What Does Laser Mean?
- Laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. In essence, lasers work by generating a concentrated and penetrating stream of pulsed bright light that can be controlled and strategically directed over the skin.
- Resurfacing the skin with lasers can work as ablative or non-ablative procedures depending on the type of laser utilized.
- An ablative laser literally vaporizes and removes deep wrinkling and scars from the surface of skin and penetrates deeper into skin tissue, reorganizing and stimulating production of collagen and elastin fibers in the process.
Ablative vs. Non-Ablative Laser Procedures
Lasers, IPL, or resurfacing machines are either ablative or non-ablative treatments. Non-ablative treatments target the lower layers of skin (dermis), while leaving the skin’s surface (epidermis) unharmed and intact.
Ablative laser resurfacing targets both the surface and the lower layers of skin by injuring or “ablating” the surface of skin.
Lasers can perform either ablative or non-ablative resurfacing, while IPL and various resurfacing are considered non-ablative methods that provide results similar to ablative procedures, albeit in a slower manner.
Which system you choose depends on the results you are looking for and how much risk you are willing to take.
Ablative lasers can:
Make a significant difference in the appearance of deep wrinkles and surface wrinkles.
Help significantly fade skin discolorations.
Erase years of sun damage by replacing damaged skin with healthier, new skin.
Risks from ablative procedures include:
Swelling, scabbing, and oozing.
Bleeding, flaking, and redness.
Significant irritation that requires a longer time to heal.
Long-term skin discoloration and scarring.
For ablative resurfacing with a laser, the quality of the postoperative techniques is as important as the skill of the physician during the procedure.
After ablative laser treatment, the skin oozes, crusts, and needs to be cleaned and dressed for about two weeks before you look even vaguely normal. Because the top layer of skin has been stripped away, the raw, exposed skin needs to be cleaned and treated very carefully.
Patients need to make sure they follow post-op care instructions precisely, because inconsistency or incomplete care can cause infection, delay healing, and increase irritation.
Non-ablative resurfacing has none of the side effects associated with ablative resurfacing. However, non-ablative resurfacing doesn’t produce the same dramatic or impressive results as ablative resurfacing does.
Not only are the results subtle, but multiple treatments are required for the most noticeable outcome.
The advantage for non-ablative resurfacing is its minimal downtime; women can reapply makeup before leaving the doctor’s office and return to work the same day.
Non-ablative lasers can:
Remove some skin discolorations, particularly superficial brown spots.
Improve and potentially eliminate redness from rosacea and broken capillaries.
Improve minor wrinkles and fine lines.
Stimulate collagen production (after repeated treatments).
Risks from non-ablative procedures include:
Swelling and potential bruising (this fade within days).
Enhanced redness or a sunburn-like reaction (this is temporary).
Temporary darkening of treated spots (these lighten as they heal).
If aging, acne, or too much time in the sun has left your face with blotches, scars, wrinkles, or lines, laser skin treatments may help your skin look younger and healthier. The new skin cells that form during healing give the skin a tighter, younger looking surface.
If you have leathery, sun-damaged skin with numerous fine wrinkles
If you have wrinkling around your eyes and skin laxity in your lower eyelid area
you have vertical wrinkles around your mouth
If your skin is blotchy with brown spots
If you have scars that have made the surface of your skin uneven
If you have certain precancerous skin growths
Who will benefit by laser skin treatments?