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Laser Skin Resurfacing

Laser skin resurfacing is a category of treatment using lasers to treat the surface of your skin, usually to make it smoother, reduce wrinkles, and remove sun damage. A laser uses a precisely focused beam of light, which is a powerful tool. What a laser can do depends on where it is focused – and the power at which it is used. Scroll down for all the FAQs about laser skin resurfacing.

Laser 102

EXPECT TO PAY

£ 500

TWEAKMENT TIME

30 - 60 minutes

LONGEVITY

3 - 5 years

ANAESTHESIA

Local

DOWNTIME

2 - 3 weeks for ablative lasers

What is laser skin resurfacing?

Laser skin resurfacing is a category of treatment using lasers to treat the surface of your skin, usually to make it smoother, reduce wrinkles, and remove sun damage. A laser uses a precisely focused beam of light, which is a powerful tool. What a laser can do depends on where it is focused – and the power at which it is used.

There are many different types of lasers, but the two you’ll frequently see used in aesthetic resurfacing treatments are ablative lasers and fractional lasers. Here’s what you need to know about them:

Ablative lasers

‘Ablative’ basically means ‘removing tissue’, and an ablative laser is one that scorches away the surface layers of the skin. Many ablative lasers are carbon dioxide lasers, or CO2 lasers; an example of such a laser is the Fraxel Re:pair. Ablative lasers are very effective, but they are pretty drastic as treatments go and you need a lot of recovery time after treatment. That is why ablative lasers have fallen right out of popularity over the past couple of decades.

Fractional lasers

‘Fractional’ lasers are ones in which the laser beam is fired at the skin through a grid of tiny holes. Using the grid means that in between each channel of damage that is burned into the skin, there is a scrap of intact skin, which reduces the damage on the skin’s surface and speeds up the healing process. Fractional lasers are usually considered non-ablative, in that they are usually used for treatments that don’t remove the surface layers of skin; however, fractional lasers can also be used for ablative treatments.

Laser skin resurfacing

Laser skin resurfacing is a confusing area – for instance, the best-known brand of fractional laser, Fraxel, has both an ablative version (the Re:pair) and a non-ablative version (the Re:store). But the general message is that there are many types of laser that can work on the skin in a variety of ways. You should ask the practitioner whom you are thinking of visiting about which brand of laser they use, and get them to explain what it can achieve and why it would help you get the results you are looking for.

How long does laser skin resurfacing last?

The results of laser skin resurfacing typically last from three to five years. You can prolong the effects of the treatment by looking after your skin in these five ways:

  • Protect your skin from the sun using high SPF and protective clothing.
  • Keep your skin hydrated.
  • Practise good skincare: Clean your skin, moisturize it, and exfoliate it.
  • Eat a healthy diet, with plenty of coloured vegetables as these are rich in antioxidants
  • Exercise, to stimulate your body to produce human growth hormone, which in turn increases the production of collagen.

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What is it like to have laser skin resurfacing?

This depends on the type of laser skin resurfacing you’re having, but here is my experience of what Fraxel resurfacing was like.

  • The treatment itself was quite hot and stinging. I had my decolletage treated and even with numbing cream, I could feel each pulse of the laser all too clearly.
  • Turning down the intensity of the laser makes it more tolerable, so if you are suffering, just let your practitioner know
  • My skin looked red and stung-up after the treatment, like a moderate sunburn
  • This redness took several days to calm down.
  • The next week, it looks freckly as the old bits of dead skin and pigment flake away, after which it looks miles better — softer and smoother and more even in tone.
  • I followed the aftercare instructions to the letter, applying hydrating serums and sunscreen every day, as it was very sensitive to light.

What should I expect after laser skin resurfacing?

This depends on the type of laser skin resurfacing treatment you have.

Non-ablative laser treatment usually needs little downtime.

  • Your skin will look red and feel hot and scorched after treatment, but this will calm down in a day.
  • Your skin will then start to feel rough and dry and may look speckled with brown flecks as the channels of damage within the skin start to mend themselves, and push out the old damaged skin at the surface.
  • Once the skin has had a few weeks to recover itself and the new restimulated and repaired skin cells have worked their way to the surface, your skin will look and feel fresher, smoother and tighter.

Ablative laser treatment will require much more downtime.

  • At first, your skin will typically be raw and red; it will probably the painful too and will require precise care as detailed by your practitioner.
  • You will want to hide away from the world for a week or more, depending on the depth of the treatment
  • Your skin will then scab over and gradually heal.
  • Normally, the healing process will be complete in two to three weeks.

FAQ ABOUT Laser Skin Resurfacing


Is laser skin resurfacing safe?

Laser skin resurfacing is safe provided that the practitioner is fully trained, experienced, and skilled with the laser they will use to treat you. If the practitioner is untrained or is unskilled with this particular laser, you risk severe damage to your skin.

Does laser skin resurfacing work?

Yes, laser skin resurfacing does work, and it can help with a wide range of skin conditions, from reducing acne scarring to smoothing and brightening older skin.

Does laser skin resurfacing hurt?

How much laser skin resurfacing hurts depends on the type of resurfacing you’re having. Ablative treatment, which removes the outer layers of skin, typically hurts more than non-ablative treatment, which does not remove layers of skin. Still, non-ablative Fraxel treatment can be pretty uncomfortable, depending on the intensity of the treatment that you are given.

Clinics generally offer pain relief for laser skin resurfacing. For ablative treatment, you may have a local anaesthetic; some clinics even offer intravenous sedation. For non-ablative treatment, a numbing cream is usually enough to minimise discomfort.

Where can I get laser skin resurfacing?

You can use the Find a Practitioner tool on this website to find a practitioner who offers laser skin resurfacing near you.

When looking for a practitioner for laser skin resurfacing, keep in mind that the UK has essentially no regulations restricting the use of lasers for aesthetic treatments: Just about anyone can buy a laser (given the funds) and start using. So it’s vital that you ensure your practitioner has not only trained fully with the laser they will be using on you but can demonstrate the ability to use it safely to produce the kind of results you want.

How much does laser skin resurfacing cost?

The cost of laser skin resurfacing varies considerably, depending on which area you’re having resurfaced and the laser technology involved – and the area of the country you live in. Full-face skin-rejuvenation treatment with laser costs from £400 upwards.

How long does laser skin resurfacing take?

The treatment itself is relatively quick – from 30 minutes to an hour. But usually you will have pain relief before the treatment, which adds half an hour or so.

Are there any side effects of laser skin resurfacing?

Laser skin resurfacing can have various side effects. Most of the side effects stem from lasers’ potential for heating and damaging the skin, so they come as no surprise.

This is the one side effect you are likely experience from laser skin resurfacing:

  • Redness. Your skin may be red after treatment. The redness may persist for a day or two, depending on the intensity of the treatment. This is normal, as the skin heals and recovers from treatment.

The following are side effects that occur less frequently with laser skin resurfacing:

  • Hypopigmentation. Hypopigmentation means ‘too little pigmentation’. Your skin becomes depigmented and shows pale patches.
  • Hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation means ‘too much pigmentation’. Your skin develops darker patches, because the melanocytes (the cells that make pigment in the skin) have gone into overdrive.
  • Hypopigmentation and hyperpigmentation usually occur only if the practitioner over-treats your skin with laser. Both problems are much more common with old-style ablative lasers and when darker skin tones are treated with laser without sufficient care.

So can darker skin tones be treated with laser skin resurfacing?

Most practitioners these days would just say, ‘No’. Just because it is risky, and because the potential for complications such as hyper- or hypopigmentation is too high, and so it is not worth the risk.

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