Top Laser Treatments and What They Treat
When an individual makes the decision to invest in a skincare treatment, it’s important to know that the methods used are safe and effective. Lasers are both of these things, completely revolutionizing the cosmetic industry over the last 30 years.
By effectively treating fine lines, wrinkles, sun damage, removing tattoos, redness, and many other ailments, it’s no wonder Cosmetic Surgeons have access to many tools to help “resurface” the skin.
However, there are many laser treatments available on the market, and it can be relatively overwhelming. It’s important to speak to a specialist in order to determine which treatments are appropriate for you.
In general, lasers with cosmetic intentions fall under one of two categories:” ablative” or “non ablative.
Ablative vs Non Ablative Laser
Ablative lasers target the surface of the skin by focusing on the outer layer of skin, vaporizing small portions of it. By leaving the surrounding tissue healthy, overall appearance stays the same, but the damaged portions are forced to regenerate themselves.
By operating on such small scales, scarring does not occur and, instead, regeneration of elastin and collagen takes place. Ablative lasers are fantastic for treating visible signs of aging, acne scarring, pigmentation irregularities and unwanted lesions. However, ablative lasers are more invasive and require a longer recovery than non-ablative lasers, around 1 to 2 weeks of recovery time.
Non-ablative lasers don’t affect the surface of the skin, but instead penetrate through to the tissues beneath. There are also fractional lasers which pinpoint specific areas beneath the skin rather than treating the entire area. The fractional approach allows the skin to heal much faster than if the entire area was treated, lessening the recovery period and reducing the number of complications that can occur.
Types of Lasers
Lasers are characterized by two main features: wave length and pulse width. The wavelength determines what kind of energy, such as Ultraviolet or Radio frequency, is absorbed into the skin. The pulse width is the rate at which the energy is delivered.
Lasers typically emit light, but recently has been used as a catch-all term for cosmetic devices. Traditionally lasers refer to radiation of light, however. The shorter the wavelength the lesser it penetrates, likewise, a low pulse width is better for smaller targets.
Laser genesis stimulates collagen regrowth by heating the layers underneath the skin. This improves the appearances of fine lines and wrinkles, while also tightening pores, reducing oil production, and resurfacing the skin while reducing any redness. This is done by gently heating the dermis, which is located below the skin’s surface. Patients often find the treatment very soothing, as there is zero discomfort involved.
IPL is shorthand for “Intense Pulsed Light.” It is not a normal laser treatment because it uses many different kinds of light to treat an area. Because IPL uses many different kinds of light, the laser scatters and does not treat as deeply as a traditional single wavelength laser.
This causes significantly less damage to the surface of the skin, while still reaching the dermis right underneath.
Although you can use IPL anywhere on the body, it wont be as effective on individuals with lighter, fine features. However, it is very effective on people who have dark hair.
Laser skin resurfacing with the Fractional Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Laser is one of the most effective procedures to improve skin quality and texture, while reducing fine and moderately deep lines.
Because CO2 laser resurfacing relies on stimulating collagen synthesis, results are very impressive and more natural appearing than when relying on injectable fillers alone.
The nd:Yag system is the newest system on the market, and represents the innovation used in the laser hair removal sphere.
The nd:Yag has a variety of other applications too, like skin resurfacing or color correction, or even tattoo removal.
Specifically for laser hair removal, the nd:Yag operates at 1064 nm. However, before treatment, a lotion is spread over the area to force the laser to target the hair specifically.
This system is much more efficacious for all skin types and hair combinations. Popular brands include: Cutera, Candela, Cynosure, Medlite IV, Lyra, etc..
Pulsed Dye Laser
A pulsed dye laser is a specialized laser that targets the blood vessels in your skin. The laser passes through your skin and is absorbed as heat by the blood vessels.
The heat breaks the blood vessels apart so they can be reabsorbed by your body. Soon the remnants clear away leaving behind a natural skin tone.
The pulsed dye laser uses a concentrated beam of light at a wavelength of 595nm, near to the hemoglobin's and oxyhemoglobin's absorption peaks. The high intensity light is therefore absorbed most selectively by blood and blood cells.
It is therefore considered the most specific laser currently available for the treatment of superficial vascular lesions.
The alexandrite laser is definitively the most popular system on this list. It can be used to treat large areas relatively quickly, e.g. the whole back can be treated as quickly as 30 minutes. The not so obvious downside to this is the discomfort caused.
Alexandrite lasers are infamous for being the most painful types, and causing the most side effects such as blistering or hyperpigmentation.
It operates at a wavelength of 755nm and uses ultra short pulses, popular brands include: Candela, Cynosure, GentleLase, EpiTouch.
Similar to CO2 laser, the erbium:yttrium-aluminum-garnet laser targets water in the skin tissue leading to controlled vaporization of superficial cells and thermal injury in the dermis that results in collagen remodeling and healing. Also known as Er:YAG, or Erbium laser for short, this technique is performed in a similar manner to other laser treatments. The
wavelength of the laser is 2,940nm and is absorbed much more efficiently by water in tissues than the CO2 laser. This results in less associated thermal damage to surrounding tissues to achieve tissue ablation, which then results in faster re-epithelialization and faster recovery times.
These properties also made the hemostasis achieved with this laser less than with CO2 laser, and newer techniques have modulated the properties of the Erbium laser, or combined its use with CO2 laser, to improved hemostasis while maintaining the benefits associated with the Erbium laser.