The Best Laser Treatments for Your Skin Type

  • Posted on: Aug 1 2017
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To this day, when most people think of lasers, they think science fiction. They think space battles, Star Wars, weapons that fire energy. The reality of lasers is quite different. Lasers have changed the world, but not in a violent, sci-fi way. Lasers read information, such as your Blu-Rays, or scanning documents. And, of course, lasers are used extensively by plastic surgeons to treat skin conditions.

Laser skin treatments can minimize scarring, reduce acne, fade dark spots, improve wrinkles and eliminate sun damage. In the hands of a skilled, ISAPS plastic surgeon, laser treatments can really make a huge difference in a patient’s complexion, literally resurfacing the skin. Most laser treatments create a controlled injury to the skin, causing the body to begin to produce new collagen, helping to reverse pigmentation issues (such as sunspots) and photo-aging.

These procedures aren’t for everyone, however. There are a number of different kinds of laser treatments, and not all of them are appropriate to every skin type or skin condition.

Why Does Skin Type Matter?

Not everyone has an ideal skin type for laser skin treatments. In the past, the rule of thumb for laser treatments has been: the fairer your skin color, the fewer the side effects and the better your results. Older laser treatments could cause discoloration or skin damage to those with darker skin colors. Recent advances in laser skin treatments have mostly fixed this issue, but those with a darker complexion should still be cautious. Always talk to your plastic surgeon about your options, even if you know what kind of treatment you want.

There are other considerations, as well, when it comes to laser treatments and your skin type. If your skin scars easily, even because of surface injuries, then laser skin treatments might not be for you.

If you have a skin type that is not likely to respond well to cosmetic laser treatments, you still have many effective alternatives that will do a similar job in a different way. Chemical peels, for example, use specialized chemicals to peel away the top layer of your skin. Microdermabrasion essentially allows your plastic surgeon to use a specialized mechanical tool to buff off the outer layers of your skin, kind of like sandblasting your face. FYI, literally sandblasting your face is NOT an effective cosmetic procedure!

Fractional CO2 Laser Treatment

This is one of the most advanced laser skin resurfacing treatments today, and the one that is safest for all skin types and colors.

In this procedure, the fractional laser breaks up into tiny beams, removing tiny columns of the skin while leaving enough of the surrounding skin intact to assist in healing. This means that it is a little less intense than older CO2 treatments. It is fantastic at removing age spots, sun damage, wrinkles, scarring, uneven skin texture and uneven skin coloration.

It can take about two weeks to recover from this type of laser treatment, but a single procedure can be very effective at eliminating your skin issues.

Ablative CO2 Laser Treatment

This is an older, though still highly effective, CO2 laser treatment. Unlike a fractional CO2 laser, an ablative CO2 laser will remove almost all of the surface layer of your skin. This makes it unsuitable for many of those with darker skin, as it can cause pigmentation issues and discoloration (hypopigmentation). Because this treatment removes the entire top layer of your skin, it can also be unsuitable for those with more sensitive skin types.

Fraxel Laser Skin Rejuvenation

Fraxel is a slightly gentler laser treatment that is generally used as a first choice to treat acne scars, and is also effective to treat sun damage wrinkles. Unlike C02 lasers, both fractional and ablative, there is little downtime associated with Fraxel, as the laser doesn’t fully penetrate the skin. It is also generally seen to be safer for those with darker skin colors, as long as it is in the hands of an experienced, ISAPS plastic surgeon. There is some controversy about this, however, as many plastic surgeons believe that those with darker skin tones should avoid Fraxel completely.

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)

Technically this isn’t a laser treatment, but is often lumped together with them as it treats sun spots, skin discolorations, rosacea and visible veins beneath the skin. IPL delivers a very specific, intense pulse of light that penetrates just below the skin’s surface. This light intentionally damages skin pigment and tiny blood vessels. As your body’s natural healing processes kick in, the pigment and damaged veins fade from your skin. As IPL specifically targets skin pigmentation, it is not an appropriate treatment for those with darker skin.

There are other kinds of cosmetic laser treatments out there, including laser hair removal and other specialized laser treatments to treat specific skin conditions. If you go to an ISAPS plastic surgeon experienced in cosmetic laser treatments, he or she should be able to answer all of your questions and tell you if a laser skin resurfacing treatment is right for you, your skin type and your skin color.

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