Laser resurfacing is usually performed in an outpatient surgery center or an office-based surgical suite. We usually use local and topical anesthesia to keep patients comfortable during the procedure. For more extensive resurfacing, your surgeon may prefer to use general anesthesia. In this case, you may be admitted to the hospital for a short stay.
Before the treatment begins, you'll be fitted with protective eyewear to shield your eyes throughout the procedure. During the procedure, the surgeon carefully passes the activated laser back and forth over the skin to vaporize the damaged upper layers with accurate precision. When imperfections are deep, your surgeon may recommend that the resurfacing be performed in 2 or more stages. As new cells form during the healing process, a smoother, tighter, younger-looking skin surface appears.
Benefits of Laser Resurfacing
Men and women of all ages may benefit from laser skin resurfacing, also called a "laser peel." In our Albany practice, the best results from the procedure are typically seen in individuals with fair, healthy, non-oily skin. This treatment improves a variety of conditions, including:
- Fine lines, especially around the eyes
- Vertical lines around the mouth
- Scars caused by surgery or accident, as well as superficial scars like those caused by acne
- Areas of uneven pigmentation, such as age spots and sun spots
- Lines on the cheeks caused by sun damage
Often, people who undergo laser resurfacing choose to have other facial rejuvenation procedures at the same time, such as a face lift, brow lift, or eyelid surgery. Be sure to let your surgeon know if you are planning to have any other cosmetic procedure in the future.
Precision and predictability are the major advantages of laser resurfacing. However, laser resurfacing isn't the only method that plastic surgeons use to refinish the facial skin. Alternative facial therapies include:
- Tretinoin (Retin-A) topical treatment: a light skin-refinishing treatment that involves regular applications of a vitamin A-enriched cream.
- Glycolic acid peel (sometimes called "fruity" acid peel): a light resurfacing treatment that involves use of a prescription-strength facial wash or cream.
- Dermabrasion: a more aggressive method that targets the surface layer of dead skin cells with a motorized brush.
- Chemical peel: a resurfacing method in which a chemical solution is applied to peel away the top layers of skin, allowing a fresh new layer to emerge.
Lighter resurfacing options offer shorter recovery times. However, they may need to be repeated several times to achieve results that are comparable with those achieved by laser resurfacing. Your plastic surgeon will advise you if one of these other methods may be a better option for you.
When the procedure is over, your surgeon will protect your healing skin with either a bandage or protective ointment, depending on your needs. Bandages will need to be changed regularly during the first 10 days. If your surgeon uses protective ointment, you will be given more ointment to use at home for the first week of healing.
You are likely to experience some mild to moderate swelling; however, ice packs and medication prescribed by your surgeon can help you stay comfortable.
Although the healing process varies, you can expect that your recovery will follow this general timeline:
The first 3 weeks:
- Your skin will be bright pink to red in color. The redness is a positive sign that the healing process is progressing and a new layer of collagen is being laid down.
- You can safely apply makeup as a concealer after about 2 weeks.
- Depending on how you feel, you may be able to return to work.
- You'll begin to feel a lot more comfortable.
After a month:
- The redness will start to fade and you'll begin to appreciate your improved appearance.
It's important to remember that the redness will fade gradually. Although the color will continue to diminish with every passing week, some pinkness may remain for 3 to 4 months.
In the months following treatment, it's essential to protect your face from the sun until all the color has returned to normal. If you must be in the sun, apply a strong sun block with a SPF of 30 or higher and shade your face with a visor or wide-brimmed hat. You should also wear good quality sunglasses that have filters to block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. If sun-related darkening occurs, your plastic surgeon my suggest using a bleaching cream to even out the color.
Potential Risks or Complications
Each year, thousands of men and women undergo laser resurfacing and experience no major complications. However, it is important for you to be informed of the risks as well as the benefits.
One of the most important parts of your consultation is the discussion that you and your surgeon will have about the possible complications of laser resurfacing. In addition to listening carefully to what your surgeon tells you, be sure to raise any questions that you may have about the safety of the procedure.
By carefully following your surgeon's advice and instructions, both before and after surgery, you can do your part to minimize some of the risks.