Plastic surgeons have used resurfacing lasers for years to combat wrinkles, fine lines, sun damage, age spots and other skin conditions. With so many options available it’s hard to decide which method is best for you. You should focus on your skin goals instead of brand names.

The time of the year plays an important factor when it comes to having a laser procedure. When your skin is laser-treated it becomes hypersensitive to sun exposure. You should consider having your treatment done during the fall or winter months. It is important to apply sunscreen daily to protect your skin after a laser procedure and prevent premature aging. It is a misconception that laser treatments are only safe for lighter skin. There are some lasers on the market that do pose a higher risk for cell damage in darker skin. However, there are safe resurfacing methods for Hispanic, African American, or Asian skin tones.

Radio-frequency or micro needling options may offer a lower risk of discoloration. Your cosmetic surgeon will discuss with you an effective treatment that is safe for your skin type.

Different Lasers For Different Skin Types

Not one particular laser is effective at treating all skin types. CO2 lasers are mainly used to treat warts, wrinkles, scars and deep skin flaws. Erbium lasers help to promote collagen and are effective for treating skin laxity, age spots, and fine lines. Pulsed-Dye lasers are used to heat the skin and absorb pigments that can cause broken capillaries, reduce redness, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation. Intense pulsed light (IPL) lasers can reduce the appearance of sun damage, hyperpigmentation, rosacea, and acne. You can purchase a handheld IPL laser for treating your skin at home.

Ablative Vs. Non-Ablative Laser Treatments

Some examples of ablative lasers are the Erbium YAG and CO2 laser. A ablative laser treatment usually provides the best clinical results. Ablative lasers vaporize the outer layers of your skin causing it to increase collagen production. They work well to treat acne scars, visible signs of aging and unwanted lesions. Results can last for up to five years. An ablative laser procedure may require a local anesthetic to keep you comfortable. It is ideal for patients who are showing significant signs of aging, have deep facial scars, want fast results, can take time off for recovery.

Non-ablative laser treatments pass through the skin without removing its layers. They are non-invasive, do not require an anesthetic, and cause little to no pain. Examples of non-ablative lasers are pulsed-dye lasers and IPL lasers. They heat up the damaged tissue without having to destroy skin cells. In turn, it stimulates your body’s natural collagen production and can fill in wrinkles. This procedure is ideal for those looking to improve the appearance of mild wrinkles. Due to their non-invasive nature, non-ablative laser procedures require multiple treatments.

It is the best choice for individuals are relatively young, have mild signs of aging, have minimal sagging skin, can undergo multiple treatments, require no downtime. Depending on your skin condition, both ablative and non-ablative laser treatments can provide dramatic results.

Side Effects

Give your cosmetic surgeon a complete medical history and list of medications you take. Certain medications can affect the results of your laser treatment. Some acne medications can disrupt the healing process and create unfavorable results. Over-the-counter medications can thin the blood and increase the risk of bleeding. If you are a smoker, this can also create complications with healing. Ablative laser treatments require at least one to two weeks of downtime. Some potential risks are swelling or redness, scarring, skin discoloration, and infection. It is normal to experience crusting or oozing of the skin after an ablative laser procedure. You feel uncomfortable in social situations until you have completely recovered.

During recovery, you should avoid sun exposure, gym workouts, and swimming. Some side effects of non-ablative laser treatments are mild redness, skin discoloration, blisters, or infection. Patients experience little to no downtime and can resume their daily activities immediately.

If you believe a laser procedure is right for you, it is important you contact a board-certified plastic surgeon. Laser treatments handled by poorly trained individuals can be dangerous and ineffective. Your results are dependent on the surgeon’s training, qualifications, and experience. Dr. Joseph Rucker has extensive training in skin resurfacing treatments. He will be able to recommend either an ablative or non-ablative treatment based on your skin type. Dr. Rucker is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgeons and specializes in minimally invasive aesthetics.

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