Laser resurfacing involves the use of one of two different types of lasers to help resurface the skin, usually by correcting minor flaws (such as dark spots or large pores). This treatment is usually reserved for the face, but may be utilized elsewhere.
How Laser Resurfacing Works
The lasers used for skin resurfacing fall under one of two broadly defined types, with some variation present within each. That helps to account for factors that affect the results of the treatment, such as skin type, thickness, moisture, and pigmentation.
Ablative: Many common issues with skin appearance are reflected only in the outer layers. Ablative lasers remove the outermost layer of dead skin, giving healthy new skin underneath a chance to breathe.
Nonablative: Nonablative lasers are gentler than ablative lasers. They penetrate the topmost layer of skin, energizing and tightening underlying layers, and stimulating proper growth.
Ablative laser treatments are more invasive than nonablative treatments, and ablative laser therapy involves a longer recovery time. However, it is generally the more effective of the two options. A dermatologist can recommend one treatment over the other, based upon skin type and other factors.
Before Your Treatment
Laser treatment is a simple and effective means of correcting various skin problems, but there is a certain recovery time involved. You will need to arrange transportation home from your dermatologist's office.
Pre-treatment procedures will usually involve the administration of an anti-viral oral medication. This is particularly true in the case of more invasive options, or if there is a history of certain types of viral-based facial outbreaks.
Your doctor will want to conduct a basic physical exam before the procedure. Also, it is highly advised that there be a preliminary discussion involving your expectations. In particular, the initial appearance of your face immediately after treatment does not reflect how it will look after your skin tightens and heals from the treatment.
After Your Treatment
It is important to minimize sun exposure, both immediately before your procedure and while the affected area is healing. Excessive sun exposure fundamentally alters certain characteristics of your skin, and can impede the healing process.
The effects of laser treatment tend to be gradual. Some forms of laser treatment affect underlying layers of skin, so there will be progressive, positive change as new layers of skin heal and develop. Your skin may have a pinkish tinge for up to several months after the procedure, but the positive effects will be long-lasting.
Laser treatment, ablative in particular, can cause issues such as itching, redness, and swelling. More rarely, it may cause dark spots, requiring subsequent treatments to remove.
Due to the increased vulnerability of your skin while it is healing, acne breakouts may occur; it is important to follow your dermatologist's hygienic advice very closely, to avoid such complications.