Laser Skin Rejuvenation
Today’s lasers can diminish many signs of aging
— from early wrinkles and age spots to deep lines and spider veins.
A laser procedure often can be performed in less than an hour and
may require little or no downtime.
Numerous lasers and light devices are used to rejuvenate the skin.
These devices are generally grouped into the following categories:
Non-ablative laser rejuvenation – No
downtime. Best for early signs of aging.
Intense pulsed light (IPL) – Not a
laser, this light therapy penetrates deeper into the skin than a
non-ablative laser. IPL does not injure the surface of the skin,
so there is usually no downtime. IPL can improve skin texture
and color as well as reduce pore size.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) – This is
a two-step procedure. First, a solution that makes the skin more
sensitive to light is applied and left on for 30 minutes or
longer. Then light from the laser or other source is beamed onto
the treated area. Downtime is minimal. PDT decreases redness,
reduces age spots and freckles, and improves the overall texture
and appearance of the skin.
Fractional laser rejuvenation –
Offers deeper rejuvenation. Recovery time is short. Best for
diminishing signs of aging such as age spots, wrinkles, and skin
Ablative laser resurfacing – Heats
the skin to cause a visible wound, which means some downtime for
recovery. Effective for deeper wrinkles and diminishing aging
caused by years of unprotected sun exposure. A type of laser
called a fractional ablative laser causes no visible
wounds. Fractional ablative laser resurfacing requires less
downtime than ablative laser resurfacing.
Signs of Aging Treated
Lasers and other light-based devices are used to treat these
Age (sun) spots
Dark circles under the eye
Dry, dull skin
Hand rejuvenation (age spots, loose skin,
Redness and flushing
Seborrheic keratoses (flat only)
Skin texture (treats roughness)
Skin tone (treats mottled complexion and
When See Results from Laser Skin Rejuvenation
Improvement is gradual. It may take several months to see the
full effects. When a laser that does not require downtime is
used, a series of treatments may be necessary to see the desired
results. The number of treatments varies from person to person;
however, between 3 and 6 treatments is the norm.
Intense pulsed light (IPL) can
effectively treat some age spots and freckles.
The same patient shown 5 months
after 1 IPL treatment. Some concerns can be safely and
effectively treated in 1 session.
(Photos used with permission of the
American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic
Research shows that laser rejuvenation can dramatically reduce
fine lines around the eyes and mouth and on the cheeks. With 1
treatment, age spots can be diminished by 50% and may be
completely eliminated with follow-up treatments. Laser skin
resurfacing can significantly reduce deep lines, effectively
remove some shallow scars, and tighten the skin.
While lasers may sound like magic wands, they are not. It is
important to have realistic expectations. Laser skin
rejuvenation can be effective, but does not work for everyone.
Some skin tightening is possible, but lasers cannot produce the
same degree of lifting seen after a surgical facelift or eyelid
lift. Wrinkles caused by constant muscle movement such as frown
lines can be hard to treat with lasers alone. Another procedure
such as botulinum rejuvenation may be used along with a laser to
obtain the desired results.
Possible Side Effects
While lasers and other light therapies have fewer side effects
than more traditional skin resurfacing procedures such as
chemical peeling and dermabrasion, there are still risks. The
most common is unwanted temporary darkening or lightening of the
treated skin. There also is a relatively small risk of scarring.
The success of every cosmetic procedure is highly dependent on
the skill level and knowledge of the person performing it. The
American Academy of Dermatology advises patients to do their
homework and discuss their options and expectations with a
board-certified dermatologist before undergoing any skin
How Long Results Last
It is possible to permanently remove some signs of aging such as
a spider vein, age spot, or scar. However, laser skin
rejuvenation cannot stop the skin from continuing to age. Crow’s
feet may re-appear and new age spots can develop. Because sun
exposure accelerates signs of aging, protecting the skin from
sun exposure will lengthen the amount of time that the results
last. Protecting the skin from the sun also can prevent some
signs of aging from re-appearing such as blotchy skin and dark
10 Questions to Ask Before a Cosmetic Procedure
Facial Skin Rejuvenation (AAD pamphlet)
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resurfacing.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2008; 58: 719-37;
American Academy of Dermatology. “Saving Face Without Surgery? New
Minimally Invasive Technologies Can Rejuvenate Skin with Minimal
Downtime, Less Risks.” News release issued July 30, 2008. Last
accessed September 19, 2008.
American Academy of Dermatology. “Keep Father Time From Marching On:
New Laser Treatments Offer Gentle and Effective Skin Resurfacing in
a Flash.” News release issued February 3, 2008. Last accessed
September 19, 2008.
American Academy of Dermatology. “New Approach for Treating Aging
Skin Combines Minimally Invasive Procedures.” News release issued
February 4, 2007. Last accessed September 19, 2008.
American Academy of Dermatology. “Fractional Rejuvenation.” News
release issued February 21, 2005. Last accessed September 19, 2008.
GJ, Fitzpatrick RE, Arndt KA et al. ”Lasers in Skin Resurfacing.”
In: Kaminer MS, Dover JS, Arndt KA, editors. Atlas of Cosmetic
Surgery. United States of America, W. B. Saunders Company; 2002.
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