If You're Considering Laser Resurfacing...
In laser resurfacing, sometimes called "laser peel," a
carbon dioxide (CO2) laser is used to remove areas of damaged or
wrinkled skin, layer by layer. The procedure is most commonly used
to minimize the appearance of fine lines, especially around the mouth
and the eyes. However, it is also effective in treating facial scars
or areas of uneven pigmentation. Laser resurfacing may be performed
on the whole face or in specific regions. Often, the procedure is
done in conjunction with another cosmetic operation, such as a facelift
or eyelid surgery.
Laser resurfacing is still a very new procedure. However, it has
been shown that in some cases, this surgical method produces less
bleeding, bruising and post-operative discomfort than is typically
seen with other resurfacing methods.
A Word About the Laser
Laser resurfacing is performed using a beam of laser energy which
vaporizes the upper layers of damaged skin at specific and controlled
levels of penetration.
It's clear that laser resurfacing may offer a number of advantages
over other resurfacing methods: precision, little (if any) bleeding
and less post-operative discomfort. However, laser resurfacing
isn't for everyone. In some cases, an alternative skin resurfacing
treatment, such as dermabrasion or chemical peel, may still be
a better choice.
All resurfacing treatments work essentially the same way. First,
the outer layers of damaged skin are stripped away. Then, as new
cells form during the healing process, a smoother, tighter, younger-looking
skin surface appears. Laser resurfacing is a new method being used
by plastic surgeons to remove damaged skin. Because it is new,
there are no long-term data on this technique. However, a number
of studies using microscopic examination have shown that the physical
changes that occur to laser-treated skin are essentially identical
to those that occur with either dermabrasion or chemical peel.
Ask your plastic surgeon about the latest facts concerning long-term
For superficial or medium resurfacing, the laser can be limited
to the epidermis and papillary dermis. For deeper resurfacing,
the upper levels of the reticulas dermis can also be removed. Varied
penetration allows treatment of specific spots or wrinkles.
It's also important to consider the length
of recovery when choosing among the skin-resurfacing alternatives.
In general, the more aggressive the resurfacing procedure is,
the more prolonged the recovery is likely to be. "Light" resurfacing
procedures, such as superficial chemical peels or superficial
laser resurfacing, offer shorter recovery times. However, these
lighter procedures may need to be repeated multiple times to
achieve results comparable to those achieved with more aggressive
The Best Candidates For Laser Resurfacing
In many cases, facial wrinkles form in localized areas, such as
near the eyes or around the mouth. The laser can be precisely
controlled so that only these specific areas are targeted.
Patients with olive skin, brown skin or black skin may be at increased
risk for pigmentation changes no matter what type of resurfacing
method is recommended. Your plastic surgeon will evaluate your
skin characteristics and make recommendations accordingly.
Also, individuals who have taken accutane in the past 12-18 months
or are prone to abnormal (keloid-like) scarring or those with active
skin infections on the treatment area may not be appropriate candidates
for this procedure.
Remember, having laser resurfacing can help enhance your appearance
and your self-confidence, but it won't completely remove all facial
flaws or prevent you from aging. Lines that occur as a result of
natural movements of the face - smiling, squinting, blinking, talking,
chewing - will inevitably recur. Your plastic surgeon can suggest
ways to help you preserve your results by protecting yourself from
sun exposure or using maintenance treatments, such as light chemical
peels or medicated facial creams. Before you decide to have laser
resurfacing, think carefully about your expectations and discuss
them with your surgeon.
Laser resurfacing is a relatively quick procedure. It usually takes
anywhere from a few minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on how
large of an area is involved.
When the imperfections are especially deep, your surgeon may recommend
that the resurfacing be performed in two or more stages.
During the procedure, the activated laser is carefully passed
back and forth over the skin until the surgeon reaches the level
that will make the wrinkle or scar less visible.
When the procedure is over, your surgeon may choose to treat the
resurfaced skin with applications of protective creams or ointments
until healing is complete. Some surgeons choose to apply a bandage
over the treated areas which will cover and protect the healing
skin for the first five to ten days.