Laser skin resurfacing is a treatment that removes the top layers of your skin to improve skin texture and tone. Laser resurfacing can improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and it is also a good for treating pigmentation disorders, such as sun damage and age spots. View some of our laser resurfacing photos.
During the laser resurfacing procedure, an intense beam of light energy (laser) is directed at the treatment area which destroys the outer layer of skin (epidermis) and at the same time heats the underlying skin (dermis) to stimulate the growth of new collagen fibres. As the wound heals, new skin forms that is smoother and tighter.
Laser skin resurfacing allows the doctor to treat delicate facial areas (such as those around your eyes and lips) very precisely as the laser gives them more control over the penetration of the skin than some other resurfacing treatments, such as chemical peels and dermabrasion.
Laser resurfacing is normally safe when performed by a qualified, experienced physician. Ensure that you follow all the advice that your laser resurfacing surgeon gives you, to minimize the possibility of experiencing some of the more serious risks and complications. As with any medical procedure, patients undergoing laser skin treatment may experience certain side effects and complications. Most of these are temporary, though some may turn out to be permanent. Common laser skin resurfacing side effects include:
- Redness and irritation
- Burning sensation
- Easy flushing
Though the majority of laser resurfacing surgeries are successful, laser skin resurfacing risks and complications may include:
- Pigmentary changes, such as hyper pigmentation or skin lightening
- Excessively deep penetration causing an injury that the skin cannot repair
- Skin burns
- Textural changes
- Skin surface irregularities
To reduce the risks involved in this procedure, carefully follow all of your laser skin resurfacing surgeon’s instructions, both before and after the laser facial procedure.
A laser skin resurfacing procedure takes from just a few minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the size of the area being treated and the severity of the skin condition. Laser resurfacing procedures may be performed in a hospital, an outpatient surgical facility, or surgeon’s office.
Extensive laser resurfacing, or resurfacing performed in conjunction with another surgery (i.e. a face-lift), is generally performed in an outpatient surgical facility or hospital. You should arrange for someone to drive you home after the laser resurfacing procedure, and stay with you for a day or two to help you out if needed. Laser resurfacing is usually performed under local anesthesia or local anesthesia with a sedative; so that you will be awake but very drowsy and relaxed during the procedure. For complete laser facial resurfacing, or if other procedures such as a face-lift are being carried out at the same time, doctors commonly use intravenous sedation or general anesthesia, so you will be asleep for the entire procedure(s).
Your skin will be thoroughly cleansed to remove facial oils. Antibiotic is then applied to kill bacteria. Your laser skin resurfacing doctor will then numb the skin with the local anesthesia. A beam of light from a microphone-shaped instrument (the laser) is then passed over the skin to vaporize the outer layers (epidermis) of damaged skin. Brief, high intensity emissions of light from the laser remove layers of damaged or wrinkled skin at precisely controlled levels of penetration. The laser skin treatment doctor may penetrate more deeply in some areas, in order to remove deeper scars, stubborn spots, and wrinkles. As the laser skin treatment works, you may hear it zapping, and smell burning. Finally, your facial resurfacing doctor may apply a protective ointment, bandage or special moisture-retaining tape to the treated area.
After the procedure, your skin will be red or pink, and swollen, but this swelling will subside in time. The new, smoother skin starts to appear over the course of a few months.
Before you take the decision to undergo laser facial resurfacing, your laser resurfacing doctor will begin with a complete medical history and will examine your facial skin and the underlying bone structure. He or she may also take photos to compare your appearance before and after the laser skin treatment, and will give you specific instructions to follow before your laser facial treatments. This may include special skincare products that you will need to use on your skin prior to the laser resurfacing, to ensure that your skin is in optimal condition. Your laser resurfacing doctor will determine if laser skin resurfacing or another form of skin resurfacing is right for you. Careful consideration of your natural skin color and type and degree of scarring will determine the treatment best suited for you to minimize the risk of developing additional pigmentation or a loss of pigmentation (whitening of the skin).
Learning everything you can about your options, risks and benefits is the key to making an informed decision about laser skin resurfacing. The success and safety of your laser skin resurfacing procedure depends on you honestly answering all questions during the consultation.
After laser resurfacing surgery, you may experience some swelling, bruising and discomfort such as itching and a sunburn-like sensation. Swelling can be eased by the use of cold packs, and any pain should be moderate and can be treated with over-the-counter pain medication. The new skin will begin to form during the first few post-surgery days so your face may look quite pink.
Daily sunscreen is highly recommended for at least six months after laser skin treatment to protect the sensitive new skin from sun exposure and prevent any further sun damage. If a bandage was applied after the laser facial resurfacing surgery, it will probably be changed in a few days, but it will be completely removed after approximately one week, and an ointment is also applied. It is important to keep the bandage dry, so you won’t be able to shower until it is removed. If the treated area has not been bandaged, you will need to wash your face several times daily. Treat your treated skin with caution, and after gently washing your face, you will need to apply an ointment, such as petroleum jelly, to the treated area.
Scabs may form, and last for about 10 days. Don’t pick at the scabs, as this may cause scarring. The amount of time needed for recovery depends on the extent of the areas that were treated with laser facial resurfacing and the individual’s capacity to heal. When you go home, rest as much as possible to aid healing.
Skin redness may persist for several weeks, or longer. The redness gradually lightens to pink, and then to a lighter, more natural color. Bruising should subside after a few days. You can start to wear make up again approximately two weeks after the procedure to cover-up the redness and should be able to return to work at this time. Your doctor will advise you to avoid any contact sports for four to six weeks. Your laser skin resurfacing doctor will provide you with precise instructions on how to care for the laser treated skin. Your doctor may prescribe an anti-bacterial medication to minimize the probability of complications, an anti-inflammatory and a steroid to further reduce inflammation. You will also be advised about signs to look for that may cause concern. Be sure to attend your follow-up appointment(s) so that your doctor can check that your skin is healing effectively after your laser facial resurfacing procedure.
Ensure that you protect your skin after laser facial resurfacing from further sun damage by avoiding exposure to the sun for at least six to twelve months, until the pigment has completely returned to your skin. It will take a few months for the full final results of the treatment to be visible. A series of laser skin treatments is normally required to achieve improvement in skin texture and clarity and repeated treatments are essential to maintain your results, as the skin will continue to age and new lines, wrinkles and other skin blemishes will continue to form.