Other Associated Terms: Laser Peel, Fractional Laser Treatment, Fraxel, Erbium Laser Resurfacing, Dot Laser Treatment, Total FX, Co2 Laser Resurfacing and Active FX.
As we grow older, we begin to notice the effects of aging on our skin, particularly on the face. While this may seem not overly important to some, others desire to achieve a younger appearance. There are a variety of procedures designed to help in this matter, such as surgical facelifts. But there are some who would wish to avoid the incisions and downtime associated with more invasive procedures. One of the options available to you may be laser skin resurfacing. Also known as a “laser peel”, this procedure can reduce wrinkles and is usually performed around the eyes and mouth.
One of the newer cosmetic procedures, laser skin resurfacing has increased in popularity. In the United States, reports indicated that the number of these procedures totaled 400,262 in 2008 which represents an increase of 134% from the year 2000! Why the sudden rise in popularity?
Most of it has to do with laser skin resurfacing’s advantages over other skin rejuvenation methods that include less bleeding, bruising and discomfort. There is also a shorter recovery time that relates to the fact that modern lasers are safer and more gentle than they were, in the past.
The benefits surrounding laser skin resurfacing deal with the less invasive nature of the procedure. Skin problems such as moderate – severe acne, crow’s feet and wrinkles can be alleviated through the use lasers that will remove skin tissue – layer by layer. However, the blood vessels will be sealed, thus reducing bruising, bleeding and discomfort during the recovery period.
Ideal patients are those who wish to enhance their appearance through a relatively fast procedure, with limited downtime, are good candidates for laser skin resurfacing. Other reasons can include; increasing self-confidence through improved appearance, becoming less self-conscious about your appearance, attaining smoother appearing skin and obtaining a more youthful appearance.
However, your goals should be realistic while understanding that the procedure is designed to improve your appearance – not achieve perfection. During your doctor’s consultation, you should discuss your reasons for wanting the procedure and your expectations regarding the results.
You should also be aware that laser skin resurfacing is not for everyone. For those with darker skin tones, it may require from 6-9 months to regain normal pigmentation after the procedure. Also, if you are taking certain medications, prone to scarring or have skin disorders, you may not be a good candidate. These issues should be evaluated by your dermatologist prior to any procedures.
Your procedure will take place at your doctor’s office, an outpatient facility or in a local hospital. For most cases, the procedure will be performed in a relatively short period of time (from a few minutes to a little over an hour) and you will be allowed to go home that same day.
Laser skin surfacing utilizes an intense beam of laser light energy which vaporizes upper damaged skin layers at specific locations. The doctor will move the laser over the skin until a layer is reached where the scars or wrinkles are not as visible. New skin will eventually replace old skin and this will considerably reduce the appearance of scarring and wrinkles.
Once the procedure is completed, protective ointments or creams may be applied – which will aid in the healing process.
The procedure, in most cases, is performed under local anesthesia except in cases where the scarring is more extensive. In those cases, general anesthesia may be indicated and you will sleep through the process. Afterwards, there may be some discomfort and swelling which can be addressed through prescribed pain medication and ice packs.
There are other procedures that are available for improving skin appearance. Common alternatives can include:
Chemical Peels: This procedure can remove age spots or sun spots that can appear on the hands and face. Here, chemicals are applied to the skin which will remove its’ upper layers, thus lessening the appearance of surface irregularities.
Microdermabrasion: This procedure can be used for superficial skin imperfections. This is a slightly more invasive procedure than a chemical peel and will involve using tiny crystals to sand off the upper layer of skin.
You should allow one week to recover, after the procedure. Since your skin will remain a pinkish tinge (or possibly red), for the next few weeks, you’ll probably want to apply makeup to cover that change in color. However, for the first week, it’s advised that no makeup be applied to the treated areas. After the first week, it should be OK to use makeup until the pink color fades. Check with your doctor on this. You will also be given specific post-op instructions by your doctor that you need to follow. Do not pick at any crusting, since this can lead to scarring. Any crusting should disappear within ten days after the procedure.
Risks Associated with Laser Skin Resurfacing:
With all surgical procedures, there is some element of risk. Patients should be aware that although laser skin resurfacing risks are minimal, some possible issues may include pigmentation changes (possibly permanent), scarring and burns from the laser, itself. The surgeon may also create an injury to the skin by going too deep with the procedure. Infection, however, is a rarity. Other possible complications (usually temporary) can include tenderness and slight changes in pigmentation,
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that the average cost for treatment is $2,378, nationwide. However, the costs can vary from region to region and will ultimately depend on several factors. Please note that this fee will only cover the surgeon’s cost and will not cover various other expenses, such as anesthesia, facility fees, etc. During your consultation, make sure to obtain the total cost that will include any miscellaneous charges.
The extent of your treatment will also affect costs. A hospital visit may be required if the procedure needs to address imperfections located in deeper skin layers. If this is the case, general anesthesia may be needed. This will significantly increase the costs, as opposed to having the procedure performed in an outpatient center or your doctor’s office using local anesthesia. It’s important to go over your complete treatment with you physician prior to any procedure.
Most medical insurance companies will not cover procedures that are designed for cosmetic purposes. However, financing plans are usually available from your doctor in order to cover procedure expenses. More information can be obtained from your insurance provider and your doctor.
Things to Discuss with Your Doctor During Your Consultation:
An initial consultation with your doctor will outline your treatment plan and answer any questions that you may have regarding recovery time, benefits and realistic expectations.
Some of the items that should be covered may include; Which treatment method is best for you and why? What results may you reasonably expect and what are the policies regarding repeating or correcting procedures that don’t meet agreed upon expectations? How and where will the procedure be performed (is the facility accredited)? What are your anesthesia options? What is involved in the recovery? What is the surgeon’s level of experience (how many procedures has he or she performed over the last year)? What percentage of patients have experienced complications and what were those complications?
You may also ask for patient referrals and contact them regarding their satisfaction level with their procedure. Also, remember to inform your doctor of any medical conditions, allergies or medications that you may be taking.