In laser resurfacing, sometimes called a laser peel, a carbon dioxide (CO2) laser is used to remove areas of damaged or wrinkled skin, layer by layer. The procedure is most commonly used to minimize the appearance of fine lines, especially around the mouth and the eyes. However, it is also effective in treating facial scars or areas of uneven pigmentation. Laser resurfacing may be performed on the whole face or in specific regions. Often, the procedure is done in conjunction with another cosmetic operation, such as a facelift or eyelid surgery.
Laser resurfacing produces less bleeding, bruising and post-operative discomfort than is typically seen with other resurfacing methods.
Laser resurfacing is performed using a beam of laser energy which vaporizes the upper layers of damaged skin at specific and controlled levels of penetration. This procedure offers a number of advantages over other resurfacing methods: precision, little (if any) bleeding and less post-operative discomfort. However, laser resurfacing is not for everyone. In some cases, an alternative skin resurfacing treatment such as dermabrasion or a chemical peel may still be a better choice.
All resurfacing treatments work essentially the same way. First, the outer layers of damaged skin are stripped away. Then, as new cells form during the healing process, a smoother, tighter, younger-looking skin surface appears. For superficial or medium resurfacing, the laser can be limited to the epidermis and papillary dermis. For deeper resurfacing, the upper levels of the reticulas dermis can also be removed. Varied penetration allows treatment of specific spots or wrinkles.
In many cases, facial wrinkles form in localized areas such as near the eyes or around the mouth. The laser can be precisely controlled so that only these specific areas are targeted.
Patients with olive skin, brown skin or black skin may be at increased risk for pigmentation changes no matter what type of resurfacing method is recommended. Dr. Fisher will evaluate your skin characteristics and make recommendations accordingly.
Laser resurfacing is a relatively quick procedure. It usually takes anywhere from a few minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on how large of an area is involved. When the imperfections are especially deep, Dr. Fisher may recommend that the resurfacing be performed in two or more stages.
During the procedure, the activated laser is carefully passed back and forth over the skin until Dr. Fisher reaches the level that will make the wrinkle or scar less visible.
When the procedure is over, Dr. Fisher may choose to treat the resurfaced skin with applications of protective creams or ointments until healing is complete.
After the treatment, you may experience some mild swelling and discomfort after laser resurfacing. However, this can be controlled with ice packs and medications prescribed by Dr. Fisher.
Your new skin will usually remain bright pink to red in the weeks following the procedure. Dr. Fisher may prescribe medications to make this color subside more rapidly. Approximately two weeks after the procedure most patients can safely apply makeup to conceal this temporary color change. However, some pinkness may remain for up to six months.
The final result from laser resurfacing may take several months to fully appear. However, once the pinkness fades patients usually notice a significant improvement in the quality of their skin and a fresher, smoother appearance.