and without undergoing surgery.
The procedure is less invasive and less expensive than surgical options and has a shorter recovery time.
Laser skin resurfacing reduces the appearance of wrinkles, removes sunspots and acne scars, and can help stimulate the growth of new collagen.
Although recovery time is quicker following a laser resurfacing procedure, you do still need to take care of your skin and follow your doctor’s instructions for the best results.
Right After the Procedure
If you decide to undergo an ablative laser resurfacing procedure, such as CO2 laser resurfacing, the beam destroys the top layer of your skin while encouraging a more rapid production of new skin cells. Nonablative resurfacing doesn’t damage the epidermis. Instead, it reaches below the skin, damaging the collagen and encouraging the production of new collagen.
Right after the resurfacing procedure, the skin on your face may hurt or itch. You might also experience some swelling. Pinkness or redness is common. You might look as though you have a mild or severe sunburn, depending on how your skin reacts. How long your skin stays red depends on the procedure you choose.
Typically, a surgeon will put a dressing or ointment over the skin right after the resurfacing treatment. You might be able to use ice packs to reduce swelling and take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. After an ablative resurfacing procedure, the treated areas of your skin might release a yellow fluid which will dry out and form a crust. You can reduce your risk of scarring by resisting the urge to scratch.
Cleaning the Skin
Your skin will stay raw for a few weeks after an ablative procedure but should heal very quickly after a non-ablative treatment. While you can typically go back to using your standard cleanser right away after a non-ablative procedure, you need to be more cautious after an ablative treatment.
Usually, a surgeon will recommend that you cleanse your face using a saline solution or a mixture of vinegar and water several times a day. The saline or vinegar will keep the skin from drying out and will help remove dirt and dead skin cells. Along with cleansing the skin, a doctor will also usually recommend that you use a moisturizer or ointment on the treated area, such as Aquaphor or Vaseline.
Infections can be a concern after laser skin resurfacing. To lower the risk of a bacterial infection, a surgeon might prescribe an antibiotic before the treatment. Patients who have suffered from cold sores in the past might wish to start an antiviral treatment before the resurfacing procedure and to continue it afterwards. Laser resurfacing can awaken the herpes virus in the body, especially if the treatment is around the lips and mouth.
Protecting your skin from the sun becomes especially critical after laser skin resurfacing. The skin is much more sensitive to sun exposure after treatment. If you don’t protect your skin from the sun, it can become damaged again or develop dark spots.
Typically, you can begin to use sunblock after the skin heals and your surgeon will give you the go-ahead to start using it. Before it heals, you’ll want to avoid any sun exposure.
Some sunscreens are better than others. You want a total sunscreen, which blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Look for one with active ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide and an SPF of at least 30.
It’s not enough to simply apply the sunscreen once a day, as it does wear off. Reapply every two hours or so. Wear sunglasses with UV protection to shield the area around your eyes from the sun. A hat can also offer additional sun protection. For best results, avoid going outside or traveling during the hours when the sun is at its most intense, usually between 10 am and 4 pm.
Other Anti-Aging Treatments
If you were using a topical anti-aging treatment before you underwent laser skin resurfacing, you should hold off on using it again right after the procedure. How long you should wait to resume using creams with tretinoin or glycolic acid varies from patient to patient. The general recommendation is to wait at least six weeks, or until your doctor gives you the all-clear.
Your skin can remain red or pink for up to a year after the procedure, depending on your skin tone. Fairer-skinned people with red or blond hair usually have prolonged redness. After your skin has sufficiently healed, you can begin to use makeup to conceal the pinkness. Choose an oil-free foundation or concealer for best results. A green-tinted concealer works best to help cover up shades of red.
Dr. Jessica Kulak specializes in treating the aging face. To learn more about laser skin resurfacing treatments offered at the Naderi Center and ways to care for your skin post-treatment, call the office at (301) 222-2020.