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What is laser resurfacing?

Laser stands for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Lasers used in resurfacing, work by producing an intense beam of light that gently vaporises the superficial, damaged skin cells, to reveal healthier skin beneath. Laser resurfacing is an effective anti-aging procedure that reduces the appearance of wrinkles, scars and blemishes.

Unlike other resurfacing treatments like chemical peels, lasers give plastic surgeons a greater level of control, resulting in extreme precision, allowing for effective treatments with a higher level of safety, better recovery time and less complications or side-effects.

Laser resurfacing can improve minor facial flaws, such as-

  • Fine lines or wrinkles around or under your eyes, forehead or mouth
  • Scars from acne or chickenpox
  • Non-responsive skin after a facelift
  • Aged or sun-damaged skin
  • Liver spots
  • Improve your complexion if you have yellowish or grayish skin tones
  • Warts
  • Birthmarks
  • Enlarged oil glands on the nose

What types of lasers are used for resurfacing?

CO2 Laser Resurfacing
CO2 lasers use very short pulsed light energy to very precisely remove thin layers of skin with minimal burning of surrounding tissue. Recovery time from the procedure is up to two weeks.

Erbium Laser Resurfacing
Erbium laser resurfacing is designed to remove superficial and moderately deep lines and wrinkles on the face, hands, neck, or chest. One of the benefits of Erbium laser resurfacing is minimal burning of surrounding tissue even less than in a CO2 Laser. This laser causes minimal side-effects, such as swelling, bruising, and redness, so your recovery time should be more rapid than with CO2 laser resurfacing - one week in most cases.

Non-ablative Lasers
During normal laser resurfacing, the top layers of skin tissue are removed, non-ablative Lasers work beneath the surface of the skin. This process stimulates collagen growth and tightens underlying skin to improve surface skin tone and remove fine lines and mild to moderate skin damage. Benefits include fewer side-effects and faster recovery rate.

What can I expect during the procedure?

In preparation for the procedure, your face will be thoroughly cleaned and you will be given eye protection. Local anesthetic in combination with an oral or intravenous sedative is usually used for pain control. If opting for extensive resurfacing, or having other cosmetic procedures simultaneously, your surgeon may use general anesthetic.

During the procedure, the activated laser is carefully passed back and forth over the skin until the surgeon reaches the desired effect. A partial-face treatment takes 30 to 45 minutes, and the full-face treatment takes 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

After the procedure, the doctor will provide pain medication to minimise any discomfort associated with the treatment.

Maintenance after the procedure

Directly following skin resurfacing, the treated areas are usually kept sterile, ointment or surgical bandages are applied to the skin to prevent infection. The skin is typically red or pink once the bandages are removed and may be covered with a fine scaly crust. In some cases, the pink surface colour may remain for several days to several months after the procedure.

In the months following treatment, it's important to protect the treated area from the sun until all the colour has returned to normal.

Using sun protection regularly will help to maintain the results and reduce the chance of any new sun damage to the skin or any future resurfacing treatments.

If resurfacing was performed around the eyes, it's best to wear good quality sunglasses with UVA and UVB 100 percent filters.

Make-up can be worn from about 7-14 days after the procedure.

Maintenance after the procedure

The different chemicals used and concentration thereof will have an effect on the overall results, recovery time and the ongoing maintenance. Mild peels may be repeated at one to four-week intervals until the desired clinical effect is achieved. Medium to deep peels may be repeated at six to twelve month intervals, if necessary.

It is important to avoid exposure to the sun after a chemical peel since the new skin is fragile and more susceptible to infections and complications. Your doctor will prescribe the proper follow-up care to minimise the side-effects associated with the procedure.

Are there any side-effects of Laser Resurfacing?

Laser facial resurfacing is commonly performed and is generally safe. However, in order to make an informed decision, you need to be aware of the possible side-effects and the risk of complications.

Side-effects include-

  • swelling, crusting, or weeping of your skin for the first seven to fourteen days after the procedure
  • skin redness that may last for up to three months or more

Complications include-

  • Skin infection.
  • Changes to your skin pigment
  • Scarring this is rare but your risk increases if you have recently had radiotherapy in the same area, are prone to keloid scars or have recently taken the acne medicine.
  • Cold sores can be reactivated, but preventive medicine can be taken to control the outbreak.

Will my medical Aid cover laser skin resurfacing?

Medical Aid does not cover laser resurfacing because it is an elective cosmetic surgery

Laser Resurfacing is not always for everyone

It's clear that laser resurfacing may offer a number of advantages over other resurfacing methods. However it isn't for everyone. In some cases, an alternative skin resurfacing treatment, such as dermabrasion or chemical peel, may be a better choice-

  • Individuals who have taken Acne medicine in the past 12-18 months are not suitable candidates for the procedure
  • People who are prone to abnormal scarring (keloids)
  • If there are any active skin infections on the treatment area, the procedure cannot be performed.
  • Individuals who have received radiotherapy in the same area, are also prone to keloid scaring

How often will the procedure need to be performed?

Results of laser resurfacing are long-lasting, but not permanent. The treatment will not prevent the development of new wrinkles that inevitably occur with aging and will require resurfacing.

 


Author: South African Spas