What Can Laser Treatments Do For My Skin?

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By: Dr. Francesca Lewis MD, FAAD Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers

The new year is a time for new resolutions, and what better resolution than to get your skin in shape. It is never too late to start taking care of your skin. Laser treatments are one way to turn back the clock on sun damage and wrinkles.

Did you know the Laser actually stands for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation”? The way that lasers work is by generating energy/heat at a certain wavelength to target a specific focus in the skin. Depending on the wavelength of the laser, we may use it to target pigment in the skin, hemoglobin (in blood vessels) or water. Which we target depends on what condition the person has that needs treatment.

Lasers that target hemoglobin (in our blood cells) can treat hemangiomas, growths composed of blood vessels in the skin, the redness and broken blood vessels of rosacea or sun damage, and other red birth marks like port wine stains on the skin. Lasers that target pigment can help with brown spots from sun damage and age, the pigment in hair follicles for hair removal and the pigment in tattoos. Lasers that target water can heat the skin and help with tightening wrinkles and laxity of the skin.

The most common skin imperfections we see here in South Florida that can benefit from laser treatments are sun damage induced brown spots with redness and broken blood vessels. A common treatment we provide is photorejuvenation with an Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) laser device. IPL is slightly different than other laser treatments because instead of one wavelength of light it actually includes a broad range which allows it to target both redness and brown pigmentation during the same session. IPL treatments have minimal to no downtime and are easy to tolerate. The skin may be transiently pink afterwards and sun spots will turn darker and have a “coffee ground” appearance before flaking off within a week. The best results are seen in a series of 3 monthly treatments. IPL is an amazing treatment that can benefit sun damage, pigmentation, rosacea and broken blood vessels with one device.

Lasers that help stimulate collagen production in the skin to tighten and help with fine lines, pore size, and texture are called “resurfacing lasers.” Most resurfacing lasers are now fractionated which means that instead of a solid beam of energy on the entire field of skin that is treated (imagine a flashlight beam shining on the skin), the energy is divided into tiny rays of light (like shining the flashlight through a cheese grater). This means that less of the skin is heated and therefore there is less downtime and fewer potential complications. There are two types of fractionated resurfacing lasers: ablative and non-ablative. Ablative lasers are more aggressive and result in longer downtimes (2-3 weeks) of redness, crusting, peeling followed by another few weeks of pinkness, but can give remarkable results in just one treatment. Non-ablative lasers generate columns of heat in the skin, and so are recommended in a series of treatments (usually starting with 3 monthly treatments) and have less downtime (only a few days of pinkness and swelling). Both types of laser treatments generate new collagen production to tighten the skin but the latter is easier to fit into our busy work and life schedules.

It is important to meet with a Board Certified Dermatologist or Plastic Surgeon to determine which type of laser treatment is most suitable for your skin type and condition. It is also important to consider the downtime of these procedures and plan ahead to start these at a time when your sun exposure can be limited and keep in mind how much down-time you can afford.  

To meet with Dr. Francesca Lewis for a complementary laser consultation in January, please call Delray Dermatology + Cosmetic Center at 561-440-8020. We offer IPL treatments, non-ablative resurfacing treatments, and combination photofractional treatments.