Our skin goes through a lot over the years. Scars, wrinkles, fine lines, and skin damage may develop as we grow older. This is a perfectly normal and natural part of life. However, this doesn’t mean that the signs of aging aren’t reversible.
Let’s face it, we can’t all age gracefully. Some of us need a little boost now and then to preserve a small part of our youth. Surely, aging is natural and cosmetic surgery is self-care.
What is laser skin resurfacing?
Laser skin resurfacing is an effective way to make your skin appear smoother, firmer, and younger looking. It helps diminish the appearance of acne scars, dark spots, wrinkles, and other imperfections. The result is clear, even-toned skin with fewer fine lines and wrinkles.
Though these results may be tempting, it is important to understand that there are different types of lasers and that they can affect each individual differently. Laser treatment is not a one-size-fits-all remedy. If you want to undergo laser skin resurfacing, visit Visage Clinic, one of Toronto’s leading cosmetic surgery centers. Our expert team, led by Dr. Marc DuPéré will conduct a thorough assessment of your unique skin and genetic make-up to help you make the best decision for yourself.
Am I a good candidate for laser skin resurfacing?
Laser skin resurfacing is a good option for those with:
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Age spots
- Sun-damaged skin
- Acne scars or other types of scars
- Uneven skin tone and surface
- Red, irritated skin due to broken capillaries
- Loose skin
Different types of laser techniques target various skin conditions. Your doctor will take a good look at your skin and do a physical exam to help you decide what type of laser you need. During your consultation, your doctor will also help you manage your expectations on the results of your chosen laser procedure. Some methods produce drastic results but have long downtimes, while others have zero downtime but result in very minimal changes. You may also be offered to try a combination of treatments or a series of treatments to maximize their effects.
Who is not a good candidate for laser skin resurfacing?
You may not be suitable for laser skin resurfacing if you have any of the following:
Large, active acne. It is not advisable to treat active acne with lasers. If you suffer from acne all over your face, the doctor may advise that you treat the acne before undergoing any type of laser therapy. That way, you avoid any aggravations of your symptoms and bacterial infections.
Those with immune disorders or those who have recurring cold sores around the mouth. Laser therapy damages the skin and may make immune disorders worse. Lasers may also cause a reemergence of cold sores.
Excessive, sagging skin. Laser skin resurfacing cannot tighten skin that is already sagging, especially around the jowl area.
Very dark skin. There are some laser therapies, namely Erbium lasers that are suitable for darker skin. However, there is a risk of hyperpigmentation or the further darkening of the skin tone after laser therapy. This is because darker skin carries more melanin, which is an important pigment that gives color to your skin and hair. Melanin helps protect the skin against harmful UV damage, but excessive melanin causes uneven dark spots. Keeping out of direct sunlight for weeks after your procedure may not be feasible for some people, which is why they have a higher risk for hyperpigmentation.
If your doctor determines that you are not a good candidate for laser skin resurfacing, he may recommend alternative methods or medications to help you achieve your goals. There’s no harm in coming in for a consultation.
What are ablative and non-ablative lasers?
Different types of lasers have been developed to accommodate various skin types and concerns. Fractional lasers were developed to minimize damage to the skin while encouraging collagen growth and regeneration. These lasers use thousands of tiny energy pulses to treat a fraction of the skin area. The energy pulses are delivered in columns, resulting in an area of untreated, undamaged skin surrounding the affected spot. The coverage of a small portion of the skin reduces downtime and helps with maintaining precision.
Fractional lasers can be either ablative or non-ablative. Ablative lasers, such as CO2 and Erbium treatments, vaporize the topmost skin tissue while non-ablative lasers leave the skin intact. The epidermis is removed in ablative laser therapy, allowing access to the dermis, which is then exposed to heat from the laser. The heat stimulates collagen production, which makes the skin grow back stronger, firmer, and smoother than before. The dermis is also heated in non-ablative laser resurfacing, though the epidermis is left unbroken.
The damage to the dermis also promotes collagen production as in ablative laser resurfacing. Either method may be used depending on how sensitive or thin your skin is. Of course, non-ablative lasers are gentler and require less healing time, but they may also be less effective. You may notice a drastic change in your skin after an ablative procedure such as smoother and less prominent wrinkles. In comparison, the changes resulting from non-ablative methods mainly involve improvements in skin tone and texture.
Both methods may be used in combination to maximize their benefits. Some clinics offer combination packages based on their own experience with the best laser techniques available.
What type of lasers and treatments are there?
Fractional CO2 Lasers. Ablative carbon dioxide lasers are effective in treating thicker and more problematic skin, including those with scars, deep wrinkles, uneven texture, enlarged oil glands, and warts. The laser sends bursts of CO2 energy onto the skin surface through tiny holes. The CO2 energy is transmitted under the skin without damaging the surface and surrounding cells. Fractional lasers are highly versatile and well-known for their effectiveness.
Pulsed Dye Lasers. These are non-ablative lasers that use beams of visible light focused on the skin surface. This light produces heat, which damages the underlying tissues and promotes regeneration. Pulsed Dye Lasers are done to reduce hyperpigmentation, rosacea, redness, and broken capillaries.
Fractional Erbium Lasers. Erbium lasers can be either ablative or non-ablative. This technique promotes collagen production to make the skin firmer and suppler. Beams of gentle light are emitted from tiny holes in a scanner, ensuring that the surrounded areas remain unaffected. Erbium lasers are good for targeting small imperfections such as wrinkles, fine lines, age spots, and loose skin due to extreme weight loss.
Fractional Radiofrequency Resurfacing. Instead of lasers, fractional radiofrequency resurfacing uses silicone-coated needles to penetrate the skin. The damage to the deep skin layers stimulates healing and the production of collagen, encouraging the skin to remodel itself from within. The advantage of this method is that the outer layers are not damaged significantly.
IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) Treatments. IPL is technically not a laser technique but may be used as an alternative procedure. IPL is effective for wrinkles, dark spots, sun damage, acne, and rosacea.
IntraCel. IntraCel is a non-surgical treatment used for minor concerns, such as improving skin tone, addressing dark spots, removing acne scars, and smoothing out uneven textures. It uses a combination of microneedling and radiofrequency methods to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and make skin appear smoother. Though commonly used to improve the skin on the face, neck, and jaw, IntraCel may also be applied to other areas of the body to address loose skin, large pores, tiny scars, and stretch marks.
ClearLift. This procedure is best for areas that are difficult to target using conventional lasers, including under the eyes, the corners of the mouth, and crow’s feet. The ClearLift laser has a special tip that delivers heat to the deeper layers of the skin (up to 3mm) to promote collagen and elastin formation. The outer layers of the skin are not damaged, making this procedure a zero downtime option.
Fractionated Pixel Skin Resurfacing. A powerful laser is used for more concerning issues, such as sun damage, scars, prominent pores, deep wrinkles, and dark undereye circles. Pixel Skin Resurfacing uses an Erbium laser to create tiny holes on the skin surface. The undamaged skin around the holes help the affected tissues by producing more collagen for repair.
Combining therapies and multiple treatments
Visage Clinic recommends combining laser and radiofrequency therapies to achieve maximum results in the least amount of time. Your skin has unique, highly specific needs that most likely cannot be achieved using one type of laser method alone. Laser skin resurfacing programs may be customized to fit your specific needs and schedules.
As we age, wrinkles tend to return no matter how much trouble we take to smooth them out. We at Visage Clinic understand and anticipate the effects of aging and work with your skin to help you age as gracefully as possible. Using combination laser and radiofrequency techniques helps ensure longer-lasting results by promoting continuous collagen production. Collagen is naturally made by our body’s cells, but as we grow older, production slows down. Stimulating collagen production and helping your skin maintain it is essential to help prevent worrisome wrinkles.
In milder or more manageable cases, a single treatment will be enough to address your concerns. But realistically speaking, many procedures may have multiple treatments. If you opt for gentler, non-ablative treatments, multiple sessions are the norm. Since non-ablative techniques typically require very little downtime, you may enjoy your sessions without worrying too much about how you will look the next day.
Not to worry though, undergoing multiple sessions usually leads to more lasting changes in your skin as it heals and rebuilds itself several times over. Enjoy the process by taking note of how much your skin improves with each session.
When should I get my laser skin resurfacing procedure?
Surgeons recommend having your procedure in the fall or winter months when there is less harsh sunlight outdoors. Skin treated with laser techniques may become very sensitive to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. To avoid unwanted sun damage and dark spots, you should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 even in the autumn or winter months. Keep in mind that ultraviolet rays may still penetrate clouds, so wear your sunscreen and reapply every few hours as needed.
What to do before the procedure
Keep these tips in mind before your laser skin resurfacing session:
- Wear sunscreen when you go outdoors starting a month before your procedure. Reapply every few hours or after excessive sweating.
- Avoid the tanning booth for at least 4 weeks before your appointment.
- If you smoke, stop smoking at least 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after your laser therapy. Smoking can weaken the immune system and drag out healing times.
- Some medications, including tetracycline, can increase photosensitivity. Speak to your doctor if you need to take these so that they can give you alternatives.
- Do not take blood-thinning medications, including Vitamin E, fish oil, ibuprofen, and aspirin. They may make you more prone to bleeding during and after the procedure.
- A few ingredients in skincare, such as retinol and essential oils, can also increase your chances of skin discoloration upon sun exposure. Make sure you screen your serums, moisturizers, and makeup to avoid any problematic ingredients.
- Depending on your skin type and issues, your doctor may prescribe some treatments before your laser procedure. This is to make sure that your skin is in the best condition to undergo laser therapy and will also minimize your chances of untoward side effects.
What happens during my session?
First, the doctor will reassess your skin and reconfirm that the laser therapy you’ve chosen is the best option for you. He will also check for any acne or irritated skin that they should avoid during the procedure.
Topical anesthesia is then applied to the area being treated. You must be pain-free and comfortable during the procedure so that you won’t move around and disrupt the process.
In the next step, the skin is cleaned thoroughly and then checked for any remaining dirt or oil. This step is crucial to ensure that any bacteria is removed from your skin surface. If your skin is not cleaned beforehand, infections could develop on the wounds that the lasers will create. The entire session might last for 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the size of the area involved and the type of laser used.
Next, the doctor will begin the session with the appropriate laser therapy. With a steady hand, he will guide the laser over your skin and emphasize the troublesome areas that he identified beforehand. If any bleeding occurs, the doctor will treat the area to prevent the spread of bacteria.
Finally, the doctor will bandage the affected areas to keep them dry. He may instruct you to keep the dressings on for one day and then wash it with mild soap afterward. You may also be given a medicated ointment or prescription medications to ease swelling and prevent infection.
What to expect afterward
Laser skin resurfacing techniques are outpatient procedures. This means that you go home immediately after to rest and recuperate. However, not all methods have zero downtimes. Some require a few weeks for the healing process to complete. Factors for healing include the patient’s health status, genes, and the type of laser.
A little swelling is normal. You may be given pain medications or anti-inflammatory pills to ease the discomfort. If the pain becomes too much to handle, contact your doctor to check if you might need a stronger dose. Everyone has a different pain threshold, so asking for help is completely normal.
What are the possible risks and disadvantages?
Laser therapy may result in some unwanted side effects, including bumpy skin, rashes, redness, swelling, and burning sensations. Though these may subside as your skin heals, it’s best to manage the symptoms to avoid any discomfort or self-esteem issues. The doctor may prescribe medications to reduce most of these after-effects, but if they persist, you may need to come in for additional treatment.
More serious risks include infections, scarring, and hyperpigmentation. As mentioned earlier, hyperpigmentation is more common in those with darker skin. Still, lighter-skinned individuals could get this, especially if they have been exposed to the sun for too long after their laser procedure. Infections may be managed by antibiotics or, better yet, avoided by taking prophylactic medications.
Scars may be alarming and require additional treatment, so make sure to inform your doctor immediately if you notice any scar formation. If you tend to form hypertrophic scars or keloids, inform your doctor before starting any kind of laser therapy. He will assess the likelihood of scar or keloid formation before recommending you for a laser procedure. Also, keep in mind that some medications, such as isotretinoin (Accutane), increase your risk for scars.
How long is the downtime?
Since non-ablative lasers are much milder and don’t damage the skin surface as much as ablative lasers, they don’t require an extensive healing process. Just remember to be consistent in applying sunscreen and you’re good to go. Ablative lasers, which typically cause redness and scabbing, call for a few days off from work. Your skin will heal in about 2-3 weeks, but for some types of lasers it may take up to a year for the skin to fully recuperate.
In the first month, your skin might still appear sore, red, and raw. Take steps to avoid the sun and don’t put any unnecessary topical applications on your face. You can apply minimal makeup once the swelling abates, but it’s best to choose formulas that aren’t too harsh or heavily fragranced.
What should I do after my treatments?
For any type of laser treatment, you should avoid activities that can irritate your skin for a few weeks. This includes going for a swim, hiking, and tanning. Keep in mind that your skin is healing and that you should do your best to hasten its repair.
Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated. Collagen and elastin fibers help retain moisture in the skin, so maintaining proper hydration throughout the body will help your skin look firmer and suppler. Drinking water also decreases swelling.
Eat healthy food rich in vitamin C to help your skin heal faster. You can also take vitamin C supplements to improve wounds and to promote collagen production from within. Avoid fatty, sugary, and processed foods that may contribute to acne or skin problems. This may hinder you from getting the results you want.
Keep away from the sun – this cannot be stressed enough. Harmful UV rays can cause changes in your skin tone (hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation). Your skin will also be more prone to UV damage while it is still wounded and healing. UV rays can cause more problems than changes in skin tone. Too much exposure to sunlight can accelerate aging, cause sunburn, and even lead to serious consequences like skin cancer.
Does it matter who does my laser procedure?
Like all medical procedures, you should be wary of doctors who offer cheap or discounted services but have very few patients who vouch for them. Take time to speak with your potential cosmetic surgeon and ask him questions about his experience, his patients, and the procedure itself. Make sure that you feel comfortable with your doctor and that he is allowing you to ask questions or make decisions for yourself instead of steering you in the direction of his preferred treatment. A sincere, caring doctor will take the time to assess your skin concerns and discuss the course of treatment with you.
Dr. Marc DuPéré is more than qualified to conduct your desired laser procedure. He has won multiple awards in his craft and has studied under renowned cosmetic surgeons in both Canada and the United States. The Visage Clinic, founded in 2003, has been awarded the TOP CHOICE AWARD from 2013-2020 for delivering the best customer care in Toronto. See only great results at Visage Clinic and let our team of caring professionals guide you towards becoming the best version of yourself.