Performed by a skincare professional, non-ablative laser treatments use light and heat to trigger a controlled wound-healing response in skin. These treatments stimulate cellular renewal and collagen production to help improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, depressed scars, or skin tone and texture.
Laser resurfacing treatments are categorized as ablative and non-ablative. Ablative lasers, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and erbium (ER: YAG), work by vaporizing the skin’s surface to help trigger tissue repair and stimulate collagen production.
Non-ablative lasers generate heat below the skin to induce controlled injury in the dermis without injuring the skin’s surface. Non-ablative lasers are less invasive than their ablative counterparts. Downtime is significantly lower and the potential for side effects is greatly reduced.
Non-ablative laser treatments are ideal for individuals with Fitzaptrick skin types I-III, light-to-olive complexions, who are looking to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, soften acne scarring, and improve skin tone.
Candidates with Fitzpatrick skin types IV and above, medium to deeper skin tones, should be cautious when considering laser resurfacing. Although non-ablative lasers are not as invasive as ablative lasers, the risks of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and scarring still exist. If considering this procedure, it is essential that you look for an experienced skincare professional with extensive knowledge and a proven track record in treating patients with deeper skin tones. Additionally, it is especially important that all pre- and post-procedure instructions are followed diligently, especially the use of a broad spectrum sunscreen.
Ablative laser treatments are ideal for patients with more significant facial aging, deep or pitted scars, and/or significant and severe pigmentation. This intense procedure can deliver significant damage to the skin. Therefore, only patients experiencing conditions requiring such aggressive measures should consider it. Recovery from an ablative laser treatment may take a few weeks and can be uncomfortable. Anyone considering the treatment should make preparations to manage the recovery period and completely avoid all sun exposure.
Although this procedure is intense, the results are significant. An ablative laser will result in new skin with results lasting up to five years. The results may also be extended beyond that with ongoing maintenance treatments such as chemical peels and microdermabrasion. It is important to always consult with your doctor about which skin treatment will work best for you.
Regardless of your skin type, it is also important that you discuss with your skincare professional any medications that you may be taking, as some medications, such as Accutane, may make your skin more sensitive to UV light.
Non-ablative lasers work by delivering a precise wavelength of light to produce a controlled injury to the skin, which promotes cellular renewal. The energy that is emitted from the laser heats the lower layers of the skin in a targeted, controlled manner. This heat-induced damage triggers a skin repair response and stimulates the production of collagen, a structural protein responsible for skin elasticity, integrity, and firmness. All of this occurs without damaging the surface of the skin.
There are different ways of delivering the light of a non-ablative laser. One method is non-fractionated, meaning that the laser acts on an entire area of the skin. The second approach is fractionated, a much more common method where the laser targets only a portion of the skin at a time. This latter approach emits heat using thousands of microscopic columns, known as microthermal treatment zones. This approach promotes accelerated skin healing, reduces recovery time, and helps mitigate potential risks, making it ideal for patients seeking minimal downtime.
During ablative laser resurfacing, an intense beam of light energy (laser) is directed at your skin. The laser beam injures the outer layer of skin (epidermis). At the same time, the laser heats the underlying skin (dermis), which causes collagen fibers to shrink. As the wound heals, new skin forms that's smoother and tighter. Like non-ablative lasers, ablative laser treatments can also be fractionated or non-fractionated.
Consult with your skincare professional to determine if laser treatments are right for you.
Depending on the treatment, your skincare professional will prep the area to be treated by cleansing your skin. You will also be given a protective pair of goggles to cover your eyes. If deemed necessary, you may be provided with a numbing cream to apply one to two hours before the treatment.
During a non-ablative laser treatment, your skincare professional will gently pass the laser across your skin. The sensation is often described as a rubber band snapping on skin. This procedure can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours depending upon the area to be treated. Once finished, your skin will feel warm, similar to a mild sunburn, for up to 24 hours depending on the treatment. Sometimes, cooling the skin with an ice pack or cooling mask, such as SkinCeuticals Biocellulouse Restorative Mask, is necessary. Redness will often resolve within a few days, but can last longer depending on the type of laser used and the area being treated.
For ablative laser treatments, the technician will likely numb the skin with local anesthesia. The treatment typically takes between 30 minutes and 2 hours, depending on the technique used and the size of the area treated. Depending on the strength of the laser treatment, pain medication may be given for recovery. Upon completion of the procedure, you can expect general discomfort, redness, and swelling that can take 2-4 weeks to fully heal.
Overall, the rate of recovery depends on the treatment type and how the skin reacts. Discuss post-treatment care with your skincare professional prior to the treatment so you can be prepared.
For all laser treatments your skin will experience increased sensitivity to UV light. As a result, it is best to undergo these treatments during periods of reduced sun exposure, such as late fall or winter. If you live in a warmer climate or choose to have the procedure during warmer months, it is imperative that you avoid sun exposure as much as possible.
However, regardless of when you decide to receive your treatment, it is important to apply a broad spectrum sunscreen daily and diligently. Not only will this help protect the results of your treatment, but it can help prevent future signs of skin aging. For the most comprehensive protection, your skincare professional may recommend using at-home skincare products such as SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic. Tested for use immediately after ablative and non-ablative laser treatments, this powerful vitamin C serum is clinically proven to help reduce redness, swelling, and downtime.
As with nearly any procedure, there are risks associated with laser treatments. These include infection, changes in skin color, redness, swelling, or blisters. To avoid any unnecessary side effects and to maximize results, look for a licensed skincare professional with documented training and extensive experience in laser resurfacing. Your skincare professional will work with you to determine the most effective treatment plan based on your skin type, concerns, and desired results.
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