Laser Skin Resurfacing FAQ
Frequently asked questions about laser skin resurfacing
What is laser skin resurfacing?
Laser skin resurfacing is a procedure that uses laser light to improve the appearance of skin by reducing fine wrinkling (crepe paper appearance). Laser skin resurfacing improves the appearance of the skin by smoothing the fine wrinkles giving it the appearance of “baby skin”. During the process, the skin actually shrinks, so there is some skin tightening with the procedure. The skin tightening that occurs with Laser skin resurfacing is not enough to get the same effect as a facelift (rhytidectomy), but there is usually very good improvement in the skin wrinkling. If there is severe skin sagging, which is different from fine wrinkling, then the effective treatment for that problem is a facelift (see facelift FAQ).
What causes fine wrinkling (crepe paper wrinkling) in the skin?
The causes of fine skin wrinkling (crepe paper wrinkling) can be divided into two categories. First, there is the natural aging process (chronologic aging). This process occurs in all patients. Changes in the facial bones, specifically the loss of facial bone, can dramatically change the appearance of the skin. When the bone support under the skin (upper and lower jawbones) is lost, there is less support of the skin. This results in “excess skin” which then has a tendency to wrinkle. This problem is commonly seen in the upper lip with aging. This is easily observed when comparing images of patients in their twenties versus images in later life. A healthy lifestyle and regular physical activity may slow this process. In addition to changes in the facial bones, changes in the skin also occurs with aging. This is seen as a loss of elasticity in the skin which gives the appearance of aging. There are also external factors that can cause fine wrinkling in the skin. Two common causes in the external category include exposure to sunlight (photo-aging) and exposure to tobacco products. Exposure to sunlight is unavoidable, but overexposure and sunburn is avoidable if precautions are taken. The use of sunscreens that block ultraviolet light A (UVA) and ultraviolet light B (UVB), use of protective clothing including hats, and avoidance of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM can significantly limit damaging sunlight exposure. It is especially important to limit sunlight exposure when the reflected light (albedo) is high. When the reflected light is high, for example from snow or water, the risk of sunburn is especially high. The use of tobacco , or secondary exposure to tobacco, causes damage to many structures in the body, including the skin. To preserve the youthful appearance of the skin, it is important to avoid tobacco products. If you use tobacco products you should talk your primary care physician about quitting.
What is the best source of information about laser skin resurfacing?
The best source for information about laser skin resurfacing is from a Plastic surgeon formally trained to perform this procedure. The information you receive can either be scientific information or opinion, and it is important to know the difference between the two when discussing laser skin resurfacing.
Can chemical peels be used with laser skin resurfacing or instead of laser skin resurfacing?
Chemical peels fall into two general categories: home peels and office peels. Home peels, which can either be obtained “over the counter” in drug stores or with a prescription can be used without the presence of a health care professional. Home peels are relatively mild and many people use them on a daily basis. Office peels, which are performed by a healthcare professional, are usually stronger than home peels and are applied in a controlled setting. Chemical peels can be used as a primary treatment for fine wrinkling or can be used for maintenance after laser skin resurfacing.
What are the most common areas that are treated with laser skin resurfacing?
The most common areas that are treated with laser skin resurfacing are the lower eyelids (“crow’s feet”) and the area around the mouth (perioral area). Other areas that are also treated with laser skin resurfacing include the area between the eyebrows (glabellar area), the forehead, and the cheeks (malar area). All these areas can be treated at the same time with laser skin resurfacing if indicated and desired by the patient.
What type of anesthesia is used for laser skin resurfacing?
Laser skin resurfacing can be performed with intravenous sedation and local anesthesia (similar to the solution used by dentists), or with local anesthesia alone. In most patients that get laser skin resurfacing, the combination of intravenous anesthesia and local anesthesia is used. If intravenous anesthesia is used it is given by a trained anesthesia professional. If the treatment area is very small, then local anesthesia alone can be used.
When can I go back to work after laser skin resurfacing?
Returning to work after laser skin resurfacing is usually in the five to seven day period. During the procedure, the thin outer layer of the skin is removed or partially removed. The thin outer layer of skin regenerates quickly, and when that process is complete, it is generally considered safe to return to work.
When can I wear makeup after laser skin resurfacing?
It is generally considered safe to wear makeup after laser skin resurfacing when the skin surface, or outer layer of the skin has regenerated, as explained in the previously section. This is usually in the five to seven day period. It is probably safer to use a “hypo-allergenic” makeup for about a month after surgery.
What precautions should I take after laser skin resurfacing?
After laser skin resurfacing precautions should be taken to limit sunlight exposure. After laser skin resurfacing, the skin is very sensitive to sunlight, so there is an increased risk of sunburn. This is also true for chemical peels. So after laser skin resurfacing and chemical peels exposure to sunlight should be limited and sunscreen should be used as well. In addition, if you are using a chemical peel for maintenance after laser skin resurfacing, you should continue to take precautions to prevent excessive sunlight exposure.
Is laser skin resurfacing permanent?
No. Like any other plastic surgery procedure, laser skin resurfacing does not stop the aging process. As a result, the skin continues to age after laser skin resurfacing and the fine wrinkling can recur. To help minimize the rate of aging after laser skin resurfacing, it is helpful to avoid excessive sunlight exposure, to wear sunscreen, and to avoid tobacco products. Aging occurs in everyone but preventive measures can slow the process down.
Is there much discomfort after laser skin resurfacing?
Most patients that get laser skin resurfacing do not report significant pain, but the discomfort related to laser skin resurfacing is easily controlled by oral pain medicine.