Types of Laser Skin Resurfacing
The procedure called laser skin resurfacing, also known as a laser peel, entails the removal of the top layers of the skin via focused laser light energy. An acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, all lasers work by directing a powerful beam of bright light that moves in one direction over the treatment area. The light in laser produces can be adjusted to certain wavelengths, which then treats various conditions. The main goals of laser skin resurfacing are to make the skin smoother, tighter, and more even in tone, texture, and color.
There are three main kinds of laser skin resurfacing technologies in use today: carbon dioxide, ablative fractional, and erbium lasers.
Carbon Dioxide Lasers
Carbon dioxide, or CO, lasers have been in use since the 1960s to treat both malignant and benign skin conditions. Now frequently referred to as “CO²” lasers, signifying their new-generation technology advancements, these lasers utilize short, pulsed light energy (ultrapulsed) or continuous-beam light energy that scans the skin to precisely remove the topmost layers of skin. There is minimal heat damage to surrounding structures. CO lasers stimulate the body’s wound response to create new, fresh, undamaged skin, plump with collagen. Because the entire layer of skin is removed, the CO² laser requires the most recovery time of the three lasers discussed here. The field of carbon dioxide skin rejuvenation technology continues to rapidly evolve. It remains the “gold standard” in laser skin resurfacing.
Ablative Fractional Lasers
Ablative fractional lasers use targeted individual beams of light energy to treat the skin. While CO² lasers remove the skin’s entire top layer, ablative fractional lasers removes skin in hundreds of “columns,” each column smaller than a pinhead. The subsequent healing process creates fresh skin that looks and feels softer, tighter, and smoother, as with the CO² laser. The surrounding skin that was left intact and untreated by an energy column helps the treated areas to heal quicker. Unlike the CO² laser, because some of that skin was left intact, the body needs to create new skin only where it was removed by an energy column, rather than the entire surface. Therefore, ablative fractional lasers require less downtime than a CO² laser.
Erbium YAG laser treatments are less aggressive than CO² or fractional lasers, but still provide dramatic results with reduced risk. Interestingly, the wavelength of an erbium laser works with the body’s fundamental absorbency of water to remove the uppermost layer of damaged skin. When the energy of the laser beam reaches a threshold, the water component of the skin evaporates suddenly, removing any solid component of the skin. This effect is called photoablation. Erbium lasers can diminish wrinkles, improve pigmentation and resurface the skin. A series of treatments is often required to achieve full results.
The anti-aging breakthrough of the decade, according to many doctors, is a skin-resurfacing treatment known as CO² fractional laser therapy. Combining the effectiveness of traditional carbon dioxide lasers with a new application technique, it delivers powerful results without the traditionally lengthy recovery time. It works by aggressively stimulating collagen, yet recovery averages only four days and results can last up to ten years. The CO² fractional laser is available at the Elizabeth Roche MD MedSpa.
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