What’s Laser Skin Resurfacing?
Laser skin resurfacing involves precisely aiming concentrated beams of light at problematic areas of skin. These could be areas of acne scarring, fine wrinkling or sun damage, warts, liver spots, certain types of birthmarks, and other similar skin problems. The concentrated light burns off the outer layer of skin, while simultaneously heating the next layer down, which stimulates new skin growth. The result is that the imperfections are removed, and the new skin that grows is tighter and firmer, with more collagen (the protein that gives skin its firmness).
If you’re choosing laser skin resurfacing, make sure you’re choosing it because you really want it, not to please someone else or to fit an imagined ideal. No one else can make the choice for you; it’s your body, and you’re in charge of it. After you do your research and understand the procedure, if you believe that laser skin resurfacing is right for you, then proceed. To help you in your decision-making process, we have some information about the risks and benefits of having laser skin resurfacing at Laser Skin Resurfacing: Risks and Benefits.
Please note that this page is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for qualified, individualized medical advice. You should discuss your potential elective procedure with your own doctor(s), including your primary care physician and the doctor who will perform your procedure if you decide to proceed.
How it’s done
Laser skin resurfacing can be painful, so the procedure usually involves some form of anesthesia. This is almost always local anesthesia (injections of a numbing agent); often, you will also be given a sedative to help you relax. In cases where you’re having extensive laser resurfacing, or it’s being combined with other procedures, you may be put under general anesthesia.
After the anesthetic takes effect, the area to be treated is cleaned. You may be given eye protection, if the lasers will be anywhere near your eyes, to ensure there’s no damage to your vision from the lasers (looking at them could permanently damage your vision). The lasers are then precisely targeted at the areas to be treated. The treating physician will use his or her clinical judgment to determine exactly where to apply them and for how long in each spot, watching for signs that the treatment has gone deep enough into the skin.
Once the laser treatment is completed, your doctor will place dressings over the treated skin. You may need to keep ointments and dressings on the skin for several days in order to promote healing.
Preparing for the procedure
Choosing your doctor
While cosmetic dermatology procedures may be offered at spas and beauty salons, they’re actually technical procedures that should be performed by qualified medical professionals. Your provider should have the degree MD (Medical Doctor), or should be an RN (Registered Nurse) or PA (Physician’s Assistant) who is under the direct supervision of an MD. Ideally, this doctor should be trained and board-certified in either plastic surgery or dermatology.
When you go to a doctor’s clinic for laser skin resurfacing, be aware that the doctor whose name is on the clinic may not be directly involved in your treatment; you may never even meet him or her. Sometimes, the doctor doesn’t even stay at the clinic during the day! For safety reasons, it’s best to have an MD on-site who has examined you personally. This is because while the risks from these procedures are small, adverse reactions can and do happen, so you want someone present who can deal with problems if they do arise. When you call to schedule an appointment, ask who will be performing the procedure and whether a qualified physician will be present in the clinic during the procedure.
For more help in your search for a cosmetic dermatologist, visit our How to Find the Best Cosmetic Dermatologist page. At Doctor Review, you can also search providers for patient reviews to help you find the very best.
Getting ready for the procedure
Often, the area to be treated with laser skin resurfacing needs to be prepared for best results. For up to six weeks before your procedure, you may be asked to apply a topical solution or gel to your skin one or more times daily.
After laser skin resurfacing, your skin will be red and swollen for several days. It may also feel itchy or irritated. Often, it will peel a few days after your laser resurfacing procedure. There may also be some crusting or blistering. Your doctor may give you a saline (salt water) or vinegar solution to apply to your skin multiple times per day; this will help to speed and enhance healing. You’ll need to be diligent about sun protection after your laser resurfacing, because the treated skin will be very sensitive to the sun. It will take one to two weeks for your skin to heal from your laser resurfacing procedure.