Laser Skin Resurfacing
As we age, the effects of sun damage and environmental pollutants begin to take their toll on our skin, creating lines and wrinkles on our faces. Laser resurfacing can help minimize fine lines as they begin to occur, particularly those that form around the mouth and eyes. Laser treatments can be tailored to a variety of other skin problems as well.
Laser resurfacing is a relatively new method of improving skin texture and appearance. In many situations, it can provide the doctor with more control over the penetration of the skin than other resurfacing treatments, such as chemical peels and dermabrasion. In addition to skin resurfacing, lasers can sometimes be used to remove facial scars, acne scars, and unwanted hair.
If you're considering laser resurfacing, the following information will provide you with a good introduction to the procedure. For more detailed information about how this procedure may help you, we recommend that you consult a board-certified physicians with experience in laser resurfacing.
* The 2010 national average cost of Laser skin resurfacing (non-ablative and ablative) is between $952 to $2,232.
*Laser Skin Resurfacing is one of the top 5 nonsurgical procedures.
Laser Skin Resurfacing is a procedure with long-lasting results.
- What are some of the most common benefits of this surgery?
- How is laser resurfacing performed?
- Will I be awake or asleep?
- Which is better, the CO2 laser or the erbium laser?
- How long does the procedure take?
- Will I need to stay in a hospital?
- How much pain is there?
- What can I expect afterward?
- What is the recovery period like?
- What is the long-term outcome like for most people?
- Ideal candidate
- Other important information
- Risks and limitations
What are some of the most common benefits of laser skin resurfacing?
The laser is used to remove layers of damaged and wrinkled skin so that new, smoother, and more vibrant looking skin can form. Depending on the type of laser and amount of surface skin removed, you may also see a significant improvement in the tightness and firmness of the skin.
How is laser resurfacing performed?
Brief, high intensity emissions of light from the laser remove layers of damaged or wrinkled skin at precisely controlled levels of penetration. The surgery will follow these steps. First, the doctor, or an assistant, will cleanse your face to remove oils from the skin. Antibiotic is then applied to kill bacteria. A beam of light from a microphone-shaped instrument is passed over the skin to vaporize the outer layers of damaged skin. The laser can be programmed for varied levels of penetration. The doctor may choose to penetrate more deeply in some area in order to remove deep scars, stubborn spots, and wrinkles. As the laser works, you may hear it zapping, and smell smoke. Finally, your doctor, or a medical assistant, may apply a protective ointment or bandage to the treated area.
Will I be awake or asleep?
To treat small areas of the skins surface, your physician will most likely use a local anesthetic with or without an oral sedative. For complete facial resurfacing, physicians most commonly use intravenous sedation or a general anesthesia with monitoring of your ECG, breathing, and other vitals signs. Check with your physician to see which method applies to the procedure that you have selected.
Which is better, the CO2 laser or the erbium laser?
The CO2 laser has been in use for several more years than the erbium laser. It seems to tighten the skin more effectively, but it also leaves the patient's skin red for a longer time after surgery. It is also much more suited to patients with lighter skin tones. However, the results may not last as long as results from the erbium laser. Examine this issue thoroughly with your physician to determine which laser is best for you. Often, African-Americans, Asians, and Latinos are better candidates for the erbium laser, which has a lower chance of prolonged redness and irregular pigmentation.
How long does the procedure take?
The amount of time that the procedure takes varies, depending on the size of the area being treated, as well as the severity of the skin condition. It can last from just a few minutes to an hour and a half. The procedure may later be repeated to achieve desired results.
Will I need to stay in a hospital?
Laser resurfacing procedures may be performed in a hospital, an outpatient surgical facility, or surgeon's office. Extensive laser resurfacing, or resurfacing performed in conjunction with another surgery, such as a facelift, is generally performed in an outpatient surgical facility or hospital.
How much pain is there?
Even patients who remain awake during the procedure report feeling only minimal discomfort. Many doctors use local anesthesia or local anesthesia with a sedative. This is similar to the anesthesia used by dentists. After the surgery, the pain is mild to moderate.
What can I expect afterward?
After the procedure, you may experience some swelling and discomfort. Cold packs are usually recommended to reduce the swelling. If a bandage was applied after the surgery, it may be changed in a few days, but it will be completely removed after approximately one week; an ointment is applied at this time. Some surgeons use a tape that retains moisture to bandage the treated area. Because this bandage must remain dry, you will not be able to shower normally until the bandages are removed.
If the treated area is not bandaged, you will need to wash your face several times daily. You will need to use caution in caring for the treated area. After each washing, you will need to apply an ointment, such as petroleum jelly, to the treated area. Scabs may form, and last for about 10 days. You must not pick at the scabs. If you experience pain, an over-the-counter pain medication can be taken.
What is the recovery period like?
The amount of time needed for recovery depends on the depth of the resurfacing and the individual's capacity to heal. Redness may persist for several weeks, or longer. The redness gradually lightens to pink, and then to a lighter, more natural color. Make-up can be applied approximately two weeks after the procedure to cover-up the redness.
What is the long-term outcome like for most people?
Laser resurfacing generally removes most of the fine wrinkles and imperfections in the treated area, but natural facial movements and expressions eventually cause some of the lines to reappear. Like most other methods of skin resurfacing, laser treatments may be repeated to maintain the desired results.
After laser resurfacing, daily sunscreen is highly recommended to protect the sensitive new skin from sun exposure. Ask your doctor to recommend a sun block with both UVA and UVB protection, and apply it daily. If resurfacing was done around your eyes, you should use sunglasses.
In general, the best candidates for laser resurfacing are:
- Physically healthy
- Psychologically stable
- Wanting to look younger and more refreshed
- Unhappy with the appearance of wrinkles or brown spots, specially around mouth or eyes
- Free of active skin infections, including acne
- Possessing the appropriate skin tone for the type of laser used
- Not taking Accutane, nor having taken it in the previous 18 months
- Without any unusual scar formations, such as keloids
- Well informed in regard to the procedure's outcome
- Realistic in their expectations
- Willing to accept the limitations involved in the healing process
The above is only a partial list of the criteria that your surgeon will consider in determining whether or not this procedure is appropriate for you. Be sure to ask your surgeon if he / she considers you an ideal candidate for laser resurfacing.
Other important information:
Sometimes laser resurfacing is performed in conjunction with a facelift. Loose, sagging skin can be tightened and firmed by a facelift, while the texture of the skin can be improved by laser resurfacing.
Other resurfacing options include chemical peels and dermabrasion. In general, laser resurfacing allows the doctor to more precisely control the depth of penetration than these other two methods. In addition, the controlled vaporization of the laser produces less bleeding, bruising, and post-operative discomfort. The speed of the emissions of the laser also lessens the risk of burns. However, peels and dermabrasion have advantages in certain situations.
Your doctor will consider your expectations, the size of the area to be treated, and other factors in deciding which method, or combination of methods, is best for you.
Risks and limitations:
Though the majority of surgeries are successful, you should be aware of the following risks:
- Semi-permanent or permanent skin lightening may occur in the treated areas. This is unpredictable and hard to treat without permanent tattooing of the skin. The skin may also become hyperpigmented (darker) immediately following the surgery. Often this darkening treats itself, lightening on its own or responding to various skin care regimens that include hydroquinone (a bleaching crème) and alpha hydroxy (fruit) acids.
- Laser skin resurfacing may not sufficiently tighten the skin, and surgical excision may be necessary to achieve the results desired. It is most often worthwhile the try to perform laser procedure first to avoid the possibility of scarring, so do not be dismayed if a secondary procedure is necessary.
- Heat from the laser may cause burns or injuries. To reduce the risks involved in this procedure, carefully follow all of your surgeon's instructions, both before and after surgery.
The information on this web site is only intended as an introduction to this procedure and should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor as a guarantee of the result. The best method of determining your options is to consult qualified surgeons who are able to answer specific questions related to your situation.
*Disclaimer: Costs source: According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS), nationally in 2010. Most surgeons offer convenient payments plans for this procedure. Cost does not include anesthesia, operating room facility, hospital stay, and other related expenses. Costs may vary depending the extensiveness of the procedure, location, and other factors. Costs are provided solely for research purposes. We are not a plastic surgery company and do not represent any plastic surgeons. For specific estimates, please contact a qualified plastic surgeon.