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Laser resurfacing is a treatment to improve the look of the skin. It uses a laser to send out brief pulses of high-energy light. This light is absorbed by water and substances in the skin called chromophores. The light is changed into heat energy. The heat then destroys (vaporizes) thin sections of skin, layer by layer. As the wounded area heals, new skin grows to replace the damaged skin that was removed during the laser treatment. Some lasers only tighten the skin by heating it but do not destroy the skin.
In most cases, laser resurfacing is very precise and causes little damage to the surrounding skin and tissue. It is done most often on the face, but it may be done on skin in other areas of the body. It’s usually not includes hands, neck, and chest. The skin in these areas does not heal as well as it does in other areas. It tends to thicken and scar as a result of the laser treatment. But some surgeons may treat the neck using a lower-energy laser.
- Fractional laser skin resurfacing. Treats microscopic columns of skin. The treated areas of the skin are surrounded by untreated areas. The result is visible improvement without much bleeding or scabbing.
- Plasma skin resurfacing. Is a technique that uses plasma energy to destroy the lower layers of skin. It does not affect the top layer of skin. This top layer protects the lower layers of skin as they heal.
Laser resurfacing may be used to remove or improve the look of:
- Color (pigment) changes or defects in the skin, such as liver spots, port-wine stains, or café-au-lait spots.
- People with lighter skin who do not get a lot of sun exposure after the procedure tend to have the best results. People with darker skin may benefit from laser resurfacing, but their skin may not heal as well.
How Well It Works
There are many things that can affect the short-term and long-term results of laser resurfacing. These include your skin type, the health of your skin, how much experience your doctor has, the type of laser used, and your lifestyle after the treatment. Some types of skin problems or defects respond better to laser resurfacing than others. People with lighter skin who limit their time in the sun after treatment tend to have better results than those with darker skin and those who keep spending lots of time in the sun.
In general, laser resurfacing tends to have good results with fairly low risks.
- Wrinkles caused by aging and long-term sun exposure, such as those around the eyes and mouth, respond well to laser resurfacing. But the long-term results for these types of wrinkles aren’t known. Keep in mind that new wrinkles will probably appear as your skin ages.
- Wrinkles caused by repeated movement and muscle use (such as those on the forehead or along the sides of the nose) may be improved. But they won’t go away completely. They often come back months or years later because the muscles still perform the movements that caused the wrinkles.
- Mild or moderate acne scars may be somewhat improved. Laser treatment doesn’t work as well on severe acne scars.
Options for resurfacing
Laser resurfacing, chemical peel, and dermabrasion are the most common techniques to improve the texture and look of the skin. These techniques use different methods, but they have basically the same effect on the skin. They destroy and remove the upper layers of skin to allow the skin to regrow.
No one technique is better than the others. When done by an experienced surgeon, laser resurfacing may be slightly more precise than chemical peels or dermabrasion. But the choice of technique is based on the site you want to treat, your skin type and condition, the doctor’s experience, your preferences, and other things. Some people may get the best results by using more than one technique.