American Society of Plastic Surgeons
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Fresh face for spring: Can laser treatments rejuvenate and refresh your look?

rejuvenate and refresh your look with laser treatments

Spring is in the air. The weather is warming up, the flowers are blooming and everything seems to be coming back to life. Everything but your skin, that is. Winter can take a toll on the skin, drying it out and leaving it looking and feeling dull. The natural aging process can do the same, allowing fine lines, sun damage and discoloration to appear out of nowhere.

Thankfully, there are ways to rejuvenate your look and give yourself a fresh face for spring without turning to injectables or surgery.

If you want a fresh look for spring, consider laser treatments to liven up your complexion. Laser treatments are a safe and effective way to give your skin the boost it needs to regenerate.

What is laser skin resurfacing?

Laser skin resurfacing or laser treatments utilize light beams to improve the skin's appearance and treat minor facial imperfections. These laser skin treatments have come a long way. Presently, there are numerous types of lasers on the market.

The best treatment is individualized and depends on your specific skin concerns, aesthetic goals and available downtime, according to ASPS Member Surgeon Karen Horton, MD, MSc, FACS, FRCSC, and her colleague Emily Sespaniak, MSN, NP-C.

Not all lasers are created equal

It's true. Not all lasers are created equal. Some facial lasers have the power equivalent of a laser pointer, while others are more on par with Luke Skywalker's lightsaber. Non-ablative laser treatments are minimally invasive and much less aggressive.

"They work by delivering heat to the underlying layers of skin to promote collagen production and increased skin cell turnover," said Dr. Horton. "This can improve mild skin texture concerns such as fine lines, as well as newly acquired hyperpigmentation and other visible signs of sun damage."

Since non-ablative laser treatments are milder, you may need several treatment sessions to see optimal results. The positive side of opting for a less aggressive laser treatment is that you can expect minimal downtime. Dr. Horton called these treatments "lunchtime procedures."

On the other hand, ablative laser treatments are more aggressive. These lasers remove the thin outer layer of skin called the epidermis while heating the underlying layer called the dermis.

"Ablative lasers essentially remove the top layers of surface damaged skin and heat the deep layers to promote collagen and deeper cellular turnover in the dermis," said Dr. Horton.

These ablative treatments help address more significant skin concerns like deeper wrinkles and pitted acne scarring. However, more downtime – up to two weeks – is needed because these treatments are more powerful and go deeper than non-ablative lasers. Nevertheless, you may see dramatic results in as little as one session.

Who should consider laser skin resurfacing?

Are you starting to notice the appearance of fine lines or wrinkles? Are you sick of seeing the evidence of your teenage acne problems on your forehead? You might be a suitable candidate for laser treatment. It is always best to consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon who is a member of ASPS first.

"Certain skin types, medical conditions and lifestyle factors can impact the healing process, so you should be evaluated in person to determine whether you are a suitable candidate for treatment," said Dr. Horton.

Laser treatments are not appropriate for all skin types or skin tones. The Fitzpatrick system to classify skin pigmentation types was developed in 1975. Initially, it was used to help establish a patient's risk of skin burning or tanning when exposed to ultraviolet light. Today, physicians also use it to help determine the effectiveness of laser and skin resurfacing treatments.

"There is a Fitzpatrick classification – Type I through Type VI," said ASPS Member Surgeon Roy Kim, MD. "Type I is very fair, and Type VI is very dark."

Dr. Kim noted that although someone may consider themselves very fair-skinned and a one on the Fitzpatrick scale, they may fall into a Type II or even Type III on the scale if they have a specific ethnic background or lineage in their family.

Working with a plastic surgeon who can help correctly identify your Fitzpatrick classification is crucial.

"Types III and higher should exercise caution when considering laser treatments, as darkening of the skin after treatment is a real possibility," said Dr. Horton.

Ready to bloom or six more weeks of winter? What does the recovery process look like?

The type of laser treatment you choose can significantly impact the recovery process. For non-ablative laser treatments, Dr. Horton indicated you can expect some mild redness and swelling that lasts for several hours to a few days. With ablative laser treatment, expect swelling, oozing, crusting of the skin and discomfort.

"Depending on the intensity of the treatment, it can take up to two weeks to fully heal," said Dr. Horton.

Avoid the sun and certain topical products during the healing process for best results. Keep your body and skin well-hydrated, and always follow your doctor's post-laser guidelines to avoid the risk of infection.

"Take extra vitamins and protect yourself from the sun," said Dr. Kim. "Wear a hat, wear SPF 30 minimum and go crazy with it the first week or so after treatment. Look like a Hollywood celebrity hiding from everybody because you don't want the sun to hit freshly lasered skin."

Want to punch up your results even more? Both surgeons recommend a medical-grade skin care regimen.

To find a qualified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, consult a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All ASPS members are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited facilities and follow strict standards of safety and ethics. Find an ASPS member in your area.


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