What is Laser Resurfacing?
If you’ve noticed sun damage on your face, fine lines around your lips, or acne scars on your cheeks that bother you, then laser skin resurfacing might be of interest to you. Although there are a number of categories of lasers, most patients can be safely treated with a fractional ablative laser. This is a kindler, gentler approach than the old “fully-ablative” laser treatments, yet it’s still very effective.
The basic idea behind fractional laser resurfacing is to make a “polka-dot” pattern of laser dots on the skin, leaving untreated skin in-between to jump-start the healing process. Since only a fraction of the skin is treated, healing is more rapid, recovery is quicker and easier, and complications are less than with the older methods. Useful lasers include the CO2, the erbium and the YSGG powered fractional ablative lasers, and all 3 types can be effective. We usually use the CO2 machine, as there is significantly less bleeding during treatment.
Treatments can be tailored to the patient’s needs: light treatments can have a short recovery time, deeper treatments are more effective, but have a longer recovery time. Some patients – particularly those with heavy scarring – may still benefit from the traditional fully ablative laser treatment, or a deep chemical peel.
Laser resurfacing is typically done on the face. The neck and décolleté can be treated as well, with more conservative settings.
How do I prepare for fractional skin resurfacing?
After the consultation, Dr. Fiala may have you start on some at home skincare products, such as Retin-A or hydroquinone for several weeks before the laser treatment.
How many treatments will it take for me to see results?
This depends on what is being treated. Fine lines and superficial brown spots typically go away after 1 treatment. Deep wrinkles or acne scars may take several treatments.
How much pain will I have after laser skin resurfacing?
Most people describe the sensation as a mild to moderate sunburned feeling, depending on the level of laser treatment. Prescription pain medications are usually used for a few days.
I’ve had cold sores before. Will laser resurfacing re-activate these?
It’s possible. Please tell us if you’ve had cold sores or shingles before, so that we can get you on the appropriate dose of anti-viral medication around the time of your laser treatment.
What can I expect to look during the recovery from laser skin resurfacing?
There will initially be some mild swelling. The polka dot pattern of laser dots will initially look like white spots in a grid formation. After a few days, these will turn brown, then flake off around the 4th or 5th day. There may be some blistering or crusting – this usually resolves by 10 days or so, if present. The healed skin will look smoother, and will be pink in color for a few weeks.
When can I return to work after laser skin resurfacing?
It depends on the nature of your job. If you have a job where you are “in the public eye”, you may wish to wait until healing is complete – about 10-14 days. With lighter laser treatments, people often return to work in 5-7 days, or less.
Can all skin types be treated with laser resurfacing?
The procedure has more risk for darker skin tones, such as olive, brown or black skin. Because of this, we may recommend an alternative treatment, so as to reduce the risk of pigmentation changes after treatment.