It would seem no one is immune to a fascination with lasers. No other technological device so readily and easily creates a visual example of how far we’ve come in civilization. Coupled with the pop culture phenom of the Star Wars trilogy, lasers have been cemented as a device of tomorrow, today. Aesthetic lasers, or devices used in cosmetic procedures, are no different.
Among the steadily growing line-up of non-invasive and minimally-invasive devices, laser manufacturers continue to espouse their power, promising to utilize a technology tomorrow in a big way today. Board certified plastic surgeons familiar with the progression of aesthetic lasers share their thoughts on where we are today, and what promises these devices can actually deliver.
Step #1 with Aesthetic Lasers – Managing Expectations
It would seem that all of the non-surgical devices on the market today make huge promises as to what they can deliver. Whether it’s skin tightening, fat removal, or skin resurfacing, the marketing for these devices tend to promise more than they can hope to deliver. This doesn’t mean that aesthetic lasers are useless, quite the contrary. The technology has matured into a situation where real results can be realized – in the right hands and on the right patient.
“There’s a big difference between what laser manufacturers promise and what lasers can deliver,” shares Dr. Brooke R. Seckel, a board certified plastic surgeon in Boston. “Lasers are really good at surface treatments, whether it’s pigment, wrinkles, spots. But when you start talking about serious skin tightening, lasers – even subcutaneous lasers – still can’t deliver what a tummy tuck or a facelift can deliver. Patients need to be weary of over-promising.”
The double-edged sword with lasers is that they do attract patients who think all of their skin issues might be solved with one laser treatment. The truth is somewhere in between – lasers can do incredible things, but only when the practitioner knows what they’re doing and the requests of the patients do not exceed the capabilities of the device. And not only do patients need to check their expectations, but also physicians not used to the aesthetic lasers.
“A lot of physicians think they can buy a laser and the laser will do the procedure for them, ” continues Seckel. “That’s why they get into trouble. If you’re going to use lasers on a person’s skin, you really need to understand lasers, understand the heat production, and understand what you’re doing. The risk in all this publicity about lasers is people are going to buy them that don’t really understand them and may not know how to use them.”
Aesthetic Lasers are Most Beneficial as Adjunct Procedures
Patients and physicians alike may become deflated when they realize that the high-tech laser device cannot solve all of their problems like a magic wand. That said, their place as adjunct procedures has never been more valuable. Dr. Chet Mays is a board certified plastic surgeon in Louisville, practicing at a combined surgical and spa center where lasers are used routinely to boost surgical procedures. Their practice embraces aesthetic lasers for what they can do, and do not rely on what they can’t.
“Plastic surgeons… We’re the forefront. We’re always welcoming technology, and sometimes [it] gets ahead of our expertise,” says Dr. Mays. “If you think lasers are going to be the magic trick to something you’re doing, it’s not. If you’re using it as an adjunct to your procedure; you could do the best facelift in the world but if the patient has leather skin with sunspots everywhere, they’re not going to look great. You got them high, you got them tight, you got the volume is back, but if the skin quality is poor, you’re not optimizing their skincare.”
Dr. Mays speaks to a somewhat newer aspect of plastic surgery, where great results are achieved through a collection of procedures. In his example regarding a facelift, no aesthetic laser will be able to accomplish what a surgical facelift can. Maybe one day, but not this one. That said, perhaps a facelift patient has not only loose skin, but bad quality skin. Perhaps they have sunspots and/or melasma. A beautiful facelift will not address these issues. A treatment with a variety of aesthetic lasers, however, can provide the finishing touches that create a more complete result for modern patients.
Researchers Continue to Bring Promises Closer to Reality
Among the experts in plastic surgery, no laser or other energy-based non-surgical device can acheive skin tightening like a facelift. The technology just isn’t there yet. That said, even conservative plastic surgeons realize that the just because it isn’t here yet doesn’t mean it won’t be here soon.
Dr. Jason Pozner, a board certified plastic surgeon in Boca Raton, Florida, spends a lot of time with new, non-surgical energy devices, working with them to provide efficacy and provide new-age results for his patients. One newer device, BodyTite and it’s sibling FaceTite, is showing actual promise for being able to tightening skin. That said, it is working really well in some patients, not all.
“Things are getting better and things are changing,” says Pozner. “I see a time when [these devices] may replace facelifts and other surgeries, but not yet. Some of the newer radio frequency devices we’ve talked about in the past – like FaceTite and BodyTite – have replaced facial surgery in the right patients – younger, not yet ready for a facelift.”
At the end of the day, aesthetic lasers are incredibly powerful devices that continue to grow and provide modern results for modern patients. Like normal surgery, they require knowledge and expertise to be wielded appropriately. And as many facelift patients are finding out, aesthetic lasers as an adjunct can really provide an amazing boost to their final results.