Laser Skin Resurfacing Basics

Laser skin resurfacing grows in popularity every year, for good reason—it’s one of the most effective ways to get radiant, clearer, younger-looking skin without having a face lift. The vocabulary of laser skin resurfacing can be a bit confusing, though, leaving some patients unsure of what to ask for when they meet with their cosmetic surgeon.

In this article, we’ll talk about laser skin resurfacing procedures, how they differ, and which procedures are best suited for which patients.

Full-field Treatments vs. Fractional

Laser skin resurfacing can be done at both a fractional and a full-field level, depending on what your cosmetic surgeon feels is most suitable for you and your desired results.

In a full-field treatment, the surgeon removes all of the outer surface area of skin in your designated treatment area.

A “fractional” procedure simply means that a fraction of the skin is treated at a time, leaving surrounding skin untouched. The untouched skin helps the treated “neighbor” skin to heal more quickly.

In the hands of a skilled cosmetic surgeon, a fractional procedure can provide results very close to full-field treatments, with less chance of complications.

Ablative Procedures

During an ablative laser procedure, your cosmetic surgeon will literally ablate, or vaporize, damaged or aged layers of skin, layer by layer. As the outer layer is removed, the underlying tissue is heated and collagen production is stimulated. Depending on the depth and extent of the ablation, the result can be dramatically rejuvenated skin that is smoother and tighter.

Because ablative resurfacing affects the skin at a deeper level, it is ideal for treating moderate wrinkles, age spots, acne scars, birthmarks, warts and uneven skin tone.

The more deeply your cosmetic surgeon penetrates your skin, the more significant your result. However, more significant results also mean a little more social downtime. Discomfort will be minimal, but you might wish to schedule your procedure for a time when you have fewer social commitments until reddening fades, etc.

At Southern Surgical Arts, we have a broad selection of tools at our disposal—all of which are state of the art and represent the best technology available.

We prefer to use the “gold standard” laser for each skin condition and patient request, as we discussed in our previous post on laser skin resurfacing. Two such “gold standard” lasers frequently used for ablative skin resurfacing are the CO2 laser and the Erbium laser.

The CO2 laser is considered the gold standard of resurfacing tools for tightening the skin and reducing wrinkles. The Erbium laser is ideal for resurfacing darker skin tones with a reduced risk of complications.

Many of our patients have heard of microlaser peel and have questions about this procedure. During a microlaser peel, your cosmetic surgeon will use a scanning Erbium laser, such as the Sciton laser, to safely and precisely ablate the outer layers of your skin. The condition of your skin determines the depth of the peel.

Nonablative Laser Procedures

If you and your cosmetic surgeon decide that a nonablative laser resurfacing is the best treatment choice for you, you can expect even less downtime because your surgeon can use the laser to penetrate the skin without visibly damaging or removing the top layer.

Nonablative treatments are best suited for light creasing, minimal sun damage, and redness of the skin caused by broken capillaries and rosacea. Nonablative treatments also stimulate collagen production, but not as effectively as ablative procedures.

To achieve your desired results, your cosmetic surgeon may recommend that you come in for a series of treatments over the course of a few months.

After nonablative resurfacing, you can expect your skin to feel slightly sunburned. All laser treatments will require you to shield your newly-resurfaced skin from the sun as it will be vulnerable and tender in its treated state.

Advancements in laser technology make laser resurfacing an exciting, versatile option—but the number of choices can seem daunting. If you’d like to learn more about your laser resurfacing options, our board-certified surgeons would be happy to answer your questions in a complimentary consultation. You can schedule one by calling Southern Surgical Arts at 423-266-3131.

Next up: how to take care of your freshly-resurfaced skin to ensure your best results!

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