What Is Laser Skin Resurfacing?

Laser skin resurfacing is a common procedure to reduce wrinkles, scars, and other facial blemishes.

What is laser skin resurfacing?

Laser skin resurfacing is a relatively new cosmetic procedure to reduce or eliminate damaged skin. During laser skin resurfacing, the external layers of damaged or blemished skin are carefully stripped away using a carbon dioxide (CO2) laser beam. The laser beam is controlled and will only penetrate the minimum number of layers needed to correct the blemish. Once the procedure is completed, the skin is left to heal, creating new cells that produce a smoother, suppler, skin surface. Laser skin resurfacing-also known as a laser peel-is performed on patients who have fine lines, wrinkles, scars, and irregular areas of pigmentation. It is common for a plastic surgeon to perform laser skin resurfacing during another cosmetic procedure involving the facial skin, such as a facelift.

Perhaps you have heard of or had a chemical peel or dermabrasion. These are older methods of skin resurfacing. Laser skin resurfacing works much the same way, although the post-operative discomfort is much lower than with a chemical peel or dermabrasion; there is less bruising, bleeding, and risk of infection with laser procedures. Treating areas near the eyes and mouth are much easier and safer with a laser than with chemicals and abrasion. The recovery time from a laser skin resurfacing procedure is generally quicker than that of older treatments.

Am I a good candidate for laser skin resurfacing?

It is recommended that candidates who have taken the acne medication Accutane within the last year to 18 months allow more time for the medication to pass through their systems or consider another surgical procedure. Patients with darker skin tones are prone to pigmentation changes with any resurfacing operation. Patients with current skin infections on or near the treatment area may be advised to wait until the skin has completely healed before the operation can be performed. Lastly, patients who are prone to abnormal, keloid-like scarring are usually advised to try a different method. Keloid scars are raised and often become darker than the surrounding, healthy skin. The procedure works best on people with light blemishes, skin discolorations, and fine lines. Deeper scars and more severe wrinkles may require more than one laser treatment. You will need to set up a consultation with a plastic surgeon in your area to discuss whether laser skin resurfacing is right for you. The plastic surgeon will need to do an assessment of your skin in order to decide if this resurfacing process is your best option.

What are the risks involved with laser skin resurfacing?

As with any surgical or cosmetic procedure, there are risks. The possible complications for laser skin resurfacing are relatively rare and usually not major. These include: scarring, lightening or darkening of the affected area, and burns (to the surrounding skin) from the heat of the laser beam. Patients who are prone to cold sores may experience one after laser skin resurfacing. Skin infections as a result of the operation are rare. Luckily, should the skin begin to heal in an abnormal manner, your plastic surgeon can take steps to adjust the treatment or suggest a different method. The healing process often takes several months to produce the results you desire.

To get the results you seek, you should choose a plastic surgeon who has received training in laser surgery. The doctor should have an anonymous portfolio of before and after photos to share with you during your consultation, and he or she should leave you feeling confident in your decision.

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