The new “facials”
Laser skin clinics are almost as ubiquitous as coffee shops. More than ever people are moving away from traditional spa facials that focus on relaxation and turning to their dermatologist for results-driven laser treatments to refresh their natural beauty. And for many, that means erasing pigmentation, lines, and acne scarring. Roshni Sall of Sharplight loves how clinical laser treatments have evened out her skin tone and made her post-acne marks less noticeable. Since Sall has first-hand experience with laser skin resurfacing, we asked her to help answer some common questions for laser newbies, so you can make an informed decision before you decide to zap it off.
What exactly does laser skin resurfacing achieve?
Laser skin resurfacing improves skin texture, acne, scars and pigment abnormalities with a single treatment. You get a bit of a tightening and toning effect as well. Healing is rapid and treatment requires little downtime.
Is that why laser skin resurfacing is considered “non-invasive”?
Yes, there is no incision or injection involved. Skin resurfacing minimizes procedure risk and reduces downtime in comparison to invasive procedures like plastic surgery.
Are there different types of skin resurfacing lasers?
Laser skin resurfacing is a general term that includes 1) Wounding or ablative lasers and 2) Non-wounding or non-ablative/semi-ablative lasers. Both types help rejuvenate photo-aged skin by stimulating collagen production. For example, IPL (though technically not a laser) fits under the umbrella for non-ablative methods because it does not exfoliate the skin. On the other hand ablative lasers removes thin layers of the skin and ablates deep narrow channels of damaged skin (such as scar tissue) without causing damage to the surrounding healthy skin.
We associate “ablative lasers”, such as the scar-mending ProFractional, as lasers that cause a bit of pinpoint bleeding.
How do lasers work to repair aging skin?
As we age collagen and elastic fibers breaks down, so skin has less recoil, like a used rubber band. This can lead to lines and wrinkles. Add in years of sun exposure, and this can cause discolouration, enlarged pores, and pigmented areas on the skin. Lasers help by levelling this surface out by projecting tiny microscopic holes into the skin. This is achieved using a micro epidermal peel. Through heat energy, the peel removes the top layer of skin; this old, damaged layer is then replaced by a fresh, smoother, and more radiant layer of skin. Additionally the laser’s unique ability to penetrate the skin deeply regenerates your existing collagen naturally, rejuvenating skin cells below the surface which helps to plump up the appearance of wrinkles and other texture irregularities. Stimulating new collagen growth also results in skin feeling firmer.
Will I need a patch test?
Your skin will be evaluated, photographed and graded using the Glogau scale. During the first treatment a skin test should be performed with strict accordance. It’s important to see how the skin reacts to the treatments and whether settings need to be adjusted accordingly.
Will I be sedated during treatment?
No. Treatments are typically done using only a topical freezing cream.
How many sessions will I need to achieve results?
Improvement in clarity and tone can be seen just after one treatment; however most people need several treatments, spaced several weeks apart, before seeing optimal results.
What will I feel during a laser skin resurfacing treatment?
The sensation is very tolerable, and is commonly described as feeling like a hot elastic band hitting the skin. But it is very subjective, and can vary depending on the specific laser.
What will I feel afterwards?
Skin that’s treated with laser resurfacing may react in different ways. But most of the time, skin will feel tighter than normal and you may look like you have a mild sunburn. The technician may apply ice packs relieve the heat. For ablative treatments, Vaseline might be applied to the treated area. Mild discomfort at the treated areas can last up to 48 hours post treatment. A thin flaky layer will form gradually over several days. Any scabs that form may be gently soaked off. Swelling is normal for approximately one week with certain lasers used for acne scarring and deep wrinkles.
How long will it take my skin to heal?
This depends on which type of laser; Non-ablative lasers requires less recovery time. In general healing takes about 2 to 10 days, most patients can get back to work and apply makeup 1 to 3 days after the treatment.
- Stay out of the sun for 4-8 weeks prior to a skin resurfacing treatment. It is a definite faux-pas to have a treatment done on tanned skin.
- Avoid any chemical peels done prior to treatment.
- Arrive without make-up, if possible.
- Wear loose fitting clothing. Do not wear anything, which needs to be pulled down over your head.
- Do not use abrasive cleansers for 24 hours. Water and Spectro Gel is often recommended.
- Flaking of newly treated skin is expected. Use moisturizer abundantly to keep your new skin hydrated.
- Use sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 every day. New skin is more susceptible to damage and discolouration from sunlight.
- Limit your time in the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat.
- If the skin is itchy at night, Benadryl will help.
- Sleeping with head elevated on two pillows can reduce swelling.
About the expert Roshni Sall is the digital marketing manager at Sharplight, makers of several in-office skin resurfacing machines.