CO2 lasers are now available for skin resurfacing. The CO2 laser has been specifically designed to treat:
- crow's feet around the eyes
- fine lines around the mouth
- acne scars
- traumatic scars
The CO2 laser emits a beam of light which generates energy; this heat energy removes the top layers of the skin around the skin line or wrinkle. Depending on the line or wrinkle, the duration and frequency of laser treatment may vary from 2-4 treatments.
The C02 laser has been claimed to be permanent but this is not true. The results of the CO2 last anywhere from 2-5 years. As aging continues, the wrinkles and fine lines do return.
All individuals who undergo the C02 laser must stop using Accutane or Retinoids at least 2-4 weeks prior to the procedure. In addition, sun tanning should be avoided at least 4 weeks before having the procedure.
Those individuals who have had prior attacks of herpetic infections should take acyclovir at least 4-5 days before the procedure.
The CO2 laser is painful and most individuals do require some type of topical anesthetic to numb the area. For those who are having a full facial resurfacing, a general anesthetic may be required
After the CO2 laser treatment, the most common side effects include:
These side effects usually subside in 48 hours.
A topical ointment is then applied onto the raw skin for the next few days. Following this, a moisturizing cream should be applied to prevent skin dryness
Once the skin has started to heal; one may resume normal activities (2-7 days). However, when going out, sunscreens are highly recommended
Complications of the CO2 laser include:
- Skin discoloration. In dark skinned individuals, the CO2 laser may cause darkening of the skin which may last anywhere from 3-6 months. In some cases, this maybe permanent.
- Other individuals may develop lightening of the skin. This is rare but unfortunately can be permanent
- Scarring usually occurs when the CO2 laser is used for long periods or when the laser is used to treat infected skin. Individuals who scratch or traumatize the skin after the laser treatment are also prone to scarring.
- In dark skinned individuals, keloids can occur and are hard to get rid off
No matter what type of laser is used to treat wrinkles, the results of treatment are variable. At best, most individual will see a 50-70 % improvement in their facial features. Multiple treatments are required to maintain even this modest benefit.