Laser skin treatment is now one of the most commonly available options for sun damage, facial flushing, lines and wrinkles, spider veins and for a face tightening without surgery.
Lasers can also be used as a powerful skin resurfacing agent where a general facial peel is needed.
The heat from the laser penetrates and destroys the topmost layers of the skin – where surface damage is evident – to trigger a healing response in the tissue below so that new, smoother, and younger looking skin can form.
Why is a laser peel better?
Lasers offered a clear advantage over other methods of skin resurfacing – they can produce targeted beams of light which can be directed at a very small specific area of dermal tissue on the face or body without damaging surrounding tissue.
The heat from the laser destroys the blemish and triggers a healing response speeding repair and raising levels of collagen production.
Mechanical means of skin resurfacing are much more crude – chemical peels and abrasion at the deepest levels burn off surface skin over a wider area. They can help with age spots for instance but will have no effect on spider veins nor can they produce much – if any – skin tightening effect.
The advantages of laser over other resurfacing methods (deep chemical peels and dermabrasion) include greater precision, less bleeding and discomfort and, possibly, shorter recovery time.
Does a laser facial hurt?
Laser skin treatments may be presented as a non invasive approach to skin rejuvenation but it all depends on which type of laser is used.
Lasers vary in strength and are classified according to whether they are non-ablative (top layers of skin remain intact) or ablative (top layer of skin is removed).
Only non-ablative lasers can truly be said to be non invasive since they will involve little or no downtime or discomfort. Ablative lasers are extremely powerful and vaporize the top layer of the skin to the degree that it burns, crusts over and falls off.
Having a laser facial can sometimes be an alarming experience – as the laser is passed over your skin you may hear a zapping sound and smell smoke.
Non ablative lasers may produce pinging sensation against the skin which can be very uncomfortable – ablative lasers cannot be used without very strong anaesthetics.
For small areas using a more gentle non ablative laser – you’ll probably get a local or topical anesthetic and possibly an oral sedative if you are feeling nervous.
If you are having a whole facial peel with an ablative laser then intravenous sedation or a general anesthetic (especially if combined with surgery) is the usual approach.
A laser peel is an invasive anti aging treatment
A laser peel is always done with an ablative laser and involves removal of the top layer of skin. The most often used ablative lasers are either the carbon dioxide (CO2) laser or the erbium:YAG laser.
You may be offered a laser peel for relatively deep wrinkles and skin blemishes. The CO2 laser seems to be better at treating deeper facial lines but the downside is greater discomfort, downtime and recovery.
Laser resurfacing is done on a whole face basis or quite frequently on the skin around the eyes and mouth to treat deeper wrinkles in these areas. It is very common for a laser peel to be done at the same time as a face lift or other procedure to give the best possible result.
A laser peel may sound like an easy option for facial rejuvenation but it isn’t.
It is an invasive technique and you need to find the best aesthetic facial surgeon you can with experience of doing many similar treatments. A heavy handed operator who passes the laser too many times over an area of your face or sets the beam of light too deep can cause damage which may be very long lasting.
Even with the best surgeon – proper after care is important after a full skin peel.
You may have a bandage over the whole area. If not you will have to wash your face and apply a special ointment several times a day. You’ll need to be extremely careful of the sun and wear a high SPF sun block with both UVA and UVB protection every day.
Scabs may form, and last for about 10 days. After that skin redness may persist for several weeks, or longer. The redness gradually lightens to pink, and then to a lighter, more natural color.
Non-ablative lasers target specific skin problems
There are now a huge range of non-ablative lasers available many with the capacity to target specific skin problems without causing damage to dermal tissue. Machines vary in terms of the type of wavelength of light available for selection and how deep the light can penetrate. Much will depend on the person operating the laser.
A skilled operator can use the right laser to treat anywhere from the top layers of skin tissue down to the lower dermis or even the blood vessels beneath the skin – to get rid of spider veins or rosacea for example.
Where skin tightening is the aim – by selecting the right wavelength on an appropriate machine the doctor can target and increase collagen production in specific areas of the face.
Compared to a full laser peel – most non ablative laser treatments for rosacea, spider veins, skin tightening or age spots are relatively pain free and involve very little downtime.
How quickly will you get results from a laser facial?
Generally with most laser skin treatments – results will build over time. It takes time for the body’s healing response to kick in and repair or firm dermal tissue so it is unlikely that one treatment will work alone. For this reason you will need a course of treatments and best results may take 6-12 months to achieve,
Do you need a plastic surgeon for a laser peel?
The short answer is yes. Any invasive anti aging treatment requires an expert professionally qualified physician.
With a laser peel or laser skin tightening procedure what matters above all is how experienced and skilled your surgeon is. It isn’t enough just to choose a qualified dermatologist or plastic surgeon – you need to find one who specializes or has a lot of experience in laser skin treatments of the kind you need.
The choice of equipment available to the doctor doing your treatment matters too and here you need to be careful. Most facial plastic surgeons will spend money on a range of very expensive equipment to perform common procedures. They may not keep up to date with the latest technology or upgrades and the practice may not have the best type of laser for your needs.
All surgeons will be naturally biased in favor of the machinery they are used to using. It’s important for you to do your research and go with an idea of the type of laser treatment you need so you can have a proper informed discussion with the doctor.
Finding a doctor with skill and expertise in laser skin treatments together with the right choice of equipment means that you’ll pay more but the results will be worth it in the end.