Today, many plastic surgeons have noted an increasing demand for laser treatments because people have experienced dramatic before and after photos of much-improved skin. Basically, the laser vaporizes wrinkles, which is considerably more appealing than having wrinkles “burned off” by a chemical.
Dr. Kridel, who introduced laser skin resurfacing in Houston, says, “The laser peel for facial rejuvenation can reverse damage done to the skin by age, sun, and acne. The skin can be restored, making you look younger.”
At FPSA, we are very fortunate because we have all 3 modalities for laser skin resurfacing in our office — 3 different grades of lasers that can achieve the results patients will appreciate.
What types of lasers are used for skin resurfacing?
What are the 3 different types of lasers for skin resurfacing?
1. CO2: Carbon Dioxide Laser for resurfacing
Don’t let the name throw you — carbon dioxide is just the type of medium that the laser uses. This is a fully ablative laser or one that works on the whole skin surface. It is considered the gold standard, but it also has the longest recovery period.
The CO2 laser vaporizes, not burns, the top layers of the skin. Then over a matter of weeks and months after the procedure the skin regenerates. As the skin regenerates it does a number of things. Number one it forms new, smooth skin and the wrinkles are gone. Number two, because of the type of energy that’s entered into the skin, the collagen in the skin denatures and then reforms and remodels. So, we see an improving result over six months after the laser is done. Full CO2 laser resurfacing can give tightening to the face, as well as, get rid of a lot of the sun damage, spots and fine lines that occurs with age.
One of the areas that can change most dramatically are lines around the mouth, where many women show aging. But the entire face can benefit greatly — anywhere that you have wrinkles can be treated effectively. CO2 laser cannot be used in the neck area or other areas of the body. However, CO2 laser treatment can also be used for vaporization of lesions, such as keratoses, syringomas, hyperplasia. It can also help even out scars. CO2 is also one of the best treatments for rhinophyma — the condition that some men get that enlarges the tip of the nose with bumps (an appearance like the famous comedian, W.C. Fields).
For the first two weeks of the recovery period, new skin in forming. As a result, patients traditionally do not go outside. After about two to three weeks, patients can use makeup and go out and about. There is still some redness to the skin for a few months afterward, but dissipates.
The results of CO2 can be quite significant.
2. Fractionated CO2 Laser
The Fractionated CO2 Laser technique uses the same basic technology as the full CO2. However, this laser is less powerful then the CO2 laser that’s fully ablative. Instead of burning off a large section of skin, the fractional approach sends down little pulses of energy in only selected sections of skin. It does not totally take off the top layer of skin. Since the skin between the burned areas is still healthy, healing times can be significantly improved.
The results are still quite good, but it’s not the same as the fully ablative CO2. The recovery time is about ten to 12 days at maximum depending upon the settings that are used. The settings can also be modified so the recovery is even less.
Both of these Carbon dioxide lasers — the fully ablative CO2 and the fractionated CO2 are one-time treatments. While Full C02 can only be done on the face, Fractionated CO2 and Fraxel can be done on the face and neck area.
3. Fraxel Laser
The Fraxel Laser is the only device specially designed to resurface a fraction of the skin at a time without breaking its protective outer barrier. This treatment approach allows for dramatic cosmetic improvement without the redness, downtime and discomfort of more traditional abrasive techniques. This laser is the least powerful of the three laser modalities. Less power means less downtime, but it also means that more than one treatment will be needed to get get optimum results.
The Fraxel Laser technology is ideal for adults with mild to moderate periorbital wrinkles, age spots and skin discoloration. In fact, it so gentle it can be used on practically any area of the body.
At Facial Plastic Surgery Associates, Fraxel Laser treatments can be performed by Dr. Russell Kridel, Dr. Angela Sturm-O’Brien or Lacy Gifford, Licensed Medical Aesthetician.
For more information and detail about Fraxel Laser treatments click here.
Which laser is best for my laser skin resurfacing?
How do we decide which laser to use on a patient? Well, it depends on a number of factors. If the patient is interested in facial or skin resurfacing, an important factor in recommending a treatment plan is how long the patient has for recovery time.
If it is a shorter recovery time, we use a less powerful laser. In some instances, there will need to be multiple laser treatments over a period of time.
However, another factor is what kind of result does the patient want? The stronger the laser, the better the result. With lasers, it is truly a continuum — stronger laser means better results, but also longer recovery time. Unfortunately, there is no magic laser that can produce a long lasting result with no recovery.
Selecting a Surgeon for Full CO2 and Fractionated CO2 Laser Treatments
What’s crucial to remember about these kind of treatments is that success depends greatly on the skill of the surgeon using the laser.
Because these lasers are very technique-dependent, you need to choose a doctor who’s well-trained and experienced —- a surgeon, like Dr. Kridel, who does laser skin resurfacing on a regular basis.
You should do your homework on the laser(s) you are interested in and have realistic expectations of the results you can expect to see. And, more importantly, do your research on the person who will be doing the procedure.
During your laser treatment consultation, you should ask several important questions:
- How many of these procedures have you done?
- Do you have before and post op pictures from this device?
- How long have you been using this device?
- Why did you select this device over the others available?
- How long have you been performing laser procedures?
- Have you written any papers on laser resurfacing or the different laser devices?