Laser resurfacing: Treatment for younger looking skin

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Laser resurfacing: Effective wrinkle treatment

Laser resurfacing treats wrinkles and minor facial flaws, but it does have limitations.

Wrinkles — whether they line the sides of your mouth or etch the corners of your eyes — are inevitable signs of aging. Though nothing fully stops the effects of time, you have options to help lessen the appearance of wrinkles and other minor skin conditions, such as age spots or acne scars.

Resurfacing your skin with one of several techniques, such as a chemical peel, radiofrequency ablation or dermabrasion, may be the answer. Laser resurfacing — a popular option in the family of ablative (wounding) skin resurfacing techniques — removes the aged or sun-damaged skin to allow younger looking skin to grow in its place.

Though laser resurfacing is an effective treatment for minor facial flaws, it does have limitations. Knowing what you can realistically expect and the benefits and risks involved can help you decide if this is the best procedure to improve the look of your skin.

How do you prepare?

Before scheduling laser resurfacing, you need to meet with your doctor to discuss the factors that determine whether this procedure is likely to work well for you. This meeting generally includes:

  • Your medical history. Your doctor asks questions about conditions you have or have had, as well as any current medications.
  • A physical examination. Your doctor conducts a physical examination and inspects your skin.
  • Photographs. Someone from your doctor's office takes photographs of your face from different angles. Your doctor uses these photos for before-and-after assessments and long-term reviews.
  • A discussion of your expectations. You and your doctor talk about your motivations and expectations. He or she explains what laser resurfacing can and can't do for you and what your results might be.

Before surgery, you may also need to:

  • Avoid medications containing aspirin or ibuprofen for several days or up to a week before and after surgery. These medications may increase bleeding. Take only those medications approved or prescribed by your surgeon.
  • Avoid exposing your skin to the sun up to two months before surgery and six months after surgery. Too much sun may cause permanent irregular coloration in your facial skin.
  • Avoid applying makeup or facial cream the morning of the surgery.

What are the results of laser resurfacing?

Immediately after the resurfacing procedure, an ointment and dressing is applied to your skin. Your face may be covered with a mask bandage and possibly a head wrap for a few days. If only a small part of your face is treated, the bandage may cover only the treated area. The mask bandage is removed a day or two after the procedure.

During recovery, you need to keep your skin moist by using protective creams and ointments. Remain at home and limit your activity level. Once new skin has completely covered the treated area — usually after one or two weeks — you may use cosmetics to conceal any lingering redness.

Your skin may stay red or pink for up to nine months following laser resurfacing. In addition, your skin may be sensitive to sunlight for up to a year after the procedure, so it's important to minimize sun exposure and to use sunscreen liberally.

You may notice an immediate difference in your skin quality and appearance. And gradually during the next six to 12 months, you'll likely see continued improvement. Although the effects of laser resurfacing can last for years, wrinkles and expression lines eventually recur as skin ages. Repeat procedures may be necessary.

Before-and-after results of laser resurfacing

Photo showing the before-and-after results of laser resurfacing

At left, a look at a woman's wrinkles before laser treatment. At right, the same woman pictured three months after laser surgery.

Have realistic expectations

Laser resurfacing is an effective treatment for minor facial flaws. For example, it can lessen the appearance of fine lines around your eyes, mouth and cheeks. It can also improve your complexion if you have yellowish or grayish skin tones.

But laser resurfacing has its limitations. It can't remove deep wrinkles or eliminate excessive or sagging skin (jowls). In addition, the effects aren't permanent because as you age, you continue to acquire expression lines — lines that result from the natural movement of your face, such as when you squint or smile. Talk with your doctor about your goals and find out whether this procedure can meet your needs.

Last Updated: 05/25/2007
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