In 2013, dermatologists from the American Society for Dermatological Surgery carried out 152,000 laser resurfacing procedures. This volume represents an eight-five percent increase on the previous year and demonstrates how these procedures are becoming more popular across the United States. Fractional resurfacing is one of the newest laser methods on the market and offers patients benefits over more established procedures. Find out how this cosmetic procedure works, and learn more about what to expect if you decide to have this treatment.
How the aging process affects your skin
Young, healthy skin has a number of features. The epidermis (outer layer) of the skin is smooth and offers a good barrier to water and damage from environmental factors. The skin's color and tone is even, and collagen levels help to keep the skin firm. Elastin in the skin helps the organ move back into shape, and chemicals called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) maximize hydration.
Your skin ages in two ways:
- Intrinsic aging happens whatever you do. From the age of 20, the skin starts to produce less collagen and becomes thinner and more fragile. Elastin and GAG levels also drop. Intrinsic aging leads to small wrinkles.
- Extrinsic aging occurs because of lifestyle factors and external influences. Smoking, excessive drinking and sun exposure all worsen the problem. As part of this process, the skin thickens and freckles and sun spots may develop. These factors all exaggerate the effects of less collagen, elastin and GAGs.
How fractional laser resurfacing works
CO2 fractional laser resurfacing uses special carbon dioxide lasers to send tiny beams of light to bore holes in the skin. This process kick starts the body's natural collagen production process and boosts the skin's condition. When the skin starts to produce more collagen, wrinkles, lines, scars and blemishes diminish or disappear completely.
Cosmetic dermatologists use fractional laser resurfacing to treat:
- Wrinkles and lines
- Acne scars
- Post-trauma scars
- Sun damage
Fractional laser resurfacing differs from older laser surgery techniques. These treatments generally treated one hundred percent of the skin's surface, where fractional laser surgery only targets parts of the skin. Fractional laser resurfacing avoids damage to the top layer of the skin, which boosts results and cuts your recovery time. This type of laser resurfacing is particularly effective for patients with darker skin, as the process cuts the risk of skin pigmentation damage.
About the procedure
Fractional laser resurfacing is a popular choice for many people because the process is quick, and a dermatologist, like one at Advanced Dermatology Care, will typically carry out the work on an outpatient basis. A single procedure lasts no more than thirty minutes, and your specialist can target small or relatively large areas on the body. Patients don't generally need the treatment across the full surface of the face, so short, targeted treatments are normally beneficial.
Dermatologists will normally use a topical numbing cream to make sure you feel no discomfort. You'll need to arrive for your appointment several hours before the treatment, as this cream normally takes around two hours to work. In some cases, your specialist may use an injected anesthetic, particularly when working on a small area.
Specialists normally recommend up to four treatments, which they will complete every one or two months. You can combine the work with other treatments.
After the procedure
The treated area will normally become red and sore, rather like sunburn. In some cases, the skin may ooze and you may see small amounts of blood. A dermatologist will apply a dressing that you will have to leave on for 48 hours. The redness should ease after five days, and most people return to work and normal activities within a couple of days. Some skin crusting may occur, which you can treat with a moisturizer.
Avoid direct sunlight until the skin heals completely, and apply sun protection. Your dermatologist will also recommend various aftercare products to help the healing process. For example, you may need to use a vitamin A cream. Follow any instructions carefully.
The effects of this procedure can last up to ten years. For deep scarring, your skin may only partly respond to treatment. For example, deep acne scars will often only improve by around 50 percent.
Fractional laser resurfacing is an increasingly popular cosmetic procedure that can help reverse skin aging. Talk to your dermatologist to find out more and to understand if this treatment is right for you.