Lasers have revolutionized dermatology, plastic and cosmetic surgery. Treatments are highly effective and are used for a number of purposes, including:
- Laser resurfacing - eliminating wrinkles, correcting acne scars and improving aging and sun-damaged skin
- Hair removal
- Pigmentation and tattoo removal
- Eliminating spider veins or "broken vessels"
- Removal of tumors and other growths
Q: Exactly what is a laser treatment?
A: A laser is a single-wave length source of high-energy light, which can be accurately focused to transmit that light onto a very small area. There are two basic types of lasers used for cosmetic purposes: ablative and nonablative.
Ablative lasers actually vaporize damaged skin, while nonablative lasers work deeper in the skin without removing or otherwise damaging the top layers, and affect deeper structures targeted by that wavelength, such as blood vessels.
For this reason, there is no significant patient downtime associated with cosmetic procedures that employ solely nonablative laser technology.
Ablative lasers are more effective at smoothing wrinkles, but limiting downtime is a goal.
Fraxel laser is ablative, but with insignificant downtime, because it limits the ablation to pin-point sized penetration into the skin and preserves most of the surface while having its effect deeper in the skin.
Q: What are the cosmetic benefits of laser treatments?
A: Skin resurfacing treatments, such as Fraxel, can provide remarkable results, eliminating wrinkles around the eyes, acne scars, surgical scars, age spots, sunspots, and pre-cancerous skin growths. Other lasers can remove unwanted hair, blood vessels and brown spots.
Q: I have unwanted facial hair - what is the treatment process?
A: Most people require a series of treatments over time. Some individuals will see very long term hair removal, which might last for many years. Others might require maintenance treatments over time to maintain their degree of hair loss.
It is truly impossible to determine in advance who will require how many treatments and how long the hair will remain gone.
Q: Is laser tattoo removal painful?
A: Most patients do not find the sessions to be very painful. In fact, the majority of patients equate the feeling of treatment with the laser to the mild discomfort of being "snapped by a rubber band."
Be aware that complete removal is possible, but not guaranteed.
Q: Is laser treatment a good option for spider vein removal?
A: Laser vein removal is an easy, fast, and effective way to treat superficial veins. It's most effective for small and medium size spider veins.
Q: How do I know if I am a candidate for laser treatment?
A: You and your physician should discuss the trade-off between downtime and the desired results to determine the best option for you.
Dr. Oswald Lightsey Mikell, certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, is the owner of Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry.