Laser Resurfacing

What is laser therapy?

The term laser encompasses many different kinds of treatments, all based on the use of intense focused light. Lasers were developed in the 1960s and have been used for cosmetic purposes for the last 20 years. Every year, new laser therapies are developed or refined. All lasers use a high-energy beam of light is used to target lines, wrinkles, scars, dark spots, visible veins, unwanted hair, and other skin irregularities. Lasers can also be used for facial hair removal. There are two general classes of lasers: so called “ablative” and “non ablative”. Ablative laser therapy, also known as laser resurfacing is the gold standard for facial rejuvenation. Many systems allow for light, moderate or deep levels of resurfacing. Non-ablative therapy is relatively new. Non ablative therapy is designed to stimulate collagen synthesis in the skin without damaging the outer layers. In general, ablative laser therapy is more effective but requires a more involved procedure, more recovery time, and more risks.

What is laser resurfacing therapy used for?

Ablative laser therapy effectively treats the changes associated aging including wrinkles, discoloration, and loss of elasticity. Non ablative therapy is used to improve the texture of the skin, treat visible blood vessels, and remove hair.

What does laser resurfacing therapy feel like?

Anesthesia is required for laser resurfacing, either local or general. Once you are numb, the laser session generally lasts 30 to 90 minutes. You will be given protective laser eyewear. The practitioner applies the laser instrument to the area of treatment and removes thin layers of skin. Non-ablative therapy has been compared to the snap of a rubber band and topical anesthesia is sometimes used, depending on the area being treated.

What will my skin feel like after laser resurfacing?

How the skin feels after the procedure is variable, depending on which type of laser is used. You can discus the details of this with your physician.

How many laser resurfacing treatments will I need?

Ablative laser therapy such as laser resurfacing usually only requires one treatment. Non ablative therapy is variable but multiple treatments are usually required. You and your physician will decide on the best plan to meet your individual needs.

How long before I can return to my usual activities?

You can usually return to regular activities in 4-7 days after ablative laser therapy. Redness usually disappears over the course of a few weeks. Non-ablative therapy usually requires no recovery time.

How long do the results last?

Ablative laser therapy can last for years with good sun protection. Studies examining the effects of non ablative therapy is in progress.

What are the risks of laser therapy?

In general, ablative laser therapy will cause post operative pain, redness, and swelling lasting at least one week. Complications include extended pain, redness, swelling, infections, scarring, and discoloration. In general, non-ablative laser therapy has fewer side effects. Side effects include mild and limited redness, discoloration and swelling. The risks and benefits of laser therapy need to be discussed in detail with your physician.

How much does laser resurfacing cost?

Laser resurfacing is expensive and ranges from hundreds of dollars for non-ablative techniques and a few thousand dollars for ablative techniques involving the whole face.

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