Laser Skin Treatment Series: Ablative Resurfacing Lasers

Ablative Resurfacing Lasers

What They Treat: Deep wrinkles, severe sun aging, prominent scars

How They Work: These lasers act on water as well, but their higher energies, and the way in which they're absorbed, generate greater heat, "creating purposeful wounds on the skin's surface that we don't see with nonablative resurfacing, when that topmost layer remains intact," Anolik says. Ultimately, the ablation, and its resultant injuries, translate to more generous collagen renewal in the weeks ahead.

While undeniably fierce and heavy on downtime, the latest generation of fractional ablative lasers (like the deep-acting Fraxel Repair, a carbon dioxide laser, and the Sciton Profractional, an erbium laser with a slightly shallower reach) are safer and more predictable than the non-fractionated ablative lasers of old, from which "up to 25 percent of patients were at risk for depigmentation — a shiny white appearance — or scarring," says Anolik. The chance of either happening with fractional ablative lasers is almost zero if used properly. (That said, they're not recommended for dark complexions.)

What They Feel Like: Nothing, once you're thoroughly prepped with numbing cream, nerve-blocking lidocaine injections, and Percocet and/or Valium.

Downtime: Plan on taking at least one week off from life after an ablative procedure: "You'll basically look like a burn victim — swollen and scabby all over — and patients have to be psychologically ready for that," says Anolik. On the upside, he adds, "the healing phase is remarkably painless." With the erbium, crusting lasts three or four days, and subsequent pinkness about two weeks. Following a round of CO2, expect four to eight days of scabbing, and about a month of ruddiness.

Risks: Bacterial infections and herpes outbreaks (doctors start patients on oral antibiotics and antivirals days in advance to minimize these risks); acne breakouts; prolonged redness and swelling; and very rarely, depigmentation and scarring. Doctors like to monitor healing closely, so be ready to book a couple follow-ups for the week after your ablative treatment.

Price: Starting at $500 for around the mouth


Courtesy of About Skin Clinic

Courtesy of Viriginia Surgical Arts

(Featured Image Courtesy of Aesthetic Dermatological medicine)  

Author Jolene Edgar