The laser is the ultimate in skin resurfacing tools delivering the most effective treatment for the most severe problems. Laser resurfacing can be used on the entire face or specific areas for a number of skin problems. Fine wrinkles, uneven skin surfaces, or scarring from acne or trauma respond well to laser skin resurfacing.
“I love the way my skin looks since I had this done. Previously, my skin had a pitted appearance from acne scars that no makeup could hide. Now I don’t have anything to hide!” —S.N. (age 42)
About the Procedure
Very precise removal of the superficial layers of the skin by the laser create a controlled injury to the surface of the skin. Healing restores the surface of the skin and produces an improved appearance to the skin with a smoother and healthier surface. In the deeper skin layers, the laser promotes new collagen production. The procedure is usually performed on an outpatient basis under local or general anesthesia. Post-operative, there are frequent office visits and highly specific skin care regimens until healing occurs about a week or two after treatment.
Healing for a maximum laser treatment requires about 8 to 10 days, which is followed by a variable period of redness to the treated area, which can persist for 2 to 6 months. This redness, which is an indicator of deeper healing, is easily covered with makeup.
Improved color, texture, and tightness to facial skin with scar and wrinkle improvement are all possible. Laser treatments can be repeated up to 3 times for optimal results.
Laser Resurfacing FAQ’s
- What are the skin care regimens related to the laser?
Under ideal circumstances we would like all of our laser patients to begin on the Obagi skin care program prior to the laser treatment. It is our experience that the recovery period from the laser is not only speedier, but safer in a patient who is fully conditioned to the Obagi program. Post-operative everyone will be using some of the Obagi products because of their extremely high quality, excellent effectiveness and minimal problems with allergy.
- There used to be lasers on television every time I turned on my T.V. Now I hardly see anything with lasers. Does this mean it’s lost its popularity?
No. In fact, the lasers have increased in popularity, but they have become a non-media event. Lasers are still the preferred choice in plastic surgery and in dermatology for doing corrections that cannot be accomplished any other way. The technology is still excellent.
- I’ve heard there is a relationship between light and cold sores. Will the laser activate my cold sores?
A very good question. There is a strong relationship between the Herpes virus, which causes the cold sore, and intense light sources. Because of this we use prophylactic antiviral agents and adjust the dose to the susceptibility of the individual. Under these circumstances, Herpes outbreaks secondary to the laser treatment are fairly easily controlled.
- I’m worried about the infections afterward. Is there anything that I can do to minimize that?
You can take a very careful look around your environment at home. In the post-operative period, we usually recommend that you are extremely careful about allowing things to touch your face, particularly items like unclean telephones. I would be extremely careful about sleeping in a bed that the family cat has access to the pillowcases. Patients also have to be extremely careful about resting their face on their hands, which is a normal posture for a lot of people. We go over all of these precautions in detail prior to the procedure.
- I have small children. Will my post-operative appearance upset them?
Yes. We have photographs that we can lend you of the typical appearance after the laser. If you’d like, you can show those to your children and discuss with them what your appearance will be.
- I have wrinkles on my neck. I also have discolored and damaged skin in the “V” of my chest and the backs of my hands. Can the CO2 laser repair these areas?
The CO2 laser is much too powerful to use on these areas. The other resurfacing modalities have shown some promise, particularly chemical peels when done fairly lightly. There has also been limited work done with the erbium laser in treatment of the neck with moderate success.
- I’ve seen pictures of the laser treatment where the patients after the surgery were covered with a gel dressing, but you don’t mention anything about dressings.
This is a controversy in laser surgery. Some surgeons believe that for the first day or two after the surgery patients are more comfortable in gel dressings than if they were allowed open exposure to the air. The alternative view believes that the discomfort is not significantly increased without dressings, and that the risk of infection getting a foothold beneath the gel dressing far outweighs the slight improvement in discomfort. I am a supporter of the latter view.
- I’ve heard of something called an erbium laser. Is this an improvement?
The erbium laser is an alternative in laser resurfacing. Both the CO2 laser and the erbium laser have water as their target. Since the human body is made up of 80% water, this is an ideal targeting system. The erbium laser was developed out of concern that the CO2 laser may generate a bit too much heat and penetrate too deeply. The erbium laser, which is even more sensitive to water than the CO2 laser, was able to remove very thin portions of skin, delivering a “light” laser abrasion. The chief complaint about the erbium laser is that although it does exactly as it states, this level of skin removal can be accomplished with much less expensive procedures such as the chemical peels and microdermabrasion. The CO2 laser in comparison, provides a deeper, controlled method of resurfacing the skin with the added benefit of altering the deeper layers of collagen.