Laser skin therapy is more famous as cosmetic treatment for those who wish to get the more beautiful skin. This kind of therapies has become more popular over the years because of the so called great result from the treatments. The therapy is often done in short period but with highly satisfying result.
To make it even more popular, celebrities become the examples of successful laser treatment on skin in addition of claims and promises from the physicians – mainly dermatologists. Before going to clinic and get treated, it’ important to understand more about laser, the treatments and the side effects.
What is Laser Skin Therapy?
Laser is an acronym of Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. The treatment will use devices to emit focused light beam to target the specific area on skin. Because the light is focused on one spot, the skin around will be spared or suffer from little to no damage.
Lasers come in a variety of types meant for particular purposes. Lasers can be found being used in medical treatment as well as the cosmetic treatments. The latter is more popular for an obvious reason. Lasers will be able to help reducing wrinkles and tighten the skin, removing dark spots or patches and others for better complexion.
Laser Skin Therapy Benefits and Drawbacks
o The treatments are more précised. It will target the affected area and will leave the skin around the targeted area with minimum damage.
o Every treatment session is relatively short and can even be done in less than an hour. There is no need to stay in the clinics after the treatments. Patients can come to the clinics and done with the treatment in even less than an hour.
o The result can be seen immediately and the healing process is very quick – in particular treatments, patients can come during an office break and get the treatment done before going back to work right after the treatment.
o Prices are expensive and might not be affordable for some people.
o The effects or the results achieved from the treatment might not be permanent. In order words, repeated treatments will be necessary from time to time in order to maintain the desired complexion. Naturally, this means more money is needed.
o There are some side effects those may occur and can be felt as inconvenient. More details about the side effects will be mentioned later.
How It Actually Works?
Laser beam will be emitted through specific devices. Through these devices, the beam can be controlled and directed strategically on the targeted area of skin. The procedures done in every treatment will depend on the types of laser used.
In general, the focused laser will penetrate deeper into the skin tissue and then will start to repair the problematic skin surface. After that, it will start to reorganize as well as stimulate the production of collagen and the elastin fiber. Through this process, the skin will look better than before.
The Main Categories of Laser Skin Therapy
As mentioned earlier, there are different types of laser. These lasers can be divided into two main categories: ablative lasers and non-ablative lasers. These two categories are filled with lasers those will work differently to achieve particular purposes.
- Ablative Laser
This type of lasers will literally ablate or injure the skin surface and penetrate deeper into the the layers below the skin. Ablative lasers are capable of:
o Making significant difference of appearance to the wrinkles on the skin surface as well as the wrinkles in the deeper layer of skin.
o Significantly reduce the discoloration on skin surface.
o Erasing the years-old sun damage on skin that is caused. It helps replacing damaged skin with the newer skin.
The usage of ablative lasers is not without risks or side effects. The followings are the side effects occurring after the laser treatment:
o Oozing, scabbing and swelling.
o Bleeding, flaking and redness.
o Skin irritation that needs to be healed in longer time.
o Scarring and skin discoloration in long term.
In laser skin therapy with ablative laser, the postoperative techniques will be just as important as physician’s skills while doing the treatment. After this treatment, skin will start to ooze and crust. It needs to be properly cleaned and moisten in approximately two weeks before the skin is back to normal. Skin needs to be treated precisely according to the instructions. Incomplete or inconsistency will cause infection, increased irritation and delayed healing time.
- Non-Ablative Laser
As expected, these lasers basically avoid what ablative laser does. It is a good thing because side effects felt after the treatment will not be as severe and the skincare after the treatment will not be as complicated. Non-ablative lasers are capable of”
o Removing discolorations of skin – brown spots in particular.
o Improving as well as eliminating the redness that comes from broken capillaries and rosacea.
o Improving the fine lines and minor wrinkles on skin.
o After multiple treatments, it helps to stimulate production of collagen of the skin.
And, the non-ablative lasers are also risky with side effects albeit not as severe as the ablative lasers: The side effects of these non-ablative lasers will mostly fade away after a few days.
o Swelling on skin and the potential bruises.
o Enhanced sunburn-like reaction.
o Treated spots will be temporarily darker.
Patients of this treatment will be able to go out immediately (the same day with the treatment). Patients can even put their makeup back before leaving the clinic and return home or return working. That being said, non-ablative lasers don’t produce results as dramatic as ablative lasers. Aside of that, the treatment needs to be done for several times in order to get the significant outcome.
Ablative Laser vs. Non-Ablative Laser
Now, the important question that often being asked by the people who have interest to get laser treatment is, which one is better or which one will be the best. The answer to this question is actually none. Both lasers have pros and cons to be considered.
Both are equal in term of safety and efficacy. Ablative laser is effective but with complex postoperative treatment. Non-ablative won’t be as complex as ablative but not as effective. The final choice depends on what is sought by someone through the treatment as well as how far she’s willing to take the risks.
More Specific Types of Laser Skin Therapy
Let’s talk further about the types of skin laser therapy. There are several available options and each one of them has pros and cons those must be properly considered. Some treatments combine different laser types to achieve particular result.
The name of Fraxel actually refers to a brand but it becomes the nickname of an entire group of lasers. Fraxel comes from the word fractional which refers to the way the light emitted by the device. The device doesn’t emit focused light but rather “bombard” the skin in polka-dot pattern.
There will be less damage done and the recovery speed is fast. This one is often used for the various skin problems. There are various lasers available and each focusing on different problems such as making rough patches smoother, reducing wrinkles as well as removing pigmentation and scars from the skin.
- CO2 Pulse Laser
It’s one of the oldest lasers of ablative type. It’s capable of creating noticeable and more lasting results compare to others. But it’s also one associated with potential skin damage and risks for most of the time. It takes about one to two weeks for skin to be healed. The skin will be red for one to two months after.
- Erbium: YAG Laser
It’s another ablative laser but less invasive compare to CO2 pulse laser. It’s effective against inor wrinkles but can go deeper if the intensity is increased. This laser sometimes is combined with CO2. Erbium YAG will be used first and then the CO2 will be used. This leads to tighter collagen and with minimum damage to the skin tissue around the targeted area.
- Long-Pulsed YAG Laser
Reducing the visibility of acne scars as well as reducing wrinkles can be done with this particular laser. Aside of those two, this particular laser is also useful for hair removal as well as removing the surfaced capillaries. Because it is a non-ablative laser, it takes several treatments to achieve the desired and the really subtle results. This treatment needs to done every year in order to maintain the results as well as discouraging the future sagging.
- Q-Switched Ruby Laser
This laser can be considered as ablative as minimum as possible. It’s a good laser for the skin pigmentation problems like dark spots because of overexposure of sun and freckles. It can be very useful to remove birthmarks. It will work without even damaging the tissue of surrounding skin.
Even when the laser is considered ablative, it takes repeated treatments in order to get the wanted results. This laser has been used in treatment for dark circles but lack of research data on it makes people hesitant on this option. Tattoo removal is another popular usage of Q-Switched Ruby Laser. As noted by many physicians, their laser works have been filled with request to remove tattoos for a variety of reasons.
- Pulsed Dye Laser, Short- and Long-Pulsed
Port wine marks, red dots on skin (hemangiomas), thick and raised scars and surfaced capillaries can be dealt with this one non-ablative laser. It doesn’t cause damages on skin aside of bruises that will go away after a while.
- Long-Pulsed Alexandrite Laser
It is another non-ablative laser that can be chosen. This one is used for hair removal as well as for surfaced capillaries and veins on legs. The machine will cover the large area of skin quickly.
- Intense Pulsed Light
This one is actually not a laser treatment. However, it is still a light-emitting device and often lumped together with other laser treatments because of this. IPL is considered as the good starter treatment. It will be able to treat the redness, minor brown spots as well as broken capillaries like rosacea. It takes several treatments for the results to occur. After the treatments, there might be minor swelling, tenderness and even some bruises that will fade in count of days.
Understanding the Side Effects of Laser Skin Therapy
As mentioned before, the patients of laser skin therapy needs to expect some side effects. It’s because the laser treatments are known to be the most invasive and extensive treatments that can be done on skin. Each chosen therapy will have particular side effects those sometimes inconvenient. For most of the time, these side effects will fade away in time. The followings are the most common side effects felt by the people who undergo the laser skin treatment:
- Redness, Swelling and/or Itching
Let’s start first with these side effects those might occur together after the treatment. These are very common especially after the traditional ablative laser treatments because the top layer of skin will be vaporized. And thus the skin becomes red and raw for a few months before it fully healed itself.
It’s also possible to suffer from these side effects after a treatment with non-ablative laser but these side effects will last only for shorter time. Just give them a few days and they will disappear although the pinkish skin may last for weeks later.
It goes without saying that laser treatments can be hurt. During a treatment, there will be pain felt by the skin and this pain will be carried after the treatment. In a way, this is inconvenient but nothing can really be done to prevent the pain.
The good thing is topical anesthetic can be properly applied on the skin in order to relief the pain as much as possible. Although that this useful topical pain reliever exist, there will still be discomfort feel. If the laser treatments are more invasive and more intense, the physicians will usually prescribe good pain relief pills.
This one side effect is possible depending on the laser treatment. Bruising on the skin is known as a more common side effect to happen in patients of pulsed dye lasers where purpura might occur on the area treated with laser.
Purpurarefers to purple spots on skin that occur when the blood vessel underneath the skin leak. The Bruise will fade away on its own without treatment. However, if the process of fading needs to be sped up, there are KTP lasers those might help when being used properly.
After the particular laser skin treatment, some people will experience something called “purging”. This refers to the postoperative minor breakouts. This condition happens because of stimulation on skin caused by the laser treatment. It might also come from the emollient healing creams applied on skin as a part of postoperative treatment.
In general, the laser treatments cannot be done on the irritated skin or skin with active acne. Lasers are considered being good to deal with acne. However, it is a better thing to treat the acne marks and acne scars but not the currently active acne.
It may seem to be unlikely but actually very possible. It does sound funny because as many people know, laser skin treatments are mainly for beautification purposes. One of those purposes is to get rid of scars. The truth is, when someone treats her skin to be better by damaging the skin, it certainly has the risk of scars.
The possibility of scaring really depends on types of skin. Some people might have skin prone to scaring or even getting the raised scars or keloids. These people will need to think twice as the laser treatments will be risky.
- Blistering, Crusting and/or Scabbing
These side effects might happen in moderate to severe level after the laser skin treatment or the other light-based skin treatments such as Intense Pulsed Light or IPL. In most cases, the skin after a laser treatment will look like sunburn.
However, sometimes, the skin will suffer from blistering, crusting and scabbing. While these conditions certainly look ugly, they will go away in time. So, just let them and don’t do anything to them until they completely heal themselves. There’s no need to worry as they will fade away sooner or later.
- Skin Infection
Another side effect from the laser skin therapy is the skin infection. The skin infection is actually not a very common side effect. However, it can still happen particularly to the patients of the more invasive treatments. Most of physicians will give prescription of antibiotic creams as well as pills to their patients.
These creams can pills are parts of the postoperative treatment that will be very useful to prevent skin infection from happening. If someone sees her skin scabs after a laser treatment, don’t even pick on the scabs because that will trigger the infection.
- Demarcation Line
This condition refers to the change of skin color that will clearly show the areas treated with laser and the areas not treated with laser. The line usually occurs around lips, jaw line as well as around eyes. This kind of problem occurs when a patient of laser treatment loses skin pigments because of the treatment.
There is nothing much can be done for these demarcation lines aside of trying even out the skin color. That being said, it is a complicated task and makeup is considered being the best but not permanent solution for the demarcation lines.
- Changes of Skin Pigmentation
Skin laser therapy is not something for everyone. There will be some people who will counter problems because of this treatment. In general, the results from laser treatments will not be as good for people with darker skin tones compare to the people with the lighter skin tones.
In anyway, anyone has the risk of hyperpigmentation (darkening of skin tone) or hypopigmentation (lightening of skin tone). This condition happen to the people who get laser treatment that penetrates deeper into the skin. Asian people are known to be prone of hyperpigmentation.
- Sensitivity towards the Sun
The skin becomes more sensitive to the sun because of a reason. Laser treatments will literally heat the skin or even damage the skin in order to encourage the skin to heal and get new layer of skin. This certainly makes the skin more sensitive to be exposed to the sun.
Just after the skin treatments with laser, it is important for the patients to stay out from the sun especially during the peak hours. Wearing the high quality sunscreen is highly recommended in order to protect the skin. Don’t neglect the sunscreen as the sensitive skin can easily get photodamage.
- Fat Loss
Don’t be grinning happily when hearing these words as the fat loss applies only to the fat layer on the face. The fat loss is something very possible to happen particularly to the treatments with radio frequency. This happens because of the radiofrequency that constricts the cells of fat underneath the layers of skin.
A lot of people have the experience of having the gaunter looking face after the laser treatment. What can be done? There is no other way to sort this problem aside of fat grafting surgery that many people unwilling to take.
- Skin Problems Recurrence
Last but not least is the recurrence of the skin issues. As aforementioned, laser skin therapy needs to be done from time to time. The first purpose of repeated treatment is to get the desired results. The second purpose of repeated treatment is to keep the already acquired results. It is a common thing especially for hair removal and vascular lesion treatments.
There is nothing wrong with taking the laser skin therapy. However, one must remember that there are commitments as side effects to be considered. Don’t buy the sweet words of physicians – usually dermatologists who say that laser treatment is perfect. Skin treatment with laser is not perfect. It has drawbacks aside of the promising results.