When it comes to improving skin texture and reducing fine lines and wrinkles, there is nothing more effective than laser resurfacing. There are certainly other options available that offer real results, namely microneedling and chemical peels, the energy available with deep laser resurfacing is unmatched.
While laser resurfacing is the most effective treatment for skin resurfacing and wrinkles, it also comes with more downtime. “Lasers are the far end of the spectrum,” explains board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Kevin Smith. “They deliver the greatest amount of energy, fix the greatest number of wrinkles, but they also have the greatest downtime and effort to go through in order to heal.”
How Laser Resurfacing Works
Lasers deliver energy in the form of a controlled burn to the skin – the “skin” being the multiple layers that make up the organ, not just the superficial surface. As the skin heals after laser resurfacing treatment, the old, damaged skin is replaced with new collagen-rich skin.
While lasers are the strongest option providing the most dramatic results, they also carry the greatest risks and should be administered only under the supervision of an experienced plastic surgeon. “There is a fine line between going as deep as you need to to improve the wrinkles, but not going so deep as to give us a burn that scars,” points out Smith. “This is where the devices are very technical. You need to know that the person who is doing the laser knows what they’re doing.”
One Laser, Many Settings
The skin on your eyelids and around your eyes is much thinner than the skin on and around your lips. This means that the same amount of energy required to yield beautiful results around the lips would permanently damage the delicate skin around the eyes.
Today’s lasers allow the administrator to constantly adjust the power, enabling them to treat both thick and thin skin during one procedure. “The advantage of lasers is that we have control over the depth of the laser,” explains Smith. “This is either by how hot we turn up the laser, or how many passes we make. We can gradually work down to the level we need to go. The deeper the level, essentially the more dangerous it is, and the more complications that can accrue.”
Laser Resurfacing is “Surgery”
Laser resurfacing is not a treatment to be undergone lightly. For true results, Dr. Smith requires applying an amount of energy where the patient would be most comfortable undergoing while fully asleep. Most consider the idea of skin treatments and lasers to be a spa-style treatment. The real deal is “surgery” in the sense that a patient really should have general anesthesia in order for it to be worth their while. “To reach a significant depth, in order to eradicate those deep wrinkles around the mouth for instance, I believe you need to do this procedure under general anesthesia,” explains Smith.
Likewise, it’s very difficult and usually just not advisable to spot treat areas with powerful lasers. Smith cautions against using lasers as a form of spot treatment for troubled areas. He strongly believes it is important to treat the entire face during one procedure.“The analogous situation is we just don’t polish the doors and the hood of our car; we want all of that texture and tone to be similar,” points out Smith. “We don’t want you to look like a raccoon after a treatment, so we treat the whole face.”
Recovery from Deep Laser Resurfacing
Following laser resurfacing, patients can plan on being out of action for about two weeks. As the face heals and new skin begins to grow, there will be no disguising the fact that you underwent laser resurfacing treatment.
Typically during the first few days after the procedure, some type of pain medication is necessary. Smith also puts into place a careful post-procedure skincare regimen. He requires patients to wash their face three times each day, followed with application of prescribed ointment. As the skin heals, the ointment is replaced with moisturizers.
After laser resurfacing:
- Take pain medication to minimize discomfort
- Cleanse face 3 times each day
- Apply ointment
One very important rule of recovery is to avoid any exposure to the sun.“You don’t want the sun to stimulate those pigment cells and end up with a blotchy, almost dalmatian-like complexion,” emphasizes Smith.
Rewards are Worth the Recovery
The recovery, while difficult, is worth the rewards, according to Smith’s own laser resurfacing patients. “My patients say the results have been so spectacular for them, that they’ll consider doing it again,” says Smith. “I think that’s a great testament that it’s worth all the trouble for the results that you get.”